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How the Sharing Economy Empowers the Working Class

By: David Unsworth - @LatinAmerUpdate - Apr 19, 2017, 6:56 pm
Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has come under fire from the left as of late (
Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has come under fire from the left as of late, for allegedly exploiting its workers (Forbes).

There is a fundamental disconnect emerging between the liberal establishment, with the so-called “sharing economy” constantly in their cross-hairs, and the millennials who so often provide them with their victories at the ballot box. The Obama administration, in particular, owes its 8 year reign to the 18-30 year old crowd, who turned out in droves twice for Obama. Yet, within the liberal establishment, a new ideological movement is brewing: one that sees the sharing economy (and many of the businesses that millennials love to patronize) as devious threats to the American economy.

The problem is that the liberal establishment, neither in North America nor Europe, fundamentally does not believe in the free market. It does not believe that individuals, acting in a labor market where wages are dictated by supply and demand, have the choice to enter into contracts as employers and employees, free of government interference. Or, for that matter, to rent out their homes or cars at prices dictated by the free market.

Case in point: recent revelations that a trio of ultra-liberal senators, in conjunction with the heavily-funded hotel industry lobby, has been investigating AirBNB with an aim to increase regulatory scrutiny of the popular home-sharing website. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Brian Schatz (D-HI), have been leading the charge, alleging that AirBNB properties do not comply with anti-discrimination legislation, fail to heed safety regulations, and present unfair competition to the hotel industry.

When Obama discussed increased “choice and competition” as his guiding light for ObamaCare, free market enthusiasts could barely contain their laughter. When Warren and Feinstein team up to fight “unfair competition” it is outright hysterical. At the heart of it, the American Left has never been interested in choice and competition. They, in fact, despise choice and competition. And just wait until the powerful hotel industry lobby starts pouring funding into the campaign coffers of liberal Democrats under the preposterous guise of ensuring “safety”, boosting “local tax revenues”, and fighting “discrimination.”

Or, take the recent onslaught of liberal agitation against ride-sharing application Uber, from both sides of the pond. Writing in the Guardian, self-described feminist activist Laurie Penny charges Uber with “spreading social poison,” noting that the company “grew in the social sludge of American cities with patchy and precarious public transport provision and high unemployment.”

In the social justice warrior-inspired Marxist milieu of Penny, “taking an Uber home is the ethical equivalent of the greasy late-night kebab: you know it’s bad for you, but there’s a filthy, guilty pleasure in being able to meet your immediate animal needs.”

Yes…in the completely ludicrous world of today’s liberal activism, taking safe, convenient, and reasonably priced transportation home makes you “filthy” and “guilty”. How dare you don’t call a black or yellow cab service so that you can pay two or three or five times more…not to mention deal with a service that is notorious for rude drivers who run a side business swindling passengers. You prefer an Uber? You’re a MONSTER!

Yes, to Ms. Penny the notion that Uber’s drivers work as independent contractors, and are thus responsible for their own healthcare, retirement planning, and benefits (like millions of other Americans who work independently) is a grievous affront to human decency.

Did it ever occur to Ms. Penny that Uber is, in fact, a liberator of the poor and working and lower middle classes that before could never have conceived of being able to afford to take a car service home? In a major American city today, a mere 15-20 minute ride in an official taxi will set you back $25 to $35. How is that possibly a fair, when factoring in driver pay, insurance, gas, wear and tear, etc? Few poor or working class Americans could ever justify a $30 cab ride to get home after their shift, as more than an occasional luxury.

Now in a major American city, such a ride costs half or a third, of the prices charged by official “monopoly” car services. A working class person who earns $25,000 or $30,000 or $40,000 a year, now has private car travel as an economically viable transportation option. The same way that AirBNB now allows those of even modest means to travel the world and stay in a private room, or a furnished apartment, or an entire home, at a fraction of the cost of hotel accommodations.

The reason that Uber (and other services like Lyft and Cabify) are wildly popular are because they open new doors to precisely the type of people that Penny claims are so oppressed and downtrodden by the sharing economy. Yes, it is indisputable that Uber drivers earn less than unionized cab drivers. If they don’t like the earnings, then they can look for other work. No one is forced at gunpoint to work for Uber, or any other American company.

In the meantime, the American Left, headed by their patron saint Elizabeth Warren, can take on the “sharing economy” at their own peril. It’s readily apparent that the sharing economy is supported broadly by the American public in general, and enthusiastically by millennials in particular. It’s curious that Warren’s office has repeatedly “declined to comment” on her inquisition into AirBNB. It doesn’t seem that she’s exactly trumpeting it from the rooftops. Perhaps she realizes that, ultimately, taking on the sharing economy is political suicide.

Even libertarians would acknowledge that such outfits as Uber and AirBNB should be subject to a reasonable level of government regulation. For example, it hardly seems totalitarian to require Uber drivers to have car insurance and offer seatbelts for all passengers, or require AirBNB hosts to offer fire extinguishers.

But for the socialist crusaders to veil their campaign against “the sharing economy” in protecting working class people is beyond the pale of hypocrisy.

David Unsworth David Unsworth

David Unsworth is a Boston native. He received degrees in History and Political Science from Washington University in St. Louis, and subsequently spent five years working in real estate development in New York City. Currently he resides in Bogota, Colombia, where he is involved in the tourism industry. In his free time he enjoys singing in rock bands, travelling throughout Latin America, and studying Portuguese.

Chavista Army Can’t Hold Venezuela Hostage for Long, Says Renowned Political Scientist

By: Pedro García Otero - Apr 19, 2017, 4:20 pm
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EspañolCatholic University Andrés Bello's Center for Political Studies is one of the most valuable sources of information about the political landscape in Venezuela. Daniel Fermín, a political scientist who works with the center, is one of the most balanced and well-informed sources there. Fermin, currently on special assignment in Germany, has published a series of tweets announcing the virtual end of President Nicolás Maduro's administration. PanAm Post talked with him about Venezuela as seen from a distance, as well as about about today's demonstration. Your tweet practically announces the end of Maduro's administration. You are usually quite prudent, so where did such a statement come from? Chavismo, particularly in the current regime, has gone from a competitive authoritarianism with strong populist themes to ... a regime of hegemonic authoritarianism, which does not allow for competition or fair elections. We have seen this clearly with the cancellation of the recall referendum, with the regional elections that are scheduled but aren't happening, and with no call for municipal elections from the National Electoral Council. It is clear that the government no longer wants elections. When there were elections, it was clear that it was because their main support was the people, it was popular support. Today, the pillars of the regime are in the National Armed Forces. The Armed Forces that violate Article 328 of the constitution declare themselves Chavez supporters, they're on the government's side, etcetera. The institution that is co-opted by the executive branch, especially by the CNE, is now, more than anything, the Supreme Court of Justice. Is this type of authoritarianism sustainable in Venezuela? The weak spot in these types of regimes is that they depend on the absolute loyalty of their followers. They have no propensity for long-term stability, especially when there are people on the street actively resisting them. Notice how the gaps between political leadership and citizen aspirations are closing. There is a greater unity, and not just within the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD). So, these types of regimes do not remain stable when they are going against people's organized resistance. If not, people become passive. It happens, we have seen it in other countries, like Cuba. But in Venezuela, the government has encountered not only its traditional opposition over the past 18 years, composed of people who never voted for them, but also deep inside Chavismo there is great discontent and there is a very strong opposition to what is happening today. Last week we saw protests in areas with traditionally strong support for Chavez. Is Maduro worried that political protest will compound with the hunger protest? Their worst fear is that social protests will start to be articulated politically. For example, when we see analysis carried out by the Venezuelan Observatory of Social Conflict, their latest numbers show 19 daily protests. Most of these protests are in response to the collapse of public services. There is no water, there is no electricity, there's scarcity, there's no food or medicine. When these protests are not politically charged, of course, they have social purpose but have no political relevance. When these protests are politically-motivated and begin to have political intentions - the government has used the term "politizar" as a synonym for "partisanship" — and as something that distorts social protests. When social protests have political leadership, I think it is something that these types of regimes should fear a lot. Because when people say "look, there is a shortage, but I don't want the CLAP food service, I want the government to leave because shortages are their fault and I want to have elections for a political change," then the regime should be afraid because it no longer allows for half-measures, or handouts, but rather a political change that allows decision-making to lead to another way of governing. Many people consider April 19 as a sort of "final battle," or Maduro's "last day." But that's not going to be the case. How should people deal with those expectations? On April 19, we must have very clear and specific objectives for the protest. I am worried about the threat of violence, not only threats made by the government to intimidate, but this epic nature of the "final battle" is concerning because it can undo the progress made so far. I believe that Venezuela's political leaders have the great responsibility of doing this properly, and to leave a message of strength, a testimony for Venezuelans and for those abroad, that expresses Venezuelans' determination to live in freedom and to have a dignified life, but without resorting to violence, because that falls into the government's plan. Speaking of violence, on Monday, Maduro sent a militia up against protestors. What message does that send to the country and the world?  The government is betting that in the face of the irreversible erosion of its party's popularity, PSUV, paramilitaries and the Armed Forces will become the new government party. And we have to add a few quotation marks to that "new" because the Armed Forces have long been members of the ruling party. Faced with the loss of the electoral system, the government is trying to create a militarized platform that not only spreads fear among the population but also achieves social control through the militarization of society. googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('div-gpt-ad-1459522593195-0'); }); One hundred and eighty days have gone by since the president of the National Electoral Council, Tibisay Lucena, spoke about an electoral timetable with regional elections in the first half of the year. It is less than a month and a half before the deadline, so it is clear that she will not honor her word? The CNE lost its relevance once the government decided that it does not want to be evaluated electorally. It's Orwellian behavior. Instead of making choices, its function is to prevent elections. Dr. Lucena performs poorly for her institution and has become a mockery to Venezuelans. Read More: Common Objections to Skeptics of Trump’s Immigration Ban, Answered Read More: Protecting Maduro, Santos Turns his Back on Colombians Unfortunately, the CNE has been taken over by the executive branch and that is by no means proper behavior for anyone who calls themselves a democrat. Have Nicolas Maduro and his group crossed the line? Will they go to prison in the future? That is a very difficult question to answer, not only because one does not know what will happen, but because in these procedures, there is much of what is known as transitional justice. ... Impunity is always negotiated, which may sound terrible for common citizens,  because the longing for justice is there and people really want those who have committed crimes to pay for those crimes.

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