Sunday, August 02, 2015

Sunday Morning Links

Assorted content for your Sunday reading.

- Frank Pasquale and Siva Vainhyanathan write that we shouldn't mistake schemes intended to get around employee standards and other laws for innovations worth celebrating or embracing:
Uber has confronted admittedly stifling restrictions on taxi driver licenses in France by launching a service called UberPop. Several authorities in Europe have ruled UberPop illegal, but Uber kept it operating anyway as it appealed. Now France has charged Uber’s general director for France, Thibaud Simphal, and the company’s director for Western Europe, Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty with enabling taxi-driving by non-professional drivers and “deceptive commercial practices”.

One could make a strong argument that France would benefit from more taxi drivers and more competition. But that’s for the people of France to decide through their elected representatives. The spirit of Silicon Valley should not dictate policy for the rest of the world. New York, Paris, London, Cairo, and New Delhi all have different values and traffic issues. Local needs should be respected.

Consider what it would mean for such a universalising approach to prevail. The business model of Uber would become that of law-flouting bosses generally. Reincorporate as a “platform”, intermediate customer requests and work demands with an app, and voila!, far fewer laws to comply with. Worse, this rebel attitude signals to the larger culture that laws and regulations are quaint and archaic, and therefore hindrances to progress. That could undermine faith in republican government itself.

In the 1950s and 60s, Southern governors thought they’d found a similar tactic to avoid the civil rights laws that they most despised. Though the strategy failed, the idea still animates reactionaries. Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, now running for president, has even suggested that the US supreme court’s recent gay marriage decision should effectively be nullified by sovereign states.

Of course, a republic can’t run without authorities who follow the rule of law. Civil disobedience by citizens can be an important challenge to corrupt or immoral politicians, but when corporate leaders themselves start breaking the law in their own narrow interests, societal order breaks down.
- Tyler Hamilton writes about the unnecessary risks caused by the poorly-regulated transportation of hazardous chemicals. And Mychaylo Prystupa reports that one of the Cons' last acts before calling an election was to take another step toward letting oil executives regulate their own industry, while the ITF highlights how the Cons' cutbacks and anti-regulation dogma led directly to the damage caused by the English Bay oil spill.

- Boyd Tonkin writes about the increasing significance and permanence of inherited wealth in the UK. And Simon Wren-Lewis reminds us that the public is broadly against needless austerity and insufficient government - meaning there's no reason to settle for political parties who are inclined to presume otherwise.

- And finally, Derrick O'Keefe discusses how the Cons' bloated federal election campaign looks more like a long goodbye than a plan with much prospect of convincing voters to keep putting up with their abuses.

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