Conservative economics 'not a partisan issue'? Nonsense.
In Wednesday's American Spectator, Gary Shapiro pens a great article entitled, "Republicans Can Be The Party of Choice." His article waxes effusive about the potential of the Republican Party going forward.
For the most part, I strongly agree with Mr. Shapiro. He starts off well enough by describing the opportunities inherent in the personal liberty of the sharing economy. However, in the last sentence of the below paragraph, he essentially opines that the sharing economy isn't and shouldn't be a partisan issue. I disagree.
Republicans support policies that promote ridesharing and homesharing – business models that give Americans more choice. Millions of Americans love the service they get from Lyft and Uber. Tens of thousands of Americans.are now making extra money by providing their car and their driving skills to serve other citizens. And services like Airbnb give travelers the option to stay in areas unserved by hotels – or even near hotels. Traveling is becoming more affordable for more Americans – and those same Americans are making money by letting people use parts or all of their homes. The sharing economy is not – and should not be – a partisan issue, but Republicans can take the lead and promote policies that support choice in the new economy[.] [Italics mine.]
Here is how I differ with Mr. Shapiro. Outside thought pieces in American Thinker, partisan politics is a fundamental mechanism that we use to promote our principles and communicate the differences between us and liberals. This is especially true during the run-up to elections and during the public conversation that takes place when cities, states, and the federal government begin the legislative process to impact new and innovative economic paradigms. Uber and Airbnb are perfect case studies for comparing liberal and conservative thought when reacting to innovation in the marketplace.
When confronted with a game-changing economic innovation, what do liberals do? What is the first thing they think about? Based on what I've observed with the roll-out of Uber and its competitor Lyft, the first thing liberals want to do is protect their entrenched vested interests, such as the taxi medallion construct so prevalent in Democrat-run cities.
Taxi "medallions" are essentially licenses to operate – one medallion per taxi. They are limited in quantity by the city issuing them and thus are quite expensive. The medallion form of regulation, while foisted on the public ostensibly to "protect us" from unscrupulous and unsafe operators, actually serves to limit the supply of transportation for hire by adding barriers to entry for others wishing to open such a business. This results in higher prices and limited access for consumers while resulting in the enrichment of a select few. This is cronyism at its worst.
The sharing economy, in the form of Uber and Lyft, could overturn all of that. In a May 2015 column by James Hickman in The Street, Hickman points out that the price of a taxi medallion in New York City dropped from $1.3 million in April 2014 to $900,000 in March 2015 because of the added supply injected into the system by the entry of Uber into the New York City transportation marketplace. Liberals won't stand for that. New York's Mayor de Blasio along with his city council has already attempted to limit Uber's footprint in New York via regulation and ordinance.
Uber has since "won" that particular fight. However, it's instructive to note that a) the first instinct of liberals is to limit, regulate, and/or tax innovation to a level that poses little or no threat to their cronies, and b) liberals never quit.
When presented with those same economic innovations, conservatives celebrate. They celebrate the happiness that additional flexibility and liberty bring to Uber operators, who can choose a work schedule that suits them. Conservatives celebrate Airbnb operators who can afford nicer housing by offering their homes to provide quality lodging to others, often in such pricey locales as New York City and Washington, D.C.
Conservatives celebrate Uber operators who might be using that extra income stream to come off public assistance or never to go on it in the first place. They celebrate citizens taking the opportunity that innovation offers them not only to enhance their own lifestyles, but also to be able to contribute to society by adding to the tax base. Most of all, conservatives celebrate innovative thought that has consumers and service providers evaluating each other, thus diminishing the need for government interference in the form of excessive regulation, added costs, and diminution of personal liberty.
I'm very sorry, Mr. Shapiro, but these are huge differences in political philosophy and surely a partisan issue. It is a discussion that we conservatives must promote. It's a philosophic contrast that conservatives must make, early and often. It involves two cornerstones of our great experiment called These United States of America: liberty and property rights.
The liberal/ Democrat viewpoint has been shown time and again to lead to want, deprivation, and envy, promulgated through a regime of government control, cronyism, and loss of individual liberty. On the other hand, the conservative viewpoint, supporting free-market principles, has brought about the greatest personal liberty and economic advancement the world has ever seen, lifting more people out of poverty than any other economic philosophy, bar none.