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Massachusetts to tax ride-hailing apps, give the money to taxis (reuters.com)
337 points by petethomas on Aug 21, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 509 comments



This is a pretty surreal move:

>The law says the money will help taxi businesses to adopt "new technologies and advanced service, safety and operational capabilities" and to support workforce development... [Larry Meister, manager of the Boston area's Independent Taxi Operator's Association] said the money could go toward improving a smartphone app his association has started using, or to other big needs.

I'm not an anti-regulation guy most of the time, but this doesn't even seem like regulation -- they're literally giving money to a fading industry because they are incapable of keeping up. I don't want to see cab drivers turn into homeless drifters, but this just seems wrong.

Making a more efficient competitor pay to help taxi companies make their service better? The whole reason these companies exist is because taxi companies have been utter garbage for years and got the government to elbow out competitors. Am I missing something? Surely the burden for "do things better and buy nicer equipment" falls on the taxi companies, not the other organizations that are embarrassing them.


I mostly agree with you, and I would have wholeheartedly agreed with you 2 weeks ago, but I just read a book ("Listen, Liberal" by Thomas Frank) that makes some interesting points about how liberals have shifted from representing working people to representing professionals, and to worshiping innovation. While free trade and disruptive technology is good for the professional class, it inherently increases inequality.

Frank argues that after the liberal shift, "everyone" now agrees to these pro-business, pro-Wall Street policies, but we don't have to allow rapid disruption freely. We could do what Massachusetts is doing. We could have tariffs and bring manufacturing back. Policy can prevent the inevitable.

I learned about the book while vigorously researching Trump's rise to popularity during the primaries. I personally can't wait for self-driving cars, etc., but I think someone needs to be thinking of the swaths of working people who are afraid of losing their jobs.

I know lots of working people. Many of them don't want to go back to school or get technical training. Many of them don't want to start the next big company. They just want to work their job and go hang out with their family. What do we tell the taxi and truck drivers when Uber shows up with self-drivers, etc.?

I'm new to this line of thinking myself and I know there are lots of counterarguments. I just find it worth a ponder.


Many of them don't want to go back to school or get technical training... What do we tell the taxi and truck drivers when Uber shows up with self-drivers, etc.?

Uhhh, how about "suck it up and do it anyway"? I know plenty of people on hn are all about the "making the world a better place" shtick and would work anyway/for the sake of it but for the vast majority of people work straight up means doing things you otherwise wouldn't want to do in exchange for income. It's sort of the whole point of offering compensation. Earning money is the carrot on the stick that lures most of us through education and then in to careers. Why taxi drivers should get to be a special exception I would have no idea. Why not people that want to play with cats all day? Or people that want to get paid to move rocks from one pile in their yard to another every day?

Sure there's the question of people not being able to be productive in a work force with a higher skill floor and I'm all for a basic income, but "what if they don't want to" in regard to people working? Crazy.


You identify most of the difficulty of this scenario:

1. Taxis are a dying industry, but taxi drivers are not adapting.

2. As a result, taxi drivers are suffering. Their livelihoods, which have brought food to their families' tables for decades, are being taken from them by forces they could not anticipate or control.

Of course,

3. We care about these taxi drivers. Suffering is bad no matter what industry you work in. Suffering is worth avoiding.

Ultimately our answer has to be to say "your job doesn't really exist anymore, you need to find a new one". But it matters how much time we give taxi drivers. Clearly, asking them to adapt overnight would be too demanding, so there's a balance to be made between market efficiency and the realities of our apish learning rates.

In the long run, a lot of jobs are going the way of the taxi, and perhaps basic income is the long-term solution. But we can't implement basic income today. It's a massive solution to what is currently a minor, contained problem.

Every country's policies are a gigantic legacy codebase. Basic income would be re-writing a huge chunk of the code, where this tax is adding yet another minor hack to keep the thing running smoothly.


> Taxis are a dying industry, but taxi drivers are not adapting.

How do you know? My impression is that most taxi drivers are very busy adapting. But I don't know either.

Let's be clear: The people hardest hit by Uber/Lyft is taxi company owners.

> Clearly, asking them to adapt overnight would be too demanding

Uber has been around for half a decade. How many decades does it take?


> How do you know? My impression is that most taxi drivers are very busy adapting. But I don't know either.

To be clear: I don't know either. I'm an outsider to this industry. I'm just offering arguments.

> Let's be clear: The people hardest hit by Uber/Lyft is taxi company owners.

I don't think this is true. They're losing the most money, but they have lots of money. Taxi drivers risk losing all their revenue, which is worse.

> Uber has been around for half a decade. How many decades does it take?

I think this is the hardest question. According to the people behind this bill, half a decade is not enough. I agree with that judgment.


Taxi drivers risk losing the difference between what they can earn working as a taxi driver and what they can earn on ride sharing apps. It's probably a fair drop but hardly all of their income.


Generally you pay for some kind of permit to be a taxi driver. A quick google suggests in excess of 150KUSD:

https://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2015/08/05/what-about-taxi...

So they potentially have a lot to lose...


Generally you rent a permit/work for a company that owns them as a taxi driver. If there are taxi drivers buying medallions then they're 1) a small minority and 2)effectively business owners that are making a capital investment. Part of why one gets a return on investments is that they're assuming risk.


It is definitely unfair that a completely new class of competition is allowed which doesn't have to pay this 150k "medallion" fee. Instead of this 20c fee it would be fair to either reimburse the 150k fee to existing owners of taxis or have uber/lyft pay the same fee. Competition should be fair.

Oh and all the regulation should be the same for taxi vs ridesharing like insurance requirements (commercial insurance is much higher which taxis are required to carry) and inspection requirements etc.


"New York City cab medallions, which sold for as much as $1 million a year ago, now are priced at the $500K level, battered by competition from Uber, Lyft.

Some Independent owners, having paid upwards of $1 million, are “under water” by hundreds of thousands of dollars on the mortgages they owe on the medallions."

http://www.odwyerpr.com/story/public/6471/2016-03-08/uber-ly...


Uber is more than a year old, and investors speculating on $1 million medallions should have factored in the risk of losing that gamble...


What was the point of the medallion system in the first place?


Half a decade is not enough? How long did it take taxi drivers to learn to be taxi drivers in the first place? Surely not 5 years. Moving into another career/job/position will certainly take time to transition, learn, and train, but 5+ years is a long time. I know many people who are in wildly different jobs, different fields in much less time than that.


> How do you know? My impression is that most taxi drivers are very busy adapting. But I don't know either.

The taxi driver I was taking with was mostly adapting to special-purpose taxi services like delivering IKEA furniture. That already meant a big revenue cut for him in contrast to normal taxi service.

I asked him about Uber and he said last time it was completely impossible to make living for him based on the revenue you get from Uber routes.

Self-driving cars weren't even part of the long-term plan back then...


Since the bill goes to 2026, right now the answer appears to be approximately 1.5 decades by their judgement.


Under the old model, taxi riders were/are suffering, and taxi drivers want to keep getting their monopoly rent.

"Taxi drivers are suffering" actually means "they cannot fleece their customers like they used to". This is a zero sum game - taxi drivers take money from taxi riders, so any change will be met with opposition. The difference is, taxi drivers are better organized and have PR people to tell us about their "suffering", while millions of taxi riders quietly enjoy better service and reasonable prices.


Look, I hate cabs too. I hate having to tell the driver where to drop me off because they never use GPS. I hate feeling like a lowlife for wanting to pay by credit card because I never have cash. And I hate how expensive cabs are.

But let's not forget that most taxi drivers are themselves far from well off. It is a working class gig, with a heavy representation from new immigrants. It's long hours, it's physically draining (software developers get to rebel against sitting in front of computers in favour of standing desks, yet what about drivers), and most people do NOT get rich doing it.

It's still an industry that's sick with corruption that has depended on anti-competitive practices and should be destroyed and rebuilt for the betterment of society. But most taxi DRIVERS have few if any options in the upcoming world.


So we should prop up the robber barons running the shitty industry just to save the little guys who don't want to do something else?


I'm against propping up a dying industry by taxing the disrupters because it sets a terrible precedent. (Will Tesla be taxed to prop up oil companies in 10 years?) But to say taxi drivers don't want to do something else is unfair. Many drivers sunk all of their savings into buying a taxi medallion, assuming it would hold its value, and now live day to day on their earnings. Uber/Lyft have destroyed the value of the medallion, essentially wiping out the "little guy's" investment over night. Yes, life's unfair but as a compassionate society, can we do something to help them?

I'm more ok with the taxi businesses themselves going out of business for failing to innovate and getting themselves disrupted. That's on them. However, it does leave another problem... Taxi companies are heavily regulated for a reason. For example, they are required to offer services for disabled people at no extra charge. As far as I know, Uber/Lyft are under no such obligation and do nothing to accommodate the disabled. When taxi companies go away, what happens to that entire group of people?

One solution might be to classify ride-hailing apps as taxi companies as well and apply the same regulations. This also allows taxi companies to compete on a level playing field.


Last year in Athens I was forced to pay 50 EUR for a 20 minute ride to the airport (officially mandated price), while average monthly salary there is ~700 eur. No way an honest working class man would charge 1/14 of a monthly salary for a 20-minute job, this is a racket, pure and simple.


Also, my girlfriend is an honest hardworking person, who instead of overcrowded public transit can enjoy faster safer transportation daily, thanks to Uber. Why do you want to deny her this basic necessity?


To this end, we should br taxing self driving cars to create a pension fund for taxi drivers. Taxing one cab company to pay another doesn't seem to address your listed concerns at all.


It's good to care about taxi drivers, but not because they are taxi drivers.

Go back >200 years. In England, Spinning Jennies replaced weavers, and there were luddites who tried to resist, but the solution was not to start subsidizing weavers; and not even a specific tax to weaving machines to provide for the weavers specifically; the solution was to slowly build a social security system, and not just for master weavers (who had been relatively well off) but everyone.

Agreed, taxing one company to pay another does not make sense, but neither does subsidizing people of a certain profession just because they are no longer productive, by putting a burden on something productive just because it is better.


>the solution was to slowly build a social security system

The Luddites were active around 1811 and welfare in the UK seems to have come in around 1906. The solutions at the time were closer to "suck it up". The government used "show trials intended to deter other Luddites from continuing their activities. By meting out harsh consequences, including, in many cases, execution and penal transportation, the trials quickly ended the movement."

That was the era of Charles Dickens and workhouses for the poor.


> putting a burden on something productive just because it is better

What aspect of Uber is better than a regular taxi? I can hail taxis from my phone just as well. They take me to the destination. I think Uber found a way to subsidize their fleet with drivers own cars and not pay some taxes to the state which the regular taxi drivers have to pay. Maybe I am missing something...


> What aspect of Uber is better than a regular taxi?

It's wildly cheaper (1/4-1/2 the price, depending on UberPool vs UberX), the app is more convenient (faster/easier to activate for a ride, better feedback while waiting), and if there's a problem with the ride of some sort, I'd rather deal with Uber than some random city's department of livery licensing. Not driving in a clapped-out Crown Vic with loose wheel bearings and 3-5 warning lights on the dash is a bonus.

For most people, more convenient and absurdly cheaper is enough to answer your question.


In my area, Uber is better because their drivers don't treat me like shit - and I'm not talking about being servile, but simply greeting me back and not ranting the whole way about how rides should be $20 minimum. Before Uber, I took a taxi only in emergencies, simply because it was more often than not an unpleasant experience.

Their association is also corrupt as hell, so they can't even claim that over Uber.


I had an unpleasant Uber experience a few months ago where my driver illegally drove in a bike lane to make a right turn at a light, cutting off another car at the light that was legally trying to proceed right. The two drivers got into a verbal altercation that lasted for another light, and then my driver was ranting about it for the rest of the entire drive. I got the feeling that the Uber driver used to be a yellow cab driver who was doing the same thing now but without a medallion. I should point out that driving in the bike lane was especially infuriating to me because I bike every day, whereas I almost never take cars.

The big difference between Uber and cabs, however, is that I left the driver a negative review on Uber, and their customer support got back to me. If he keeps pulling that crap he's not going to be able to drive for Uber anymore. There's essentially no recourse for cab drivers. Sure, they may have contact info posted for their company by law, but if you try to contact them you won't reach anyone who cares.


illegally drove in a bike lane to make a right turn at a light, cutting off another car at the light that was legally trying to proceed right

Diverging off-topic, and your account is light on specifics needed for this divergence...

http://pedalfortcollins.com/righthandturns/


Good point. Rules of the road regarding right turns and bike lanes vary depending on jurisdiction. But even though your link was for Colorado and I'm in northern Europe, the rule is the same: a right-turning car actually should merge into bike lane.

So, sometimes it could be that the Uber (or taxi) driver knows more about the rules of the road that the passenger, and when the passenger complains based on wrong understanding of traffic law, it's not an easy customer-serving situation.


To be clear, I didn't say anything at all. The driver was ranting at me and I didn't want any part of it.

I'm pretty sure it's illegal to use a bike lane to cut off another car that's already stopped at an intersection. Keep in mind this is a road that has a single travel lane in each direction -- there isn't a separate right-turning lane.


I can't find specifics on NYC -- any ideas? Regardless, I don't think it's acceptable to use a bike lane to cut off another vehicle that's already stopped at the light indicating a turn when there is only one car travel lane. The Uber barely slipped through.


(Note: most of the below applies to Lyft as well.)

> What aspect of Uber is better than a regular taxi?

Higher-quality, rated drivers. Single app that works consistently everywhere. Better reporting mechanism for problems, that also works consistently everywhere. Live mapping of the vehicle picking you up. Payment handled automatically and consistently everywhere. No payment step inside the vehicle.

> I can hail taxis from my phone just as well.

Using one app per city (if the city even has one), or a phone number (vastly worse, and you need to look it up), with the experience varying vastly in different locations. Uber and Lyft work identically everywhere.


What aspect of Uber is better than a regular taxi?

For one thing, with Uber, those of us who don't live in a major metro area don't have to wait 30-60 minutes for a cab that might or might not even show up. There's always an available Uber driver nearby.

Think about it. How would Uber have gotten any traction in the marketplace if it weren't better than the incumbent taxi operators in some substantial ways?


The fare is computed by the central system, so you can't be scammed by a cabbie who secretly puts on the night fare etc. Although, I was once scammed out of a couple pounds by an Uber driver who said I need to reimburse him the entrance fee on the airport (a couple pounds paid at the gate), and it turns out Uber charged me that fee as well.


One could argue that Uber can offer lower rates by having higher utilisation -- those people who are part time Uber drivers clock on at peak times. However, I think this argument is specious, because most uber drivers are full time.

I would argue that the reputation system for drivers (and passengers) is an improvement over the current taxi system. The online booking system (app) is massively better than any taxi booking system I've used. These are strong incentives.

Obviously taxi systems involve paying the state for a licence to operate, but the ~500k price (depending on location) is solely due to an articficial scarcity. There needs to be some external regulation, so Uber/etc should pay some per trip/km charge.

One of the biggest problems with Uber and Taxis is insurance. Basically this cost/risk is being directly transferred to the driver, who may have no assets. It isn't acceptable for a service like this to have un-covered liabilities.

The other big gap is that Uber and Taxi companies have terrible employment practices. Failure to pay payroll tax is only the tip of the iceberg.


Taxis in some places have awful service and blatantly ignore the law. Extrapolating from my experience, nearly every credit card reader in a taxi in Philadelphia is broken even though they must be working, and has been for years. As such I use Uber there 100% of the time, even when a taxi is available. By contrast, somehow, NYC cabs virtually always have working equipment - and there I use taxis for the majority of car trips.


I get the feeling that the regulations in NYC have more teeth to them. The medallions are very costly, and you risk losing many days of profitability on them if your equipment isn't up to snuff.


Yep, I don't get it either.

taxi |ˈtaksi| noun ( pl. taxis ) a motor vehicle licensed to transport passengers in return for payment of a fare and typically fitted with a taximeter.

Uber is a taxi service. Uber _is_ licensed in the sense that they are allowed to operate.

Saying Uber isn't a taxi service is a load of dingos kidneys, in my arrogant opinion.


Regulations typically distinguish taxis, which can pick up street hails, from car/bus/limo services, which are pre-arranged or pre-scheduled. Bus and limo drivers also "drive people for money" (and even for buses, sometimes charge by distance), but aren't subject to taxi regs.

And that's not an arbitrary distinction: much of the danger and public interest in cans arises from grabbing randos off the street. As car/limo services track that info remotely, they merit correspondingly less regulation.


Ah, yes indeed, very good point, thanks for clearing that up for me.


Works globally, processes payments, eliminates bad drivers.


The last bit is problematic, as one of the criticisms against them is that they don't eliminate the bad drivers. People drive with all sorts of criminal records which they tried to spin as something positive.


A driver with criminal record is not the same thing as a bad driver.

In many senses, being able to provide meaningful jobs to people with a criminal record is actually a service to the society. At least in my opinion, the idea of punishment is also rehabilitation, not that once you've been convicted of a crime, you could never be trusted with a job where you are in contact with other people or money or anything.

So if Uber can hire them, and even their customer feedback is positive, that is a good thing.


If that driver with a criminal record keeps their rating high enough to keep driving, what's the problem? A reformed criminal who drives safely and is pleasant to their passengers would be better than half the taxi drivers I've ever had the displeasure of dealing with


"Bad driver" has a wider meaning than "has a criminal record".


You've never taken an Uber. For your own market education try it sometime.


> there were luddites who tried to resist, but the solution was not to start subsidizing weavers

It is not fair to history to keep repeating that. The historical luddites were not against technological change.


> Uhhh, how about "suck it up and do it anyway"?

You have it backwards.

Humans have always had to suck it up because this is the default, natural state. But one would think in XXI century we could do better. That we can show some civilization, some compassion, instead of telling the unfortunate among us that they should suck it up. They're not our slaves to be forced into productive jobs, or resources to be used up and discarded. They're human beings - with dreams, fears and hopes. The deserve some help, or at least, some consideration.

(Not to mention, the next day it may be us who will need the same.)

EDIT: changed to sound less personal - it wasn't my intention for it to sound like it was aimed at the OP.


I appreciate the desire to transcend the exploitation of labor, but even ignoring the fact that this specific case goes about doing that in one of the worst possible ways, I don't think that it's fair or wise to offer bailouts in reaction to specific economic shifts. By bailouts I mean any kind of intervention to cushion or shield individuals from financial collapse.

I say this because it creates an incentive to move with the herd. Only economic shifts that effect a large class of people will ever see bailouts. This means that it's safer to to do something that a lot of people do, like drive a taxi, than to do something more exotic, like opening a pastry shop. If you drive a taxi and some large corporation deploys a fleet of self driving taxis in your city, then you have a chance of a bailout because there would be enough people affeced to make it worth legislators' time. If some starts delivering oven-hot 3d-printed pastries by drone, then there's not enough pastry shop owners for legislators to address it. That's not fair to the pastry shop owners, and it makes it less attractive to open a pastry shop.

If you want to avoid destroying lives and families when major innovation occurs (or in other circumstances) then it has to be via means that are available to everyone. Proposed systems like basic income or negative income tax make the loss of a job less damaging, but are not without their downfalls. Similar with traditional liberal welfare programs.


>They're not our slaves to be forced into productive jobs

Slaves no but being forced in to productive jobs is the whole point of tying income to market demands. A force which effects us all not just taxi drivers.

>The deserve some help

Sure. Financial aid to reskill. Unemployment benefits while they job hunt. Hell, as I said, I'm for a basic income presuming I get to not work alongside the ex-taxi drivers. Help doesn't need to come in the form of specific regulations to allow a minority of people to perform unwanted work in exchange for income.


This whole thing reminds me of my favorite Heinlein quote:

“There has grown up in the minds of certain groups in this country the notion that because a man or corporation has made a profit out of the public for a number of years, the government and the courts are charged with the duty of guaranteeing such profit in the future, even in the face of changing circumstances and contrary to public interest. This strange doctrine is not supported by statute or common law. Neither individuals nor corporations have any right to come into court and ask that the clock of history be stopped, or turned back.”


The taxi drivers in this story are not being "forced into jobs". They're forcing others (app developers) to give them money. Or they're forcing customers to use their services over someone else.

Don't equivocate on the word "force". If you get the government to make people do things, that's force. If people aren't giving you money they are not "forcing" you to work for your money.


Is my landlord forcing me to work for money by threatening to evict me for not paying rent?

Is my grocer forcing me to work for money when they demand payment for the food I want to eat?


No they are not. They are demanding money, but they don't care if you inherited it, worked for it, found it, etc.


The world doesn't exist for anyone's personal comfort, nor should it. This is the argument of luddites, nobility, and the lazy.

The slave metaphor makes no sense: slaves have a master who cares for his investment. Free people have none and must care for and provide for themselves. To assume they cannot is degrading.


"The world doesn't exist for anyone's personal comfort, nor should it. "

The world does not care if one is comfortable or not. We humans, on the other hand, do. Given our level of economic output the question is ethical and political, not ontological.


Well said. Its part of the 'enclosure' trend going on for 300 years. When folks can't live independent of capitalist job-seeking, they are essentially wage-slaves. Used to be you could just trap a brace of rabbits for the pot, weave your own cloth, wait for a better paying job. Society changed. This is why I favor a GBI - its reinstating the idea of the 'commons' where folks could say no to low-paying jobs.


Why can't you still do that? From what I can tell, land in Detroit or Appalachia is pretty cheap - nothing prevents you from trapping rabbits or weaving your own cloth there.

The reason people don't do this is that as wealth has increased, being a wage slave or welfare queen (the modern equivalent seems to be disability fraud king) has become vastly more attractive.


> The reason people don't do this is that as wealth has increased, being a wage slave or welfare queen (the modern equivalent seems to be disability fraud king) has become vastly more attractive.

Sure. Participating in the economy gives you access to the things this economy produces, which in the last century started to be really pretty cool. Why people don't move? I suspect that by the time people get in a bad enough situation to consider a move, they can no longer afford it. Secondly, trapping rabbits and waving your own cloth are both specialist, learned skills, which in the past were taught to the children as they grew. Again, for a typical westerner desperate enough to go primal, a city is much better bet than a wilderness - in cities, high-quality safe food tends to be concentrated in well-marked areas, and it's easier to get access to it than to hunt down an animal.


You can't pay taxes with rabbits and hand made clothes.


There are neither income taxes nor property taxes to be paid on rabbits or handmade items.


I don't think there are any jurisdictions that are free of property taxes. How would you pay those?


The idea of the commons was, property that was everybody's. Today's equivalent might be a state or national park. So, forage in the State Park for rabbits while you wait for a better job.


"They're not our slaves"

They are slaves, but not ours. Look at taxi drivers - they belong to unions and license owners. Those, in turn, have local governments as their masters - government protects their monopoly in exchange for fee/favours. The whole arrangement looks like old good slavery - drivers do not starve, accept current order and have no incentive to change anything. Now, here comes Uber! You would imagine that taxi drivers would jump at the opportunity to become their own boss, but ironically they became the most vicious defenders of current corrupt system, where their place is strictly at the bottom.


Uber drivers are not, in any meaningful sense, their own bosses. Whether working for Uber or for a medallion holder, their place is, unfortunately, strictly at the bottom (maybe not so much in London.)


how about "suck it up and do it anyway"?

I don't necessarily disagree with this sentiment, but this doesn't really address the question, which is about what happens to an industry when it's made redundant by technology. Cab drivers competing with self-driving cars can't "suck it up".

"what if they don't want to" in regard to people working?

Again, I feel you haven't read the spirit of this comment accurately. What happens to an entire class of working people (truck drivers, for instance), when their trade is replaced by tech which is 1/10 (conservatively) the cost to produce? I too want to say innovation is worth it, but it's definitely worth the thought cycles to consider what happens when we make an entire workforce obsolete.


> what happens to an industry when it's made redundant by technology

We have over 200 years experience of countless industries being made redundant by technology. It's not a new scary thing that has never happened before.


We also have 200 years of people in the redundant industries complaining about it, and 200 years of government regulating to make the transition less painful. Why should we stop that with taxis?


And it bears reminding that some of this 200 years of history was pretty bloody precisely because people were fed up of being told to "suck it up" and do what the entrepreneurs say them to to survive. The mostly sane working conditions we enjoy today - like somewhat reasonable working hours, like leaves and insurances - things a lot of people in my generation work to destory, for some reason -- all those things were paid for in blood by our great-grandfathers.


> 200 years of government regulating to make the transition less painful.

i find that hard to believe - what was done in the last 200 years to lessen the pain of any transition?


Here in the UK there were a number of Factory Acts passed between 1802 and 1961 that were designed to limit the impact of the industrial revolution on workers, lessening the pain of transition from agriculture and cottage industry to the modern mechanised factories. The one closest to 200 years ago did such progressive things as limiting the working hours a 9 year old child could do to 12 hours a day.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Factory_Acts


How is that easing the transition? Sounds more like making sure the current working environment doesn't suck, and that the benefits of technology are actually passed on to those who are using it.


Pensions, accident insurance, and medical care. Not 200 years, but 150-175 years [0]. Universal unemployment insurance came only in 1927.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Welfare_state#Germany


So how would you solve the problem based on that experience?


A good welfare system pretty much solves it. I'm not sure why America is struggling to create one.

Here in Australia the government will happily pay you $300 a week until you can find a job. It costs us something like $9.5B per year, which is pretty much nothing. Our government doesn't have to disincentivise innovation to help people adjust.

Sure, some people are going to find it hard to live on that amount, but they won't go hungry or homeless. I think it's well within the realms of "suck it up".


> A good welfare system pretty much solves it. I'm not sure why America is struggling to create one.

America is still divided even on the question whether healthcare should be universal, which other states introduced ~50 years before unemployment benefits were invented, so I think this will still take a while.


Some sort of basic income or a welfare scheme. As someone else mentioned, Australian's out of job get paid $300 or $400 depending on how many kids you have etc and how much savings. This allows the government to make sure that everyone out of a job doesn't go homeless but its not enough to be comfortable so people don't become dependent on it. ( Some people do become dependent on it, its not a 100% unfortunately )


Comfortable? Exactly how does $1200 per month come anywhere near paying housing, food, and clothing even for one single person?


It isn't meant to be "comfortable". That was clear I think from the parent comment. If you want to live long-term on the government money, it might be possible in a group living situation, with pooled resources. But it's meant to be a floor against abject poverty, not a recliner.


It's not easy but it's not particularly difficult either. The only hard part is if you're living in a suburb that HN readers tend to live in, you'll have to move house and possibly get a housemate or two if you're single so you can cover the rent. But once you accept that, it's really just a matter of cooking your own meals and buying in bulk where possible.


Get roommates in a cheap city, your rent could be down near $400-$600 / mo., that leaves plenty left over for food and necessities. Buy cheap clothing.


I think you misread

    but its not (enough to be comfortable)
as

    but its (not enough) to be comfortable


Again, I feel you haven't read the spirit of this comment accurately.

The comment specifically talked about those people not wanting to do another form of work. It wasn't a generic "lets talk about mass automation induced redundancy" which appears to be what you're trying to discuss with me.

As you'll note, I'm pro basic income. I just don't think it's fair to say I'm not properly addressing the spirit, when in this case that means ignoring the specific language the commenter chose to use and just having the same generic conversation that's continuously being had all over the internet. I'm interested in debating this guy if he does actually think work is something people only do if it's intrinsically motivating and thus we should consider taxi drivers desire to spend their day driving around rather than doing math, I'm not interested in just having a standard /r/futurology back and forth.

I mean hell, I even hedged against this with my last paragraph.


I didn't say they don't want to do another job. I said they don't want to go back to school. They either hated school or were bored sick of it. So they'll generally look for other jobs available at their skill level. That's why inequality grows. Disruptive tech creates jobs for educated ambitious people while displacing people who are less so. Yeah we as a society can tell them it's their problem, but there might be a lot of them, and they might be a force to be reckoned with politically. Will it escalate beyond Trump, Brexit, etc.? Who knows.

Telling people to get more school is something educated people often do, but it's sometimes a bit self-serving. It makes themselves feel like they're a winner and they deserve it when often their circumstances positioned them better to be able to get that education in the first place.


I'd like to be fit and in-shape. OK, great. Yeah, but I don't want to change at all what I eat nor do I want to do any physical exercise.

At some point, personal initiative and responsibility is going to come into the picture. Those who demonstrate it will have better outcomes in the aggregate than those who don't.

There's a genuine question of how much we should take from those who do and transfer to those who don't in order that they don't starve. It's far from obvious that the answer should be "none" but it's equally far to suggest the answer should naturally be "a lot".


That is like saying take back the washing machine, since it took away washer women jobs, of which my Irish grandma was when she emigrated. Change, flow, adapt, is life.

And work is not something you do because you just get compensated for it. Some one pays you what they think a task is worth, and you take up that task, because you are not able or not wanting to move up or horizontally to another job.

It takes energy at the most primal level to accomplish work. The problem with politics is that people then think energy can be printed and everyone can be made happy with an endless supply of happy. We try our best to be compassionate, and hope for everyone's well being, but in the end, work needs to be done to gain something.


I'm pretty sure the answer is to retrain and/or go into a different profession.


As a thought exercise, what will/would software developers do once 90% are made redundant by A.I. or something? Maybe "suck it up" and go back to school to become nurses?


> As a thought exercise, what will/would software developers do once 90% are made redundant by A.I. or something?

An AI capable of doing 90% of the job of a software developer would likely be an AGI, and thus capable of doing 100% of the job of every human far better than the human can. At which point we stop worrying about details like "money" and "scarcity".


> At which point we stop worrying about details like "money" and "scarcity".

And start worrying about Skynet and robots with lasers!


Well, if software developers are made redundant by AI then we have already transitioned to a new type of economy because virtually every other job has been replaced except service industry.

If we are in some impossible world where that isn't true then I would say they should maybe go into medicine, engineering or law I guess.

Your question is too open ended to answer really. I have like 10 follow up questions to understand the parameters of the original question.


The question was meant as a thought exercise aimed at my fellow developers. I was hoping they would ask themselves, "What will I do once my field is disrupted?" I was hoping that they could feel a little empathy for others whose livelihood has been turned upside down.

(I'm not directly responding to you, just your points which are typical responses.)

The general response when faced with uncomfortable questions is to avoid facing it - a "it would never happen to me" sort of rationalization. Or it would be an "impossible world" where my field would be illuminated.

Take "go into law" for example: I think the recent unemployment rate for new law graduates is something like 25%. Medicine is another field ripe for disruption (except nursing maybe).

"Just get another job" is another popular "let's not really think about the unthinkable" response.

It seems like many "answers" to the disruption problem boils down to "let them eat cake" and I was hoping to break through that.


If you drive a taxi/vehicle as your job, then it has very obviously been in the works for years now that your job is going to see diminishing returns over time and you need to find a new angle.

I don't have sympathy maybe because I own a bootstrapped software studio and we are constantly pivoting and growing. We did ios/web contract work, now we mostly do video games on Steam. Guess what though, video games on steam is getting tougher so we are also pivoting to something else right now.

Life is change. There was once a time when you could just ply your trade for your entire life, and for some people that is still true, but that is not some inalienable right that is owed to anyone.

Businesses constantly have to be on their grind and don't just get some guaranteed paycheck, and no one is entitled to such a thing. You have to provide a service to people that you can exchange for money. If you are not really doing that then you are not just entitled to money.


Why do you think medicine is ripe for disruption ?

Unemployment rate for doctors is around 1%.

The acceptance rate for medical school in the usa is 40%.

developers and cabbies are welcome to retrain.

To me, cabbies are local government employees. Let the government that licenses them pay them, just like they pay teachers and cops. So I am fine with this subsidy.


Because of the tremendous shortage, as illustrated by that data. In fact home diagnosis apps were one of the first successful PC software products.


> I would say they should maybe go into medicine, engineering or law

There's already an AI lawyer:

http://www.rossintelligence.com/ http://www.techinsider.io/the-worlds-first-artificially-inte...

and Watson played doctor:

http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/ibms-watson-cracks-medical-mystery-...


>As a thought exercise, what will/would software developers do once 90% are made redundant by A.I. or something?

Teach the AIs the other 10%, and get killed by Terminators ;-).


Yup. Or learn how to make A.I.'s ?? I don't know yet but basically find a different job.

Its not that complicated actually.


I am not saying this specifically to your comment, but to the whole thread:

Not all people can accomplish the same performance. Most HN users were just lucky. I am not sure where I would be today if I had not been born into a college educated family, had college educated friends and so on. Not all people have the same luck. Beyond that there are different levels of intelligence or just inability to concentrate etc. There are people on the job market who write and read on a level you had when you were 10 years old.

HN could really use some empathy. I would be ashamed if the cab driver, who actually lives next doors and gets up Friday and Saturday nights to drive drunk people home, because that's the only time you can make money here, would read this thread. When we talk about thousands of people we cannot just say "suck it up" and call it a day. HN should be the first to understand that the law of large numbers is at play here: People who do not want to work, will not matter for the whole group. If we do not want society to drift apart (which has enormous costs attached) we should solve the systemic issue.


> There are people on the job market who write and read on a level you had when you were 10 years old.

10 years old? Really? Do we expect those people to be useful? Why not just give them a basic income and take them out of the workforce?


I was not making suggestions on what exactly we should do about them. I am just saying that they exist and that HN should avoid sounding like a dick by stating that they should just suck it up.

To your questions: An easy example would be immigrants, who I imagine could definitely be useful for society and still be bad at writing a foreign language.

Besides, many of the most important jobs there are do not require physics degrees but emotional intelligence and kindness. Everything that has to do with caring for living creatures. Many professions will disappear, but I expect these to be one of the last.


What happened to the drivers of horse-drawn carriages when automobiles arrived?


What happened to the horses?


The glue factory?


> What happens to an entire class of working people

In a free market capitalist society, the most optimal case is that they spend a significant portion of their earnings buying capital (i.e. stocks and bonds), so as time goes on more of their earnings come from capital. Unfortunately, in the USA at least, we make capital accumulation ridiculously hard for working class people due to the cult of homeownership and a tax system where interest on mortgages (but not stock purchases) are deductible.


Homeownership is capital accumulation.

I'm not sure that a system where a large part of GDP is directed at stock purchase is sustainable; that's how private pensions are supposed to work but the system is creaking.


Additionally, home-ownership has the unique feature to be financed with money which would otherwise be a sunken cost.

I like the idea of some kind of modern/virtual self-sustained living, where you own your house, produce your own energy and cover all costs by dividends from stocks of the same companies you buy products from.


A home is a massively illiquid and spectacularly undiversified asset, and the same benefits can be gained by, say, investing in a spread-out housing cooperative with a diverse set of owners.


Ownership by the workers of the means of production and distribution! ;)


Yep, but actual ownership of a share with the choice on what to own on top of a capitalist base, not forced ownership together with everyone else through a state with corrupt elites.


I think that's why we need something like universal basic income. Keeping dysfunctional companies our entire industries alive is holding everybody back and also unfair to people who are part of smaller industries that fall through the cracks.


What if they can't because they literally have not enough time to go back to school - because they need most waking hours for work, otherwise they couldn't cover their costs?


Maybe we should pay them to go to school, so they can be productive later (or structure it as a loan to be paid back or ...)


>Uhhh, how about "suck it up and do it anyway"?

A lot of these people are older.

Also, it's gotten to the point that the rate of 'disruption' is too fast for a human lifespan.

It's one thing if horses are replaced by tractors in half a human generation. People can adapt to that and even benefit.

It's another if entire industries are replaced every decade.

Once the rate of change becomes too fast, people simply can't 'suck it up' enough to keep up. There are human limits: physiological and psychological ones.


This is a great point. We spent so much time trying to see if technology actually followed Moore's Law that we forgot the implications of such growth causing the rapid outmoding of people's skill level several times within a typical lifetime.


Sadly, the reality is that most people seem to side with your perspective. And, like that, the great middle class boom that drove the golden age of the 20th century is over.

Recently, I've had the jarring realization that for Humans (and maybe nature, in general), the stable equilibrium point is inequality. And, like the cab drivers, a lot of us have to 'suck it up' and realize that the 20th century (and perhaps the whole post-enlightenment period) is not coming back. So, better to brace ourselves, tighten up our finances, and ready our families for the 'low-growth' future.


You believe that it was the strength of the middle class that drove the high growth rates the US experienced in the 20th century?

And you think that the relatively low growth rates we see today are attributable somehow to high levels of inequality, and the resulting decline of the middle class?

Well, that sound about right. But I wonder, who are the mainstream economists that are making that same argument? Because the only advocacy for reduced inequality I read seems to ground its arguments in the logic of humanitarianism and social justice.

Maybe I'm not reading the right things. The fact is, though, that while humanitarianism and social justice are nice, the reason that I myself am worried about inequality is that it seems to be making the pie smaller for everyone (at least relative to what it should be). I wonder why people advocating for reduced inequality aren't making the growth argument their first argument.


> Uhhh, how about "suck it up and do it anyway"?

Why don't these dummies just forego income for months or years to get training for new careers that they may or may not even be able to enter?


>Why don't these dummies just forego income for months or years to get training for new careers that they may or may not even be able to enter?

Applies to everyone that enters a skilled trade/profession, not specifically drivers.


The purpose of government isn't to facilitate innovation or make life easier for professionals. It's to, basically, maximize the welfare of the middle 51%. The former is often a means to an end for the latter, but it's just that.


I don't fully get your comment. The thesis of your argument is, "Many of them don't want to go back to school or get technical training... What do we tell the taxi and truck drivers when Uber shows up with self-drivers, etc."

At the end of you comment, I noticed you brought up a basic income. I think you realized the work force is really shrinking, and becoming very exploitive. When was the last Labor Union formed in the U.S.?

Let's start with this whole, "Go back to school to earn more money." And major in what? Let's take a white 40-50 male. Exactly what degree/certification is he going to get in order to get that carrot on the stick, or move up? The economic world has changed so much--I don't know too many degrees that will further that guy in life. Right now, maybe registered nursing, but that's been hot since ObamaCare, and who know what that future holds. Hay, I got a great one; go back to even a middle tiered law school, and hang up your shingle at 50. Wait for that phone to ring. I know a black entomologist, with a degree, who literally works for Orkin. He was recently reprimanded by the company because he left the air conditioning on while in park. (He was in Alabama, during a heat wave.)

My point is I hear people say go back to school. I have seen people go into great debt(debt that isn't bankruptable), only to graduate with a degree, sometimes a degree in the hard sciences, that are working multiple minimum wage jobs. What exactly is a 50 year old going to do with a degree in mechanical engineering? I don't even want to think what they would do with a bachelor's in computer science. And please, don't tell me this industry isn't all about age. I think that might change one day when VC's calm down about finding the next Zukerburg, and realize this industry is about profit, and not reaching for the stars, or hitting a once in a decade home run with a ambiguous individual, usually a guy who wants to get that girl with financial success? A guy who was just in the right place in the right time, horny, and had the privilege of being a middle class white guy.

My point is I always hear education is the answer. I see so many people with multiple credentials on their basement wall, and no career. I won't even bring up the certificate programs advertised on t.v., and how many people spent thousands on worthless paper.

I don't have a solution to this mess. Yes--there's a part of me that would close down the borders, and become an semi-island until we figure out what to do. I would also like to see some taxes/regulation on tech. Yes--I said it--I'm the devil. I just know there's less real jobs out there than the government claims. Most people I know are barely getting by.

As to Uber paying a tax; I could care less. I have watched that company from it's sperm days. I have watched people go into debt/ruin their credit buying a Uber approved four door vechicle, and not making the money they were told was at the end of the stick.

I don't want to get into a long winded debate, but this economy has changed so much; I'm literally in shock. It might seem great when you are in this tech bubble, but wait until it explodes. Watch what the homeless population in San Francosco spikes up to. Sure the rich kids will move back home, and maybe pull out of the crash with help, and contacts for family, but the poor/middle class kids will be at Home Depot mixing paint.

Remember tech is one of the few industries you can get into with just talent. You don't need a degree. You do need some good skills, and the Internet is making learning those skill exponentially easier.

So we get back to what that older person is going to do in this sharing economy. I honestly don't have a clue. Try landscaping at 50, and competing with immigrants who see nothing unusual about putting four to a bedroom.

The Titans of business, or the wealthy are not getting anymore--what's the word; financially moral? In my world it's a Christian attitude. (Save the religious bashing for another time. Their are some good proverbs that some you should look at, but then again why; being a fair guy isn't even admired in certain circles. It's all about maximum accumulation of wealth. They are not offering jobs livable wage jobs with a future. Thay are praised for exploiting certain, usually older, or minority workers to further their wealth, and don't just don't give a dam about how their workers live, or their workers' future.

Oh they, do care about what trendy, like animals, or global warming, but it can't interfere with their money nut. I see a dearth of real morality lately. Why? I have my suspicions, but to tired to verbalize, and don't want to argue with the persons who are offended by this post.

I noticed at the end of you post you brought up a basic income. Maybe deep inside you can forsee the future?

Between 1896 and 1996 world population went form 1 billion to 9 billion.(Too tired to verify that statistic--yes, I'm fifty, but I belive its correct.).

What are people going to do to provide for food, and housing? I guess we will just service the wealthy? Great times!

(I said some very controversial statements. They might be from a warped mind? I just see a bleak future, and too many "Hay I'm doing fine--what's the problem?")


Let's take a white 40-50 male...competing with immigrants who see nothing unusual about putting four to a bedroom

Juxtaposed without a giant wall of text in between to highlight the fundamental complaint: a white 40-50 American male somehow deserves a dramatically better life than a Mexican.


I like your comment as a contribution to discussion, but I'd like to see a dialectic about why income inequality increasing is bad, in of itself.

I see this implied quite a bit on Hacker News. Usually something along the lines of, "But doing this will increase income inequality" stated as a counterpoint.

If overall quality of life increases, I am personally unconcerned with income inequality. I haven't seen definitive evidence that income inequality is itself a bad thing if it is a byproduct of capitalist processes that are improving life for basically every measurable metric.

I'm not saying we should dismiss it, but I'd like to engage in more consideration rather than make it a boogeyman.


>I'd like to see a dialectic about why income inequality increasing is bad, in of itself.

One main issue is that income inequality decreases socioeconomic mobility by inflating the cost of scarce goods that improve earnings capabilities. So 4K TVs are cheaper but college tuition becomes unaffordable, because good universities and grad programs are valuable, scarce goods that the wealthy can outbid everyone else on.

Policies that aggressively expand capacity and defray costs, such as post-WW2 expansions of universities and the GI bill, can ameliorate this by shifting monies down the socioeconomic ladder via taxation, but high levels of inequality also lead to a powerful political interest group that generally seeks to reduce tax rates that affect them.

There's also the more general economic argument that high levels of inequality are economically inefficient since they result in a lower average marginal propensity to consume, but that's not so much "bad" as "could be better and provide greater macro stability."


>One main issue is that income inequality decreases socioeconomic mobility by inflating the cost of scarce goods that improve earnings capabilities. So 4K TVs are cheaper but college tuition becomes unaffordable, because good universities and grad programs are valuable, scarce goods that the wealthy can outbid everyone else on.

Tuition rates didn't go through the roof until the government started guaranteeing/sponsoring tuition loans. When that happened, the colleges and banks knew they could charge whatever they wanted and still get paid, so tuition cost became detached from ability-to-pay, and there was no incentive to keep prices affordable anymore.

The victim in this is the student, who gets saddled with decades of debt, or alternately, an eviscerated credit profile with an albatross that can't be discharged even in bankruptcy. That, however, is obviously not something that disturbs the educational system.

Things go screwy fast when you decouple the classic economic checks and balances. While a small number of wealthy people would be both willing and able to afford outrageous rates for tuition, most of them would want a good value, and there's not enough fantastically-rich Americans to support something the size of the education system without drawing from the middle class for pupils.


The sad part is that as with housing, the government is applying a demand side "solution" to a supply side problem.

Education is expensive, because there is a limited capacity (teachers, facilities, etc). But rather than put money into expanding the capacity, they start offering stipends and loans. But this just inflate the prices.

I wonder how much of the choice is because it is easier and quicker to show a results, thus it can be implemented within a single election term, and how much of it is straight graft.


In response to your main issue regarding socioeconomic mobility - why is this, in turn, a problem?

If you can demonstrate that reduced social mobility is an issue, and that this is increased by progressively greater income inequality (the latter of which I probably agree with on cursory inspection), then it seems income inequality is a net loss.

However, from a utilitarian perspective, I don't see a reason to care about social mobility if quality of life increases for everyone, not just the upper classes.

Keep in mind that I am working on two axioms:

1. Income inequality is a mathematical certainty in a functional society with more than n participants, where n is the maximum number of people who can be personally and honestly cooperative with each other, and

2. Income inequality refers to differences in an individual's absolute resources available for consumption, not their quality of life (exceptions granted for luxury consumption goods, not basic utilities that are available across all social classes).

As a very simplistic example that I'd enjoy having holes poked in, Apple has generated wondrous income inequality for many of its engineers and management. However, it has also leveraged economies of scale and competitive forces to manufacture a mass market product that is, statistically, enjoyed by even the poorest households in America and which affords its users with the most powerful innovation since the printing press in their pockets.

EDIT: This comment has had a rapid change in up and down votes. It's fine to disagree with me, but I don't think it's unreasonable to question whether or not a lack of social mobility is actually a bad thing, as a Socratic baseline.


Low socioeconomic mobility is a problem because the potential for any individual to contribute to the good of society is at best loosely correlated with their previous socioeconomic status. If people who could have been top-notch scientists, engineers, civil servants and entrepreneurs were prevented from doing so because they couldn't move up the ladder (and inversely, rich rent-seekers couldn't move down), society is deprived of their contributions and is worse off.

P.S.: The rapid change in up and down votes is probably caused more by your confusion of socioeconomic mobility and equality (you seem to be using the two interchangeably) than anything else.


Where did I conflate socioeconomic mobility and income equality? I didn't intend to do that.

More to your point - I respond by asking whether or not the socioeconomic standing of a scientist matters for the societal impact of their work.

I don't see an easy conclusion here. The scientists driving innovation in industry are generally paid very well (this is relative, but we can probably agree they are paid higher than a median salary). The scientists driving innovation in academia are not, as a rule, paid as well as their counterparts in industry, but that doesn't stop them from contributing valuable research to their fields.

So how do we conclude that socioeconomic stance matters for a scientist's research impact, if they have grants or corporate sponsorship?

To reiterate my point - if reduced socioeconomic mobility can't be demonstrated to be a net loss for society, why does it matter if income inequality causes it or not, and how does it demonstrate income inequality as a net loss for society?


How many famous intellectuals from before the 19th century came from the lower classes? That is what we will return to.


Thank you. There are so many "could have beens" throughout history that didn't happen simply because the vast majority of the human populace was, until very recently, entirely excluded from being able to contribute towards human progress.


How many people who could have become great scientists, engineers, or inventors instead have to grind out an existence planting and farming grain or bussing tables in a diner or some other job?

It's not so much an issue for those people who came from poorer backgrounds and became scientists (though there's still a question of whether they could have been better scientists with better early educational support), but it's a bigger issue for those who never got that chance by an accident of birth.

I don't support equality of outcome as a desirable goal, but I do support equality of opportunity.


What is socioeconomic mobility (of a person) in this discussion ? Is it rate of change in salary ?

> If people who could have been top-notch scientists, engineers, civil servants and entrepreneurs were prevented from doing so because they couldn't move up the ladder (and inversely, rich rent-seekers couldn't move down), society is deprived of their contributions and is worse off.

Why are they being perevented ? If I am the CEO, would not it be against my own interest to prevent my employees from making a contribution ? What ladder is that you speak of ? It certainly cannot be salary. Is there a caste system in company ? If people are being prevented based on their position in social ladder (such as caste system) does it even matter if they have more income ?


Well, social mobility is the change in social status relative to others, which can correlate with income, yes. It also correlates with things like education and skills, type of occupation, etc.

> Why are they being perevented ?

Well, education is expensive -- and has an opportunity cost -- so low-income people often cannot afford to improve their skills and earn more income. If I am poor, and I have enough intelligence to become a good scientist, engineer, or artist, but cannot afford to go to university and gather the requisite skills, then this is a loss to society.


> Well, social mobility is the change in social status relative to others, which can correlate with income, yes. It also correlates with things like education and skills, type of occupation, etc.

Why do you classify it as social mobility ? Would not economic mobility be a better term considering education and skills are economic goods not social.

> Well, education is expensive -- and has an opportunity cost -- so low-income people often cannot afford to improve their skills and earn more income.

I thought it was not economic inequality but something else. But yes this make sense and its expected/desired of a good economy. This is not preventing.

> If I am poor, and I have enough intelligence to become a good scientist, engineer, or artist, but cannot afford to go to university and gather the requisite skills, then this is a loss to society.

Thats why the concept of loan/investments exist. All you have to is convince them that its net positive for them too.

Also this not loss. This is absence of profit.


Lack of social mobility means life is unfair.

Obviously life will always be somewhat unfair, but we should always see things that decrease fairness as a negative, unless they make up for it in other ways.


I would guess that if income inequality is high and mobility is impossible people may consider other options. If there is no chance that they can earn a better way of life they may band together and take it. It's not like these things haven't happened before.


> Where did I conflate socioeconomic mobility and income equality?

The first section of your comment was about socioeconomic mobility, but starting with the "two axioms" portion, you started talking about inequality instead. The two concepts are different, although related.

> I respond by asking whether or not the socioeconomic standing of a scientist matters for the societal impact of their work.

Not very, but for people at the bottom of the ladder, they need some socioeconomic mobility to become a scientist in the first place.

> if reduced socioeconomic mobility can't be demonstrated to be a net loss for society

That's presupposing that it can't, and thus begging the question.


> In response to your main issue regarding socioeconomic mobility - why is this, in turn, a problem?

It depends on the end goal. If the end goal is scientific advancement, for example, mobility into the educated and academic class is important to provide intellectual diversity. If we bifurcate society into the educated and uneducated, it would likely restrict the flow of new ideas and discovery.


> So 4K TVs are cheaper but college tuition becomes unaffordable, because good universities and grad programs are valuable, scarce goods that the wealthy can outbid everyone else on.

Except that such goods are increasingly not priced via the market.

If you're smart enough to get into an elite university, you don't have to worry about the cost. Full stop.

That being said, I do think we have a societal responsibility to set things up so that this applies across the board. Personally, I think income inequality is fine and maybe even good if we can also have:

1) Basic income, so that even if your parents aren't wealthy you still have all the necessities.

2) Well-funded and high quality public education (from pre-K up through college)

Personally, I actually think income inequality can make these things easier to achieve for 2 reasons:

1. Each individual dollar matters a lot less to billionaires, so they're a lot more willing to give away a huge percentage of their wealth. This trend is very evident with tech billionaires. If Warren Buffet had his wealth spread amongst millions of families, would each one be willing to give up 90% of that wealth?

2. The winnowing of the middle makes redistribution more palatable. A large part of current politics is moderately well-off people feeling morally superior to slightly less well-off people. If society becomes more bimodal, it's a lot more possible to pass aggressive redistribution policies.


> If you're smart enough to get into an elite university, you don't have to worry about the cost. Full stop.

This presupposes that you are already in a social position that allows your intelligence to be recognised and that puts you in a position to even apply, or know that applying is an option.


I cannot emphasize enough how true this is. Growing up as rural poor, it was an alien concept to me that there were tiers of colleges with different academic specializations. College was just a single monolithic concept to my people. If you were learned real good, and pass that big test, you could be admitted to college just like all those kids who lived closer to town. There was no difference in our minds between the community college 20 minutes away and the public university an hour and a half way. And once you get to the community college and shake off that fog, realize that college is a granular thing, then it is just all you can do to drag yourself up to that state university. Your family has no understanding at all why you would want to move to the state university. Its much further away, harder for you to help out, much more expensive. It just doesn't make any sense within their understanding of the world. Forget about an elite university, its been two years, and you are only now discovering calculus, formal logic, the scientific method. How will you ever compete with the hoards of whites who have been saturated in this world from the beginning?


As one of the "hordes of whites", who grew up in a family of academics - 3 professors amongst my aunts and uncles; and pretty much "everyone" with at least a bachelor and often masters - even then it is not a given that you will consider an elite university.

I never thought about it. I considered ETH Zurich for a while because Niklaus Wirth is a legend in language development, but without any real idea of how it measured up as a school. In the end I stayed in Norway for university. I don't regret it, per se, but understanding the difference more later was a very strong eye opener for me when it comes to how much of social stratification is not really down to money but more broadly background and expectations.

It takes a very specific background before elite universities will even be on your radar, and a subset of that for you to believe it to be possible, and a subset of that for you to see it as the norm and what is expected of you. And then that needs to intersect with the understanding of your family to either pay or put in the effort to look for other ways of getting in.

Some portion of those will not be rich, sure. There are lots of options. Most top universities are good about grants and bursaries. But proportionally, a far larger proportion of children of wealthy families will go to top universities.

And this is a large part (but not all) of what "privilege" is really about: To grow up in an environment that teaches you to expect certain things that is not even on the radar of others.


> If Warren Buffet had his wealth spread amongst millions of families, would each one be willing to give up 90% of that wealth?

This question doesn't make a lot of sense. Of course they wouldn't be, because any middle- or working-class family can actually conceivably spend 90% of their wealth.

Instead of allowing Warren Buffett to accumulate such a large quantity of wealth and relying on his whim to donate that wealth to good causes -- something which most billionaires don't do -- shouldn't we have redistributive mechanisms in place to ensure this money goes to people who can actually use it?

> 2. The winnowing of the middle makes redistribution more palatable.

More palatable? If we accept that the rich are likely to attempt to hold onto their wealth, then why would they not spend much of their significant resources establishing and entrenching policy that does not affect redistribution?


> If you're smart enough to get into an elite university, you don't have to worry about the cost. Full stop.

Absolutely not. Financial aid is dependent on parents' income and wealth, regardless of parents' willingness to actually bankroll said school. The cost is significant, rivaling the average annual gross household income, but worse because you pay high interest rates on top. Don't kid yourself, worrying about the cost dissuades lots of people.


if you're smart enough to get into an elite university, you're smart enough to get a full ride at an upper tier but not elite university.

And if your parents had a high enough income where you had to pay full tuition, then you already enjoyed an upper middle class upbringing.

It's a slight disadvantage and not the difference between going to Harvard and not going to college at all.


> if you're smart enough to get into an elite university, you're smart enough to get a full ride at an upper tier but not elite university.

[citation needed]. Full-ride merit scholarships are quite rare. Here's an article from 2011 that says that only 20K full ride scholarships are awarded annually across the entire US, and only 0.3% of all students get a full ride (either from any individual scholarship or a combination of them). http://www.cbsnews.com/news/how-rare-are-full-ride-scholarsh...


It's one thing when a billionaire gives away their money and are able to direct it at the charities they want. It's another thing when it's taxed and coordinated by the government. The United States government has the bias just as you showed-- to help the american people. But most of these tech billionaires recognize that it's imperative that we help all people, regardless of where they were born.

It's why I'd rather give to GiveWell than to my local shelter.


Yes, I personally would prefer to redistribute internationally (and hence that's where all my personal donations go) but from conversations I've recognized that it's politically unpalatable to the vast majority of Americans. The vast majority of people somehow think that their fellow Americans are more deserving than the international poor (and will quite strenuously argue that things like having toys for local kids is more important than literally saving lives).

The nice thing about our tax system is that you can write off donations. So even if we did adopt stronger tax measures, billionaires could still choose to support more effective causes than the government.


Except say you can donate to a nonprofit, write it off, and that non profit can pay your kid an inflated salary to sit on the board. Happening right now to a presidential candidate.


I'll bite although this isn't the most researched of my opinions that's for sure.

Humans happiness isn't concerned with absolute standard of living but more comparative standard of living. I don't mean just conscious comparison in a competitive manner, I mean in setting what counts as normal to our brains.

Consider the standard of living we've obtained compared to what humans had for the vast majority of our 200 000 years. Regular hot meals, basic medicine, and being able to fall asleep without fear of waking up to tigers ripping you and your family apart should have resulted in us all walking around in pure bliss 24/7 if advancement in standard of living was all that was important in absolute terms. But we're not. Some of us are happy. Some not. Some so unhappy that we straight up kill ourselves. Neither do I think past generations of humans, or any other animal that hasn't achieved our current standard of living yet, are all walking around in misery.

Instead we care about comparative measures. How am I doing compared to how I was doing before. How am I doing compared to my peers. How am I compared to the guy down the street. How am I doing compared to all of those people I see on the internet/tv. Again, although phrased as if it's a conscious mental decision here, it's about subconsciously setting a 'normal' that's greater than we have. Think of the whole facebook making people feel inferior thing because they only see their friends highlights reel making life seem like it should be one long maldives vacation, except with inequality it's not an illusion and you actually are being exposed to better lifestyles.

So inequality isn't fundamentally detrimental, however exposure to it is. At its most extreme it shows you fantastical lifestyles you could never realistically imagine to live. More realistically it's your neighbour buying a nicer car than you have. Either way it takes the great thing you have going and puts it in to a context within which it can't compete.


No matter how much money you have, you can't buy a better coke.

Income inequality is a misleading metric. I would argue that equality has vastly increased over the years.

The rich don't really live much better lives than the middle class.

Rich or poor we all have roofs over our heads, we all have access to relatively affordable methods of travel to get anywhere in the world in a day, we all use the same IPhones, watch the same movies and drink the same Cokes.

The things that the rich have access to aren't really that much better when you compare it to the old days when you contrast Kings living in Castles to the 90 percent who are just worrying about their next meal.

The world has never been more equal.


It doesn't sound like you've ever been poor. Quality of life is about far more than the goods you can consume. It's also about job security, your chances of getting promoted, autonomy, fulfillment, and so on. If you know that you're [absolutely screwed][1] if you get fired, or get sick, or miss a paycheck, you don't really get to feel safe.

[1]: www.forbes.com/sites/maggiemcgrath/2015/01/07/majority-of-americans-are-one-surprise-away-from-financial-disaster-survey-says/


It doesn't sound like you have ever been to a poor country.

> It's also about job security, your chances of getting promoted, autonomy, fulfillment, and so on

For a large number of people in the world, they are wanting food, basic safety, and healthcare.


The fact that there are many billions of poor people in the world does not mean that attempting to address inequality in America is pointless tinkering at first world problems.

Being well traveled isn't usually seen as helpful training for ignoring beggars and minimum wage people who need food stamps to eat, but there you go.


Compared to how extremely screwed you'd be even just 200 years ago? Actually, not even that, 80 years ago.

I think you underestimate how bad things used to be.

Today, if something unexpected happens, you are almost certainly not going to die by like next week.


> No matter how much money you have, you can't buy a better coke.

You absolutely can though. There are lots of premium soda brands out there on the market that cost significantly more than Coca-Cola that are made with better ingredients (such as real sugar, not HFCS), that are healthier for you, that use better artificial sugars, that have real flavoring so they don't need as much sugar to taste good (see GuS), etc. Or compare the homogenized product of "Simply Orange" (a Coca-Cola brand) to real non-additive orange juice that costs several times as much but is way more delicious. Or hell, look at how insanely expensive kombucha is ...

My point is that you are introducing a completely artificial rule by limiting things to Coca-Cola, when in fact there is an entire spectrum of drinks out there, and you can spend significantly more money to get a significantly better product. The very rich do not drink nearly as much Coca-Cola as the poor; they have the money to afford better options, and so they do.


Fair point.

Though I would argue that those options are only marginally better, and may as well be the same.

For example, most people can't tell the difference between a 20 dollar wine and a 200 dollar wine. So the rich and poor effectively have access to the same thing.


I think you're veering too far into prescriptive territory here. Yes, most people can't tell the difference between good wine and great wine in double-blind taste tests, but almost nobody ever drinks wine in double-blind conditions. Generally when you're drinking great expensive wine you know that it is expensive, and you enjoy it more as a result. Psychological effects are real effects when we're talking about how much enjoyment people derive from things.

And by the way, the poor absolutely are not drinking $20 bottles of wine. Alcohol consumption is significantly higher in the rich than in the impoverished, because when you struggle with putting food on the table everyday and keeping a roof over your head, any kind of alcohol is a luxury. I don't think you really know how bad it is for lots of people. A large number of Americans don't even get the choice between $20 and $200 wine.


"Overall quality of life" can mean a lot of different things, depending on how you measure. Do you mean the arithmetic mean, the median, the quality of life of all members of the population, or something else? And while we're at it, it's worth considering how the population is defined -- all Americans? All westerners? All humans?

I've found that the appropriate answers tend to differ considerably depending on these definitions, and there is nowhere near a consensus for which is the right one to strive for.


I generally agree with you, and often ask the same question. But I do have one possible answer, which is that inequality of economic power leads to inequality of political power. Perhaps it's not so relevant between lower and middle classes, but sufficiently rich people can buy political favors.


There are quite a few places where you can look into whether or not you think an increase in income inequality is a bad thing or not.

Feel free to start here - https://www.equalitytrust.org.uk/about-inequality/impacts - or here - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economic_inequality#Effects


Income inequality in itself isn't bad. I can argue that a certain amount of it is desirable even.

The problem is more the difference in quality of life and opportunity. This is a problem even if the base quality of life is generally improving. If the folks at the bottom are continually stressed about money, if they have shelter, food, power, etc, it is bad. If the folks at the bottom cannot get access to the things that basic society thinks they should have - internet, cell phone, transportation and decent clothing, it is bad.

If one simply cannot afford education, regardless of intelligence, because of simple money or knowing they'd not be able to ever pay off the loan with a teacher's salary, it is pretty bad.

And those are the things that really matter - if one can have a comfortable (though sparse) life at the bottom, and if one can actually work or try to improve their situation. Unfortunately in the US, a lot of folks are bound by circumstance. Their circumstances - such as bad health, whether or not they have children, not making enough to afford transportation, or even their parents' circumstance - determines their opportunity. Yet if they don't have the opportunity, or circumstances tend to be unlucky for years, they might never climb out. They are stuck at a miserable bottom.

And it seems that countries that have transcended this also tend to have less income inequality. And the bottom isn't nearly as horrible as it is in the US - and you still have some opportunity. It can likely be solved without reducing the inequality, but I'm not sure exactly How do do this.


> If the folks at the bottom are continually stressed about money

I'd say this is the key. It doesn't matter whether your bare-minimum cheapest apartment is an old wooden shed or a pretty newly constructed flat with heated floors, two bedrooms and a lifetime free subscription of Netflix. It doesn't change a damn thing if you're two paychecks from getting evicted and going hungry, raising your children on the streets.

More and more jobs are turning transient, transitional, on-demand. This may be more efficient, but this hit the poorer hard, because there is no way in hell you can do any financial planning for yourself if you don't know when and how much money you bring home, or if you'll have any job at all next week. This is one of the bigger things that keeps poor in poverty.


Rather than start a dialectic, let's consider concrete examples: is there any society with a large income inequality that also has a world-class standard of living for all of its members?


Yes: the United States.

EDIT: This answer probably comes across as cavalier and perhaps dismissive without some sort of effort to substantiate my claim, so I'll edit this in:

The United States ranks sixth in the world for median cost-adjusted household income. It ranks highly, along with many European countries, for overall quality of life, according to the Quality of Life Index (2016) - countries like Switzerland and Germany are higher, while countries like the United Kingdom, Canada and Japan are lower.

Quality of life can be a vague and murky measurement, but pretty much every index attempting to measure it presents the same set of countries topping the list. The US is not perfect, and I'll accept arguments that it would be better off with less income inequality, but I'd like to see evidence that this is the case.


Every year, 3.5 million people in the US experience homelessness.


I assume you're getting your data from here[1].

I'd counter by asking which modern society does not have homeless citizens. Particularly, which countries that rank more highly than the US in the Quality of Life or Human Development Indices?

The other challenge I have is that homeless in America enjoy a quality of life patently superior to that present in nearly every class virtually everywhere else in the world. Sure, homeless in the US are not as well off as the middle class in Switzerland, but they're certainly better off than the median individual in India, Peru, Pakistan, Syria or Zambia (to name a few from what would be a long and saddening list). The resources consumed by, and available to, homeless citizens of the US make them look like citizens of Elysium in comparison to those nations.

To flesh out one example - the bottom 5% of Americans are about as wealthy as the top 5% of Indians.[2]

[1]: http://www.nationalhomeless.org/factsheets/How_Many.html

[2]: http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/31/the-haves-and-t...


Well, if being homeless in the US is such a privilege, then I must concede that income inequality must not be such a bad thing after all.


Yes, all of them.


Overall quality of life is improving but if you look at the shrinking success of middle class, I believe the reason is income inequality. The economy is health when money is changing hands and more and more money is in fact locked up and not providing any economic activity. This is way the so-called economic recovery hasn't really been felt on the ground. We have a literal handful of people with more wealth the entire rest of the country. And the real sad part, is that wealth is just a number in a computer somewhere. It doesn't contribute much. Those who have that wealth can't spend enough of it to make a significant economic difference.

That inequality could be taxed and provide, for example, infrastructure which is a benefit itself but also provide jobs and generate a cascade of economic activity, like consumer spending, that simply isn't happening now.


Good point; "a rising tide lifts all boats". If that were true, then yeah, it'd just be a psychological question of how OK people will be with seeing a rising class of professionals get accelerated wealth while they just rise in quality of life at a 'normal' rate. And how big is the professional class compared to the others? At what point is there social instability? Where's the breaking point, if anywhere? I don't think anyone really has any idea of the answer, so considering a few historical data points, it's just judicious to be concerned about it.

Also, does the rising tide lift all boats? Working class wages remain pretty stagnant, and dissatisfaction in the USA is growing, at least when viewed through the election cycle.

Any sociologists out there? What does the literature say on societal effects of income inequality?


In high school I was taught that it correlated with mental illness.


It seems doubtful that income inequality is inherently bad, but perhaps it's strongly correlated with things that are inherently bad (i.e. suffering, if you ask me).

Consider a society A, and then society A+ which is identical except the most well-off person is twice as well-off. It's hard to see how A+ could be worse than A in any way. Maybe there's an even better A++ where A+ has some redistribution, but that's another argument.

We don't mind inequality within lives (nobody says it's inherently bad to have most of your happiness distributed toward the later half of your life), so we'd need an argument why inequality across lives is bad.


Aside from the huge problems correlated with income inequality for which evidence and reasoning are readily available if you look, there's a basic problem with the idea that something like inequality could be a net good despite what people tend to think... it's that because the majority of people, who are on the losing side of inequality, despise inequality and that is already leading to huge political ruptures, populism, depression, demoralizing feelings of injustice, etc etc etc. (There are related basic problems with focusing only on "metrics".)


With rising income inequality the difference between the average Joe and the 1% Joe is growing larger and larger. This seems increasingly unfair to more and more people. Eventually all those disillusioned poor people will act on this by bringing to power some radicals who will bulldoze the current system much like the Bolsheviks bulldozed the Russian empire.

If you need evidence that income inequality is itself a bad thing, ask anyone who happens to be on the poverty side of the inequality. There's much, much more of such people than rich people. All these poor people hold a lot of latent power.


Haven't we heard this same spiel for the last 150 years? The revolution is always one week away and this is a time-invariant statement.


Haven't we had revolutions in the last 150 years? Not in the US, but other countries had a few.

But that's not the point.

You don't need an armed uprising when you have elections. You need populism. Trump / Brexit / far right parties are not "revolution".


Not in a historical sense, but Trump and Brexit are definitely a revolution in my mind. The magnitude at which they are breaking away from the political arc of the last 25 years is massive.


> Haven't we had revolutions in the last 150 years? Not in the US, but other countries had a few.

Yes, and it worked out so wonderfully for them. :)


And that's the point! Armed revolution is really bad, and massive inequality is one piece in a puzzle that can lead to it. It seems really odd to me to shrug this off as at least part of the answer to the original question of why inequality is bad.

We have been more or less immune to this in the US for a long time because of our large and strong middle class that has had way too much to lose. But that's the same middle class that the elites are eroding by short-sightedly capturing an ever larger portion of the modern economy's output.


>If overall quality of life increases, I am personally unconcerned with income inequality.

Rising inequality generally hasn't improved quality-of-life for everyone.


Of course it harms the person at the very bottom of the stack.

But, would you rather live as a 10th percentile American today, a 50th percentile serf in feudal England, a 50th percentile American colonist, or even a 50th percentile American in the 1950s? It's only the very last that's even close, IMO.


I think that in order to answer that question, you have to know how steeply well-being falls with reduced income. The poorest and least egalitarian counties in the United States today, for instance, tend to have life-expectancies below those of many Third World countries. Overly severe inequality really seems to make it so there's no bottom to the barrel to hit!


The book The Box talks about longshoremen unions fighting the age of shipping containers and the unemployment it caused by eliminating the need for manually packing ships.

The solution that worked best were unions that accepted this path was inevitable, and instead of insisting on setting fire to the ship, negotiated transition payments for soon-to-be unemployed longshoremen. Essentially phasing out their jobs, giving them time to find other jobs or what-have-you.

The worst outcomes were ports that refused to accept the inevitable and doomed not only their entire union, but often the entire port industry for their town. For example, New York refusing to play ball, giving rise to New Jersey as a replacement port.


I like it. For self-driving trucks, someone suggested to me once that we could give all the truck drivers promotions to "logistics supervisors." They ride along and do paperwork and the trucking companies stop hiring for that position.

I just feel like it's more likely that the trucking companies see that they can save money by firing them and tell them goodbye.


They will always need drivers just to stave off banditry and handle emergencies. What is likely is a single manned truck leading small convoys of automated machines.


> They will always need drivers just to stave off banditry

This is an argument I have never understood.

Do you really think the only thing preventing highway robbers is a driver? If anything, self-driving trucks would likely be able to respond more effectively as they can call police without fearing for their lives.


Is there then a question about how high a priority this robbery will be for the police since no life is in danger? Perhaps trucking companies will have to hire security guards instead of drivers...


What if we did something clever to keep them all in a row, almost like tracks of some sort? /s


I've never heard the banditry argument. But it makes sense. Assuming that some variety of Asimov's laws will apply to self driving trucks they won't be able to defend their cargo (beyond locking and calling for help) it makes sense that there would be some sort of security detail. I wonder if, in the style of Ned Lud, if the robbers will in part be the same displaced truck drivers?


It doesn't really make sense. Banditry requires someone to threaten. If there's no driver and the machine is locked in transit anyway, then all you need are doors where time to cut them open is greater than time for police to arrive and banditry doesn't make sense.

Without people you can also do tricks like electrifying the chassis, so anyone who tries to touch it gets an electric shock.


> Without people you can also do tricks like electrifying the chassis, so anyone who tries to touch it gets an electric shock.

Or a computer vision system connected to a machine gun. (sarcasm)


Yeah I don't think the average taxi driver is some bandit-fighting hero that will save you. Likely they'll raise their hands and hand over their wallet too.


I live in Boston. Taxi drivers are jumping to Uber and Lyft wholesale. They make more, and perhaps more importantly, the income is steady. With the taxi system, medallions cost about $600,000 to buy, and were owned by rich investors.

Cab drivers rent those medallions for around $200 per day, and after paying off the investor, kept any profit on top of that. On a bad day, they'd lose money. On a decent day, they'd work a 16 hour shift and make minimum wage. On a great day, they'd make a few hundred bucks.

In Massachusetts, the law is designed to protect those investors (who lobbied for it) -- not cab drivers. There is nothing in the law which is not corrupt.

Self-driving cars will cost jobs. This just costs the very rich their investments in medallions, which prior to Uber were a full-proof investment.


You're right except the whole "making more" part.

Once the market is saturated with Uber drivers like has happened in places like London, rates start to go down, and drivers make WAY less than than the used to. Simple supply and demand.

No defense of the medallion system. Maybe the government should "bail out" taxi medallion owners, and simply pay back these medallion costs so that taxi drivers are free to figure out the next step in their careers/lives without the indentured servitude of paying back the medallion loans hanging around their necks.


> Once the market is saturated with Uber drivers like has happened in places like London, rates start to go down, and drivers make WAY less than than the used to. Simple supply and demand.

That's the problem with a profession where the main skill requirement is possessed by the majority of the adult population. It's never going to be a good job because the supply is essentially infinite. Imagine how different things would be for us as software engineers if everyone knew how to program.


Boston is one of the original Uber markets. The market is as saturated as it gets. I talk to drivers. They're much better off. It's like night and day. Driving for medallion owners was sub-minimum wage, they'd sometimes lose money, and the shifts were insanely long. A driver on their 14th hour driving a given day wasn't a safe driver.

At least in Boston, a medallion loan or an individual medallion owner driving a cab are a complete myth and fabrication. A medallion costs $700,000. No one with three quarters of a million dollars is driving a cab. Investors buy medallions and lease them out. Poor immigrants lease medallions and cabs, and scrape by. Medallion owners, calling themselves small business owners, aren't even required to provide minimum wage or basic health care. It's a horribly exploitative business, and I'm glad to see it go under.

Subsidies or bailouts for medallion owners seem like a horrible idea to me, at least in a town like Boston. In a city where lower-class individuals owned medallions, it would be another story.


> simply pay back these medallion costs so that taxi drivers are free to figure out the next step in their careers/lives without the indentured servitude of paying back the medallion loans hanging around their necks.

this is actually one of the more sensible proposals i've heard.

although i will say that the two cities i've lived in (leeds and manchester) already had private hire vehicles before uber. and it was kind of hit and miss. at this point, i'm not sure uber has to be cheaper - i'd use it just because their user experience is so much better than ringing some terrible phoneline etc.


> it inherently increases inequality.

As does every successful start-up. But please note it only increases inequality because a handful of people get comparatively more rich in the process, the rest gets salary and everybody gets better (more efficient) services.

The latter point means also reducing inequality because other people can now afford these services who couldn't do so before.

> but I think someone needs to be thinking of the swaths of working people who are afraid of losing their jobs.

By this logic the industrial revolution shouldn't have happened (or at least it should have happened more slowly). The fallacy here is that "things to do" are finite. In fact, they aren't, the things to do just move up the hierarchy of needs. In the old days, "things to do" meant just "build basic housing, hunt and gather food", nowadays they are "build efficient and large houses, build smart phones, TVs, computers, Pokemon Go apps" and there will be other things to do once transportation is taken care of.

> Many of them don't want to go back to school or get technical training.

Unfortunately (and this holds for all of us) this is not sufficient. I also just want to have some income and be with my family and friends, yet in order to get that I have to return something of equal value to someone else. If my services are no longer needed due to technological advance, I cannot just sit on it and hope that people in power force others to give me more for less.

Finally, the taxi industry is only as "rich" now because of the constant regulation in many states/countries. If it weren't for this regulation, salaries would have been much lower for years already and many more people would have chosen other jobs to begin with. The problem is just exarcerbated now because of this and it's definitely not the fault of the "disrupting company or industry" nor is it its responsibility to care.


> By this logic the industrial revolution shouldn't have happened (or at least it should have happened more slowly).

I was just going to mention the same thing. There was a good Freakonomics podcast episode* about this very subject.

Audio: http://freakonomics.com/podcast/how-safe-is-your-job-a-new-f...

Transcript: http://freakonomics.com/2015/01/29/how-safe-is-your-job-full...


> but I think someone needs to be thinking of the swaths of working people who are afraid of losing their jobs.

Yet the government watches small businesses fail all the time with nothing more than an offer of unemployment insurance.

Why should the government have a special care for taxis but no special care for a pizza parlor that goes under? Do they offer to retrain the workers with more advanced appliances?

In this case, it is merely the threat of competition! This is truly amazing.


Unlike an individual pizza parlor, the taxi fleet in a given city plays an important role in policy planning. Public transit planning takes taxi service into account, and taxis are barred in many locales from refusing medically necessary transportation. Taxis have obligations that go above and beyond those imposed on a generic livery provider, and as such governments might be reluctant to let a few livery providers outcompete taxis into extinction.


Isn't that just kicking the can down the road? Wouldn't the government be better served revising the plan to take new innovation into account than instituting a tax purely to slow down innovation?


Too much work man.


Technology has been making existing professions obsolete for the last few thousand years. The first guy to get a horse and cart was putting dozens of manual laborers out of work. And yet somehow we have persevered, and vast swaths of our population have not become unemployed. Quite the opposite, as our unemployment rates continue to fall. When industries change, people do lose their jobs and that is difficult. One good solution would be to offer generous education and training assistance along with job placement so these workers can find a new job with new skills if necessary. If they don't want to go back to school, then why does society owe them anything? People lose their jobs all the time, for many reasons. Just because you drove a cab for 10 years doesn't entitle you to cab driver job safety for the rest of your life.


> While free trade and disruptive technology is good for the professional class, it inherently increases inequality.

You seem to be asserting this without any explanation, but it's pretty clearly wrong.

Do the math. Cab driver making $30K is displaced and has to take a different job making $25K, with the result that $30K of value is captured by cab riders via lower fares while the former cab driver suffers $-5K. But cab riders are just regular people. Between the riders and the drivers we're net +$25,000 to regular people. That's a pretty sizable decrease in wealth inequality.

And that's assuming the former cab driver can only find work that pays less than driving a cab did. He could train to become a plumber or carpenter and end up making significantly more money.


Sure, anyone can do equality as a side effect of a race to the bottom. But that's not a great outcome nor one a country should aim for.


There is no bottom. The less things cost the less difference there is between having money and not.


Oh, there most certainly is a bottom. Uber being cheaper for more people doesn't make rent cheaper for the person who's had their income slashed--or for everyone else that you would blithely reduce.


Obviously because Uber has nothing to do with housing. Are you asserting that there is no possible way for technology or government policy to make housing more affordable?


When self-drivers become the norm, taxi and truck drivers, and their families (a significant section of the economy) will be the first to suffer, but it will not end there. The knock-on recessive effect on every other sector of the economy will be huge. Anyone thinking lightly along the lines of "truck drivers should adapt to the new economy", feeling safe for being in another industry, should remember how the housing crisis didn't just affect mortgage banks and the construction sector, but absolutely everyone, for many years.


We can't keep going with this type of attitude; it's blatantly anti-change. The government's job is not to ensure that everyone has comfortable finances. The government's job is to provide a framework that makes it possible and a structure that removes nefarious actors. As long as that's occurring, the economy is self-governing, and we shouldn't be propping up legacy economic sectors just because we feel bad for the people who are living paycheck-to-paycheck in them.

The competitive virtue of capitalism is neutered by measures like this one and the affected sectors grow rancid, just as a gangrenous organ would.

We have to allow the economy to work. If we believe in our people, we believe that drivers will be able to find something new that fits into the contemporary economic conditions instead of being dependent on state subsidies and political benevolence for survival. That new thing may be a massively beneficial development, that we'll never get to see if we insist on paying them a stipend for continued participation in an obsolete function.


You write like your political view is a force of nature. Surely what the government's job is is what the people decide it is through democratic processes?


so mob rule? no. we are a constitutional republic


That's not particularly relevant. Constitutions change to reflect the will of the people; that's why the Constitution of the United States has an amendment process (and many, many countries update and change their constitutions much more often than the United States does!). Further, while arguments exist that try to push the notion that social welfare is somehow unconstitutional, none that I am aware of have ever stood up in court.


Truck driver is the most common profession in most states. Self-driving trucks will make their jobs obsolete overnight. Imagine the immediate effect of all those people being without a job. What will happen to retail when those truckers buy less or stop buying? What will happen to wholesale shortly after? What will happen to all other industries? That truck drivers keep their jobs, or that they are gradually able to transition into new ones, is not just necessary not to feel bad about them, but to keep the whole economy running. Innovation is good. Unemploying a huge sector of our economy overnight because of innovation, I am not so sure.


>Truck driver is the most common profession in most states.

You'll find that "software engineer" is becoming the most common profession in many states where truck driver previously was. [0] If truck drivers become software engineers, that's a big quality of life upgrade. You'll also find that prior to the computer revolution, "secretary" was the most common job, because it took a lot of people to coordinate normal business. Computers optimized that away and everything went fine.

Capitalism doesn't work if we fret over the losing side in every competitive accomplishment. It's a competitive world out there, and some hustle is required.

>Self-driving trucks will make their jobs obsolete overnight.

It won't happen overnight. I personally don't think automated driving will be available to the masses half as quickly as most HNers seem to, but that's beside the point.

Adoption will be cautious and gradual. No trucking company wants to risk their cargo or their reputation on tech that hasn't been proven ridiculously reliable. Small portions of fleets will be converted at first, and probably tested for at least a year before they're expanded out. Different companies will adopt at different times. Specialized trucks will have different requirements and may not be immediately available.

There are regulatory issues that haven't even been broached as the technology is not fully realized yet -- I believe it will probably take a decade or more after the tech hits mass market before autonomous driving is a smooth legal process in all 50 states. Full adoption won't be able to occur until autonomous driving is universally legal.

The point is that the whole industry is not just going to wake up one morning and find themselves replaced.

>What will happen to retail? What will happen to wholesale shortly after?

Nothing, because trucking companies won't disrupt service to their clients in the process of converting to an autonomous fleet. It'd ruin their business if they allowed technical upgrades to disrupt their schedules.

>That truck drivers keep their jobs, or that they are gradually able to transition into new ones, is not just necessary not to feel bad about them, but to keep the whole economy running.

They are able to gradually transition as the move to autonomous will be gradual. Nonetheless, companies do go belly up with little warning sometimes. It doesn't seem to stop the economy.

Let me float this idea. A lot of truckers are owner-operators, which means they own their own cab and hook up someone else's cargo. Clients pay per job. Perhaps the fleet will become autonomous as owner-operators upgrade their cabs, at which point they'll make a lot more money because they can just dispatch their cab to get hooked up to some cargo and then be free to engage in other productive activities. Just one possibility that would be impeded by a government program to subsidize non-automated trucking.

There is no need to be alarmist here. The transition will be gradual enough, and people will innovate as necessary to survive, as they have for centuries.

[0] http://www.npr.org/sections/money/2015/02/05/382664837/map-t...


Exactly.

There's another possibility that nobody really likes to think about: automated trucking won't even start for decades or more. The railway industry is a good example of this. Trains run on dedicated pathways with hardly any traffic, they're the perfect example of a system that should be entirely computer controllable.

Yet the world still has many, many train drivers. Computers could have and arguably should have replaced their jobs long before we even started thinking about the infinitely harder problem of cars and trucking, but outside of a few well known projects it hasn't happened because:

1) There are very few computer programmers in the world who can develop and lead ultra-high reliability automated driving software projects.

2) Of those programmers, many aren't interested in rail projects, partly because so many programmers are in the USA and Americans don't use rail much.

3) The companies that need to buy the tech tend to only have civil engineering expertise at the top and no software engineering expertise, making it impossible for them to select the best providers in the market, meaning the market doesn't force evolution towards better technology and project failures are frequent (markets need informed customers and there aren't enough informed customers in the tiny railway industry for this to work well).

4) Drivers unions are very powerful and railways are often state owned or at least heavily regulated, so there's little commercial force of will to pick fights with the workforce.

The London Underground is a good example of these dynamics in action.

Everyone here is assuming that the trucking industry will immediately adopt auto-driving technology if it's available. But that's making some big assumptions.


>The London Underground is a good example of these dynamics in action.

DLR on the other hand has been driverless for ages.


Yes, exactly. Driverless trains are not technically reaching for the sky, yet deployment doesn't happen anyway due to social factors.


For the foreseeable future, a driver will be an important component of any ride-hailing solution, whether it's a taxi, a black car, or something more informal, and whether the dispatcher is an algorithm or a company's employee.

This is really about the taxi companies and the dispatchers, not the drivers.

Of course, driverless cars are likely to someday displace the drivers. But the taxi companies would be thrilled to be in charge of fleets of driverless cars, I'm sure. And that's a long way off. As has been said innumerable times here on HN, short-run city driving is likely to be among the last places to get swept up by driverless technologies.


Sounds like a pop style rewrite of what Noam Chomsky has been saying for eternity. Except less well cited, and accurate as Chomsky's work is.

An excerpt if anyone is interested like I was,

http://harpers.org/blog/2016/02/nor-a-lender-be/


The solution is a basic income, paid for by taking the rich and middle class. Not a basic income limited to taxi owners, paid for by taxing their competitors. Perhaps subsidies for schools and technical training so people can get better jobs easier.

This doesn't benefit poor people. Maybe a small handful of them. But it just raises the cost of transportation, a service the poor depend on as well.


Universal basic income is just communism 2.0. It's adapted for the sensitivities of the American middle and upper classes, who want to help the poor but only by giving money to make the problem go away.

Fundamental premise of UBI is everything is justly the property of the state. The state determines who should get what. Throw in a little capitalism and a little "I want to keep my upper-middle class life" and you get UBI. Everyone gets something, but those who make more get to keep some of that.

UBI in practice would likely lead to massive exploitation of the poor.

see also: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12277301


It is socialism, and that's great. The problem with communism was that central planning sucks, a lot. Basic income keeps efficient free markets, it just distributes the benefits to everyone, instead of just the rich.

>UBI in practice would likely lead to massive exploitation of the poor.

What a bunch of nonsense. The poor massively benefit from UBI. What are you even talking about.


How does giving everyone a monthly tax rebate (essentially a negative income tax) change who owns the means of production?


Sure, taxi drivers will be in trouble some day (maybe soonish, but picking up a person on a busy street seems like a hard problem) when their jobs are actually automated away by autonomous.

In the meantime, though, the issue is not one of jobs lost to automation. And I'm left with a lot of questions (some because I don't live in the city):

- If people prefer Uber/Lyft to taxis, then why don't the taxi drivers just become Uber drivers?

- Have the taxi services not yet made a ride-hailing app that you can use to summon them? Why not? They do it in China. If they did, would they be able to compete perfectly well with Uber/Lyft?

- If you used used the CallaCab app to summon a taxi from a traditional livery service which side of this new Massachusetts law would the transaction fall on?


Hmm, if liberals are so pro-business then why Bernie has so many fans?


Because he's a democratic socialist?

I love tech as much as the next person, but disrupting wide swaths of the country's working populace and drastically increasing income inequality and increasing unemployment in an unsustainable manner, due to the leverage tech provides, and we step in with laws to override the marketplace.

A government exists for all its citizens, after all. No man is an island.


These were that same exact arguments made against the car and airplanes. It's like history is repeating but people think they're living in unique times.


On HN, all men are islands looking to dominate their island's native population. Nobody on this website wants to share wealth. It's about finding the product-market fit to achieve subjugation.


I'd agree that's the view of most HN participants, and it makes me sad.


Bernie's fans aren't liberals in the sense of the word as describes Democrats who are "liberal" (please see: "New Democrats", "Democratic Leadership Council").


There is an argument that Bernie is a socialist and almost everyone that cares about Bernie is too. However, when it comes to American political parties, like the "modern" Sith, there can only be two!


Why do you think Bernie is inherently anti-business?

A lot of things he proposed, like single payer health care, would actually be great for small businesses.


First I doubt all of this money is going to the actual taxi drivers themselves. I would bet a large portion of it is going to taxi cab owners, and taxi companies.

Second, of all the poor people in the U.S. that need money why select "taxi drivers" as the category to advantage?

I identify as a liberal. But of all the ways to help people, writing checks to taxi companies and hoping it filters down to taxi drivers is the silliest and most inefficient way I can think of to accomplish this goal. Instead just write checks to poor people. Who cares if they can't work because they used to be a manufacturer, a taxi driver, or just because they don't have the emotional/intellectual/social ability to compete in a 21st century workforce.


We are never bringing manufacturing jobs back without becoming completely isolationist. A lot of manufacturing has started to move back to the US in the last decade, but it hasn't created very many jobs, because the product lines that get moved back to the US are the ones that can be automated; i.e. those products for which the cost of labor is very small relative to the margins for the product.

We would have to drop out of the WTO and impose some form of tariffs or limits on imports from countries with inexpensive labor if we really wanted those manufacturing jobs back. Lots of politicians say they want these jobs back, but none of them recommend such a policy, so they are either divorced from reality or just pandering.


Also, if you consider inequality from a global perspective, it's good for people to be sending domestic money overseas.

But (as the author Thomas Frank writes) we didn't have to enter NAFTA or the TPP. There might be somewhere between pure isolationism and pure free trade that makes a bit more sense and can ease the worries of the millions whose jobs are becoming ephemeral.


>What do we tell the taxi and truck drivers when Uber shows up with self-drivers, etc.?

Its will be almost like magic how the need for manpower at checkpoints in Syria, Yemen, Ukraine and beyond will profligate in direct proportion to the discontented, unemployed masses. Good thing the Evil Putin is asking for it!

Depopulation and employment through violence and war aside, though, its simply madness to think there is a solution to mass automation and the rise of AI as far as workers are concerned. We are going to have to totally rethink the way our society operates. Hopefully we will be wise enough to do this before we reach a crisis point but more likely we will be forced to address the issue after everything starts falling apart.


I might check that book out.

One thing that strikes me is that you're right - these things are unequal. Uber develops an app but this has made it very difficult for anyone else to get their foot in the door. Given enough funding they can also just wait out any smaller competitors while still sucking the life out of their "non-employees".

They skirt the law and are not being held accountable for the misery they cause, there's no doubt about it.

Maybe what we need is an equaliser. Instead of having an Uber app there is a taxi app and it gives you the choice of which carrier you want and let's you compare prices for a trip.

That doesn't solve all problems but it does make it friendlier for new people to compete.


> Maybe what we need is an equaliser. Instead of having an Uber app there is a taxi app and it gives you the choice of which carrier you want and let's you compare prices for a trip.

> That doesn't solve all problems but it does make it friendlier for new people to compete.

I don't think it solves much. Such apps have been popping up in Europe for some time now, but the strength of Uber is not really in the app. Their strength is in channeling VC money to lawyers to keep regulators at bay while they break the law to conquer a market here and there. They've also managed to spin a good tale about how they're the vigilante fighting the Evil Taxi Cartel (which mostly doesn't exist anyway - it's Uber who's the only large, trans-national player in the industry, so if anyone is Cartel in this story...). Consumers like consumers, they care about price first. Uber is cheaper therefore Uber wins, sustainability and externalities be damned.


The assertion that free trade and technology are not good for the working class is totally false. Yes, the specific group of people whose jobs are no longer needed have to adapt but even they along with everyone else still benefit.

What is going down in Massachusetts is called a racket. The taxi boss crooks are going to benefit a little longer at the expense of everybody else.

I'm not in favor of the government providing safety nets but we already have them. Those taxi drivers who haven't been prudent enough to save or invest in other opportunities should use existing resources just like everybody else.


> Policy can prevent the inevitable.

It really can't. If you're pondering the counterarguments, consider the entire Austrian school as one :)

https://mises.org/library/liberalism-classical-tradition

https://mises.org/library/human-action-0

tl;dr: Attempts to prevent the inevitable through policy merely amplify the negative consequences of the inevitable. They never _actually_ prevent it.


Recently I've all but stopped worrying about these issues personally. I still have opinions about what to do in a lot of situations, but at the same time those opinions are only the product of my own experience. If others want to vote for things I find counterproductive, it is still their right to be counted. And if my ideas really are worthwhile then I have to trust that they will eventually break into the mainstream.

If most people can accept this then our society will do alright.


What is so bad about income inequality? What is important is standard of living rises and there is a reasonable economic mobility.


A suitable question, and I'm without a suitable answer.

For me, the whole Donald Trump meets Marie Antoinette thing seems concerning. There are obviously large and powerful forces upset about inequality. I don't think we as a society can count on people agreeing that it's ok.


Why not a social safety net and access to education for everyone, rather than trying to protect specific industries?


This is probably going to get buried now, but in case you come back to this thread, thanks for pointing me toward "Listen, Liberal." Checking it out now -- I read Thomas Frank in The Nation every week, but I didn't know about this one.


Are uber drivers "working people"? Are some uber users "working people"?


Uber drivers are like employees, but without employee rights. This is great for Uber and its investors, but not so much for "working people".


Citation needed. If you were right, you wouldn't have employed baristas etc. quitting their jobs to drive uber.

To make your claim without acknowledging well-established upside of not being employed by Uber is disingenuous at best. Many drivers I talk to enjoy not having fixed work hours and the general flexibility not usually offered when you become an employee. Your argument speaks for none of these Uber drivers.


Uber recruits drivers through deceptive if not outright false ads for starters. The ads I've seen said things like "Make $70,000 per year driving for Uber in city X!"

That statement is outright false a full time Uber driver makes $12 an hour after expenses under the _best_ of circumstances. People quit jobs, take out new car loans, and generally make long term commitments based on statements from Uber like the one above.

Uber also has total control over pricing, and lowers prices and changes what they pay drivers often with little more than a couple weeks notice if that. The driver has taken all the risk with regards to changing jobs, going into debt etc and Uber has them over a barrel. I can't think of another industry where a contractor would work under conditions like that where they let the company control the rate they get paid and change it at any time on short notice.


> If you were right, you wouldn't have employed baristas etc. quitting their jobs to drive uber.

Right. No one ever took a job without knowing the full effects of said job.

Everyone is 100% aware of the situation of their employment and of the inherent consequences of that job.

Next up: obesity is just a media circus, nobody actually eats more than they need to survive.


So working for uber is just like obesity? Got it!

Ironically, OP is the one arguing as if he is 100% aware of job of driving an uber and his awareness leads him to argue that it is categorically bad.

More realistically, it is good for some, bad for some...like basically any other job.


Do you understand what an analogy is?

You said people are leaving existing jobs to drive for uber.

My response is that people make bad decisions all the time. That doesn't make the decision any less bad.

Also, based on most research, driving for Uber is generally nowhere near as well paying as they imply it is, when all costs are taken into account.


> What do we tell the taxi and truck drivers when Uber shows up with self-drivers, etc.?

Just share this link with all these people: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luddite

It's all the same old story: opposing the progress leads to the extinction.


Or, you know, we could tax the disruptors (and the rest of the economy) and give everyone an UBI.


We already tax them. I'll support UBI if that's conditional on ending every other government welfare program -- including student loans and grants, health subsidies, etc.

It would be hugely more efficient!


Your comment literally reads like you're defending people who just want to be lazy and get paid as much as those who want to work.


[flagged]


Since you've persisted in using this site for ideological rants and attacks despite many requests to stop, we've banned this account.

If you don't want to be banned, you're welcome to email hn@ycombinator.com. We're not interested in banning people for political reasons, but there are rules that everybody has to follow, and you're repeatedly breaking them.


The right thing for the government to do would be to either deliver on their promise of an artificially scarce market (which they made when they instituted the taxi medallion system) by cracking down on unlicensed operators, or to buy the licenses back off the licensed taxis and then abolish the system and free up the market.

What they're currently doing is like if a shopping mall charged resident shops a hefty fee, but allowed hawkers to set up next door for free, allowing them to sell the same goods for far less.


Hmm:

- an industry wants to operate as cartel,

- but it can't police defectors charging market prices,

- so it gets the government to enforce the cartel,

- and calls this "regulation" even though it gouges, rather than protects the public.

And somehow it is unfair if this gets undermined by events?

To take your mall-and-hawkers example, what exactly is wrong with that situation? In practice it doesn't happen very often because no one is going to give the hawkers space for free.

But if the mall rents were high because the builder bribed the council to keep competition far away, well that's their own fault.


That's not how taxi medallions came into existence. Cities began to regulate taxis. They set prices, made safety regulations, made it so taxis couldn't refuse service.

In exchange taxis were licensed to ensure the prices the city set supported a fleet of taxis.

It's hilarious that Uber a billion dollar corporation portrays a bunch of Muslim or African immigrants as rich fat cats. Just lol


What can you say? They've got good PR folks and well-connected political hires.


What's particularly fantastic is that they can maintain this PR shtick in the face of the fact that the thing that makes uber possible--surge pricing--is exactly the kind of "gouging" government-regulated rates we're designed to prevent. "Oh, it's raining? Well that's going to cost extra!"


I mean, it's gotta help to have guys like David Plouffe on the payroll, right?


I know most people hate Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged here but that is literally what happened in the book. Roark Steel was made to give "green steel" to the unprofitable competitors to keep them in business.


Ah, you're confusing Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. Roark is an architect in Fountainhead. What you have in mind is Rearden Steel giving money to Associated Steel of Orren Boyle.

But I agree, the current situation is eerily similar.


It's the same darn argument as was used against the automobile when it started replacing horse drawn carriages (buggies) as the dominant mode of transport. "Oh, but think of the poor buggy horsewhip-makers! They will be deprived of their livelihood." Guess what? They adapted to the new reality and here we are, rehashing the age old argument for populist/crony politics.

Change is always hard, sometimes unforgivingly so, but in the end, you adapt and survive or you perish (however that is defined). As a bleeding heart liberal humanist, I feel for the poor folks who will be put out of their current livelihood. But the societal answer to that cannot be the continuation of the status quo. If we, as a society, feel the need to help people in such situations, we need to find them alternatives that enable them to transition into the brave/merciless new world, rather than keep their current job on the socially funded ventilator, just because.

Most importantly, I'd rather support the decentralization of taxi companies, i.e. turn them into car rental companies for free-agent drivers who then use them to pick up fares using uber/lyft/whatever. The taxi system is a bloody mess and some real competition will help clean out the systematic cruft that has accumulated over time.

So yes, take money from uber/lyft, but NOT to support the rent-collecting taxi company owners. Better yet, use the money to give short-term loans to people who'd rather buy a car to drive as a ride-share cab.


Actually some of those buggy-whip makes just died of starvation. Folks used to fight hard against mechanization (the word Sabotage is said to originate when workers in Japan hurled their wooden shoes called 'Sabo' into the looms to break them) because their fate was starvation and death.


This may be an unpopular observation, but it is nevertheless true.

http://webs.bcp.org/sites/vcleary/ModernWorldHistoryTextbook...

tl;dr: In 1832, one observer saw how the skilled hand weavers had lost their way and were reduced to starvation. “It is truly lamentable to behold so many thousands of men who formerly earned 20 to 30 shillings per week, now compelled to live on 5, 4, or even less”



Thanks! The final definition in that article, "In Japanese, the verb saboru (サボる) means to skip school or loaf on the job." may be closer to the real origin.


Cab drivers don't become homeless drifters, they become your next lyft pick up.

And the quality of service of Lyft and Uber have gone down the more and more cab drivers become drivers.

It's starting to not feel like much of differentiation.


Yes. I got a nice lecture from a cab driver who was moonlighting driving Lyft about how I was destroying taxis using Lyft.

Yes, I am, the faster the better. To hell with taxis.


They become your next lyft pick up (with drastically decreased wages).


I don't think that's the case?

My worst drivers are usually people who just don't have experience driving. They drive slow, they don't know the city, or they get confused other ways. Or they're just timid and don't know how to take a right on red. I'd much prefer a cabbie who's in an Uber.

But I'm also someone who judiciously gives people lower stars. The rating system works for us! People just need to be willing to give 1-stars and file reports.


> Cab drivers don't become homeless drifters, they become your next lyft pick up.

Yeah, at significantly lower wages.


How much lower? Has anyone done an analysis of the difference in pay, given any requirements to pay the cab company, pay for a gold star, etc.

Does a standard cabbie make significantly more than a standard lyft driver?

Cabs are certainly far more rundown generally when I take them than lyft vehicles. People seem "better off" driving lyft, but it may not be their main source of employment.

So it would be cool to see a real breakdown done.


Uber did an analysis that they claimed showed Uber pay was better, but they didn't take into account or share data about costs the driver is stuck with in Uber that they wouldn't be in a cab: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/22/uber-drivers-pay-st...


> I don't want to see cab drivers turn into homeless drifters

This is wrong. This is exactly how they want you to think. Cab drivers are not going to become homeless or jobless, they will work(drive) for a new companies(I agree if market is healthy enough, which is not).But they frame the issue kind of like "losing job" and "becoming homeless" just because they don't want to change. (I said cab drivers because it is what we talk. Other sectors are the same)

P.S. when it comes to education and health and natural environment, I am 100% pro regulation and government interference(kind of like I am firm communist in those three categories). But other than those three I am 100% percent for free market, and I believe invisible hand will get the job done.


It doesn't make sense to say, "Except for [subset of policy a], I am 100% in favor of [policy a], but for [subset of policy a] I am 100% in favor of [policy b]."

That's like saying, "Except for my student loans, I am 100% debt free." It muddles your point.

Just a nit.


It makes sense to me. Try something more like "I don't think people should get into debt, except for student loans". They support policy A for some markets, and policy B for other markets. That's not muddled.


This is exactly my point. There is no reason to use an arbitrary percentage. More to the point, if you're "100% for something, except for [whatever]", you're simply not 100% for that thing. Why even use a percentage at that point, let alone 100%? It's just involving numbers with no purpose.


Inside the category, it's 100%. It's a good way to signal that it's not a vague thing.

Let's take the statement "I'm 100% for punishing people that deserve it". That's a perfectly good statement, and the "100%" shows certainty across the category. Reinterpreting it as "I'm 40% for punishing people" is just being bad at discourse. The scope is not arbitrary, and shouldn't be treated separately.


Technically speaking, you're correct.

But would it not be linguistically simpler (and maybe less taxing for the reader) to use emphasis without resorting to percentages? The fact that 100% can be mapped to an unqualified boolean ("Yes, in favor, no buts.") and 40% cannot be doesn't mean that either are appropriate.

It's not elegant to parse sentence structure as categories to contrive percentage use as correct, even if it's technically sound. I understood the parent's sentence, but I had to read it several times because it just came across as a bit odd.

Honestly, when we start using category theory to analyze whether or not someone has appropriately quantified their stance on something, we've gone pretty far off the reservation.

I suppose my overall point here is that we shouldn't use percentages to quantify our opinions in place of emphasizing in a more linguistically elegant way. Maybe we'll have to agree to disagree?


The way I see it, "100%" and "completely" serve the same purpose, and there's no problem with either. It's not something that actually involves math. You can treat it as a non-number.


It doesn't make sense to drive every viewpoint to an absurd conclusion either. I'm guessing you're close to 100% communist about roads, unless you would like to pay someone every morning when you walk out your door.

The government does some things horribly, but the private sector does some things even worse. I think it's reasonable to look at the evidence and conclude that the balance is wrong sometimes.


Honestly , no matter how much I think, I cannot understand how did you frame my sentence this way :

> Except for my student loans, I am 100% debt free


You people always have to preface with "...I'm always for regulation and government interference...but".


"Everybody's got a big 'but'." --Pee Wee Herman


I'd agree with you on any other case. But it seems to me a big part of Uber's "innovation" was circumventing the taxi regulations - which were protecting the taxi business, yes, but also giving protection to customers and individual drivers.

With that I can kinda understand there is an interest to keep taxis alive.


It's not so simple. Taxis were granted a monopoly in order to serve as an extension of cities' public transit. In return, they lost the autonomy of a normal business. They can't set their own rates. The government sets rates. They aren't allowed to use surge pricing to match supply and demand. Indeed, in many cases they're not allowed to use a GPS-based method to compute the fare, which increases the difficulty of implementing an app.

This level of intrusion into a private sector business would be inconceivable today, post-Reagan. But taxi regulations were implemented at a time when this sort of thing was standard practice.

So you've got all these people who invested into these businesses with these regulations on the explicit promise the government would protect them from competition. Taxis are upset about having to compete because the whole deal was they would not have to, in return for regulated rates. But heavy regulation destroyed any possibility of innovation in the taxi industry. So you have to let ride sharing operate to move forward. But what do you just reneg on the promise to taxis?

I don't think taxing ride-sharing is an ideal solution. I'd prefer the state to just buy out the monopolies using general tax dollars. But it's not totally out on left field if you keep in mind the state isn't free to draw on a blank slate here.


I wasn't expecting to start understanding the other side on this one, I have to admit. But this is a compelling argument -- that maintaining the taxi companies is like trying to maintain city buses, except companies built the infrastructure.


While this does sound odd to say the least - the government regulates everything. I see no reason why they should not be able to regulate the speed of technical innovation. For instance, if government had regulated financial innovation more vigorously 2008 might have gone differently. What's sensible in the long term is a different thing of course. And, there is the strong history where regulations supports too much entrenched industries.


By the time they are going to "improve their app" uber is going to be running self driving cars.


Totally agree. The only part I think you are missing is the part in which one stops being accepting on regulation because always ends in some form of distortion to what's best.

Taxi drivers need to become one of the providers of these new services and things wil go well


There aren't enough of them. And regulation limits the number, solely so they can profit more. No way is the taxi industry going to 'go well' with a little more automation. Well, not for the public anyway.


Reading your commend made me thing that state regulations is like parents not letting kids solve its own problems.


Uber and Lyft supported the bill because they got a bunch of other stuff they wanted; it seems weird to me that all the sudden I'm seeing a bunch of stories downplaying what seems to be a rather pertinent fact here.


This is one reason why we need basic income, to protect people who get 'innovated' out of work through no real fault of their own. So we don't have to subsidize failing businesses just to protect workers. This is not something that's just going to go away if we bury our heads in the sand.


> I don't want to see cab drivers turn into homeless drifters, but this just seems wrong.

They could always drive for Uber


The counter point I think is that if the persistence of a fading industry is in the public interest, then it is within the government's rights to give tax payer money to them. The only corollary I can immediately draw is the Detroit auto industry in 2008/2009 which was kept alive by bailouts despite the fact that it was not able to compete in the global market.

I don't know if added competition by taxi companies is in the public interest, but it might be.


It definitely is in public iterest. You can't haul Uber when your phone's dead or your bank won't give you a credit card.


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