Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Fruits of Anarchy

Two young blokes decided to augment income by renting space in their apartment to out-of-town visitors. Their suite on offer was two air mattresses. The town was full-up, conventions happening. They’ve become a pretty large operation called Airbnb. Airbnb provides a meeting point for people with spare space at home (all kinds) and people who want a place to stay. www.airbnb.com

It’s become pretty huge and is now catching the attention of mainline hoteliers. Some lines of argument include:
i) They don’t pay the taxes we do
ii) They aren’t subject to various quality and safety standards that we are

Another bloke got pissed off waiting for a cab in Paris. At some point this has resulted in Uber, a private taxi service - you can become a taxi service provider with your own car. www.uber.com

Objections raised include:
“Private hire cars must not be allowed to become a part of the wider public transport system and be confused with taxi services,” the NSW Taxi Council says.

A couple of key things emerged, in my mind, about all this:

The Clash of UnCivilizations – Planet Goodboy vs the Heathen

The “GoodBoy” laws presume:
i)  A homeowner lives a high risk life and is willing to endanger her own life along with a guest for some money. I’m sure all of us are this greedy and short-sighted and we must trust the far-sighted and socially conscious megacorporations instead. Likewise a private car owner must be heading for a collision course with herself at the wheel, but will get an automatic dose of Sensibility Serum when she is an employed driver of the Big Taxi Corporation
ii)  There is a normal risk that occurs in life. No number of laws and liability suits can make life risk free. The “risk-free” life is an illusion we often create as an extended snootiness of affluence rather than real world situations.
Once laws are to be enacted, everyone gets in the fray. Including all of us experts. I say “us” because on public policy everyone is an expert – we routinely praise and abuse all policies. It’s good for democracy that we do – what isn’t good is when the laws are shaped by our emotional states.

Emotional laws may require special category passengers, the private car owners to build features for variously challenged individuals and income group concessions. Noble nationalists may even require that the cars be made available for the “draft” during a crisis.  Someone may shoot someone in a cab ride and then there’ll be a gun-policy debate. An offensive smelling passenger may be refused service and a discrimination lawsuit will define what constitutes a secular smell that is deemed acceptable to all. There may be a new device called an “odourmeter” in all cars as a result. By the time these are all enacted:
a.        The service could be killed
b.      A new breed of criminals, who violate these various laws, will be formed
c.       Various inspectors appointed to guard the interests of the public may seek recourse to off-record incomes from b. above.
You know, that sort of a thing.

The Tectonic Shake in Central Planning
Both services optimize use of assets created. This has resulted in a public benefit - in an arena largely classified as essential - accommodation and transportation. Pricing is spread across the spectrum as a private negotiation.  This has been the goal of “central planning”. Using public resources best to achieve public benefits on needed stuff. This one is better, as it’s driven by vested interests - the service intermediaries, the asset sharers and the asset users - and NOT by the asset builders.

Both services are on a collision course with a combination of large organized private sector enterprise and Planet Goodboy laws.

Private sector enterprises (larger corporations) want to kill this by asking government to impose more laws and taxes on them. Both will increase the costs of compliance and services - that the consumer will pay for the same services. Additional revenues will accrue to govt by taxes - to waste on central planning - and to financial services sectors - insurance companies. The latter will then invest in safe things like CDOs and debt of nice countries like Spain and Greece.

The Hotel Industry goes through the classic “multiplier effect” cyclical downturns. Two good years and 10 bad ones. All the shakedowns, consolidations etc. reflect a collective waste. Airbnb type operations smoothen these cycles. Which is a good thing.

Urban transport planning is at best, a constant nightmare. Car pool lanes, pollution taxing blah blah. Uber style services at least switch the 1 person car into 2 person cars and ease traffic congestion. Even the carbon emission guys and the austere-life brigade can reduce their hate of the car bloke by half now.

Airbnb and Uber are examples of “privatized” central planning. Its biggest enemies are big government and big organized corporations. Its anarchy working for daily life.


Anarchy is also defined as an absence (of the heavy hand) of government. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/anarchy