Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Teaching moment

What are the top three ideas in economics? How about (1) The non-zero-sumness we get from specialization and voluntary exchange; (2) The benefits (and inevitability) of creative destruction; (3) The fact that there is no economics without politics and no politics without economics. 

Call the latter "political economy" or call it "public choice" or call it "politics without romance."

All of my top three appear in this episode reported in today's WSJ: "Uber, Taxis Engage in French Street Fight ... Online Car Services to Oppose New Rule on Pickup Times". And what are the French public servants proposing? "Under the new rule, all car services—but not licensed taxis—must wait 'at least 15 minutes' between taking a reservation and picking up a passenger, more than double what car services like Uber say is their normal wait time. The only exception: pickups at four- and five-star hotels and at industry expos."

Where there are "public servants" there you will find interesting contrivances that seek "level playing fields."

I mention all this because (late to the party) I had my first Uber experience yesterday. The service was many times better than I had been getting from the LA taxi monopoly -- and the fare was lower.

I expect that the local public servants are well aware of the problem -- and that they have it in their sights.