Tech Innovation Outstrips Government Obstructionism

Which one offers more hope and change right now, West Coast tech start-up culture or Washington political culture? The question answers itself.

UberUberThe most newsworthy line in David Remnick’s 17,000 word article about President Obama is the caption of the cartoon that, in classic New Yorker magazine style, appears unrelatedly alongside the article.

The drawing shows a family gathered around a Chanukah menorah. The caption: “The Internet startup had only enough cash for one more day. But miraculously, the money lasted for eight days, until more venture capital could be raised.”

Internet startup culture has permeated American life so far that the New Yorker can joke about it and compare it to the miracle of the Chanukah oil that lasted for eight days. And, not to take anything away from Chanukah, there is something that seems miraculous about it. The technological revolution may have a deeper and more positive effect on America than anything President Obama accomplishes during his presidency, and it is in its own way more significant than anything the president uttered in his Air Force One interview with Remnick, not withstanding all the New Yorker editor’s formidable journalistic astuteness.

The fecundity of the startup culture is on display at a new Web site (where else?) called Product Hunt, which lists dozens of new mobile Apps and Web sites each week. One recurring theme in successful startups is the ability to get around the regulations created by politicians like Obama. Companies are using technology to create a free market.

The foremost example of this is Uber, with its UberX service that turns ordinary drivers in their own cars into taxi drivers. Sidecar and Lyft operate on a similar model. A Boston lawyer who represented existing taxi services challenging the new entrants, Sam Perkins, told the Boston Globe, “SideCar and UberX have targeted Boston to make the guy next door and his Prius into an unlicensed taxi driver with an uninspected taxis and no safety equipment…Their goal is to eliminate the existing taxi system and its consumer protections.”

The government-imposed licenses, medallions, inspections, minimum wages, regulated fares, and “consumer protections” turn out to be replaceable, more or less, by an Amazon-style star-rating system and the incentives of independent drivers and ride-provider networks that want repeat business.

And it’s not just taxis. Airbnb is doing the same thing to hotels. If you stay in an apartment or house you rent via the Airbnb marketplace, you may not have a clearly marked fire exit map, or a statement of the maximum room rate, on the inside of your room door. Consumers, it turns out, don’t mind. Many of us would rather pay less money, avoiding exorbitant hotel taxes and the wages of unionized bellhops and chambermaids.

Eat With and Feastly may yet provide similar disruption in the heavily regulated restaurant industry. These services, recently highlighted by NPR, offer guests the opportunity to enjoy home-cooked meals in private homes. The hosts avoid health department inspections, liquor license requirements, and the need for workmen’s compensation, payroll tax, or disability insurance for waiters, dishwashers, or line cooks.

President Obama’s approach to countering inequality is top-down and government-centered: raise taxes, increase the minimum wage, spend more on subsidies for education, food, and health care. But there’s an alternative, technology-led model that lets the UberX driver, the Airbnb host, or the Eat With cook use the skills and assets they have to connect with paying customers and earn a rating without a lot of government red tape. The opportunities are not small: Uber, which launched to the public in 2010, was valued last year at a reported $3.5 billion. Airbnb, founded in 2008, raised a round of capital in 2012 at a reported $2.5 billion valuation.

The tech world is not perfect. The e-commerce boom of the late 1990s ended in a burst Nasdaq bubble (though one that arguably laid important foundations for the current boom). Silicon Valley at its worst can have a herd mentality, an insularity, and mercenary qualities that outweigh loyalty. But which one offers more hope and change right now, West Coast tech start-up culture or Washington political culture? The question answers itself.

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  • Rich||

    Where are the PM Links?

    "It's not a day off -- it's a day ON!"

  • Certified Public Asskicker||

    Why AM but no PM?

  • Bam!||

    Army had half-day.

  • Archduke von Pantsfan||

    THIS IS AN OUTRAGE

  • ||

    I'm never shopping here again!

  • db||

    Just more proof that reason is becoming corrupted by its proximity to the DC machine. Taking Federal holidays off is.just plain lazy.

  • Pope Jimbo||

    Shit I showed up at the private company that I contract at and there was no one there. The only private company I have ever heard of that takes MLK off.

    It was great. A whole day to work on the stuff I wanted to work on without being pulled into meetings or put on fire duty.

  • ||

    Once again gypped by a bank holiday I don't get off.

  • Rich||

  • Bam!||

    I'm sure the White House will release Flickr photos casting the First Lady in the most flattering light.

  • RBS||

    Shit like that pisses me off.

  • Radioactive||

    The first lady in a favorable light? Aint no light that favorable.

  • Zeb||

    Oh, I'm sure all those people were close personal friends before she was first lady.

  • ||

    PM Links?

    I can't live without 'em.

    Is it a U.S. holiday or something?

  • Ted S.||

    It's not as if anybody give a shit about Canadian holidays.

  • ||

    Yeah.

    Riot!

  • Ted S.||

    Everybody knows Thanksgiving is in November.

  • RBS||

    What, like Boxing Day?

  • Killaz||

    I think that's the English, or do they celebrate Bastille Day? No matter, if it isn't USA you should trash it. And get your wife a big ol' pair of silicon tits with the money you'll save on gifts. Like an American would. USA! USA! USA!

  • Pompey||

    Boxing Day in Montréal is quite a sight to behold. In downtown when I was there, the foot traffic was so insane that pedestrians would scarcely yield the right of way to cars at green lights unless the cars seized a miniscule gap between shoppers in the crosswalks.

    Dunno if it is typical still but it was my idea of compete shopping mayhem until the Black Friday maniacs started stampeding Wal-Marts south of the frozen border.

  • Killaz||

    You can say that again. My disappoint is the lack of an essay from a junior editor celebrating MLKs non-violence without even squaring it with his praise for the life work of Nelson Mandela.

  • Irish||

    I got you covered!

    Think Progress: Four ways Martin Luther King was more radical than you thought!

    I like that Think Progress posts this as if they've somehow just uncovered it and are shocked to find he was that far to the left. Anyone who has ever read a book already knew this, so of course the sub-literate morons at Think Progress are surprised by what they've learned.

  • Ted S.||

    Did they include his disdain for IP as part of his radicalism? ;-)

  • Killaz||

    Nick also linked to Thaddeus Russell's article on MLK the social conservative.

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/a.....ssell.html

    I didn't know much about that aspect outside Russell's book, but like you, have heard about his radicalization since at least the 1980s.

  • Bean Counter||

    While the Airbnb sounds like a good alternative for places like NYC, I don't like sleeping in my mother's spare bedroom, so I doubt I'd enjoy sleeping in a stranger's house. As long as I can swing it, I'll take a LaQuinta over crashing in a stranger's pad.

  • Zeb||

    This is why I mostly visit places where there are people I know who are willing to put me up.

  • Cdr Lytton||

    Yeah, but it's people like you who cut the travel budget so I can only afford a spare bedroom and then give me grief on the expense report.

    ;)

  • PapayaSF||

    I've done Airbnb a few times, and my girlfriend a few more. All experiences were fine, except one she had in NYC where the hostess turned out to be basically insane. (No liquids allowed in the room except for a paper cup of water. Don't allow guests turn on lights in the morning to dress, instead insist that they open the curtains, even if the neighbors can look in. Etc.)

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    Tell us about some of the experiences of when you've done your girlfriend. How many more times did you do her than you've done Airbnb?

  • ||

    Since Reason has abandoned us orphan-junkies I will take advantage and make this Canadian-centric:

    http://www.montrealgazette.com.....story.html

    Say, has Neil Young ever made up with Lynyrd Skynyrd?

    http://ca.news.yahoo.com/blogs.....57198.html

  • wareagle||

    Skynyrd's still singing about not needing him around anyhow. Saw them this fall; still a good show.

  • From the Tundra||

    Are there any original members left?

  • ||

    Yes, I believe.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    Of course you liked the show; you're just a simple man.

  • db||

    That song really rubs me the wrong way.

  • db||

    Skynyrd can go fuck themselves with a rusty Saturday Night Special.

  • Ted S.||

    I'd think most of the posters in ABC states would get the first link.

  • ||

    What are ABC states?

    And yeah, it's just to point out the idiocy and racket of government monopoly in alcohol.

  • Cdr Lytton||

  • ||

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/.....-1.2503974

    What a joke. I have to get my father to co-sign for a lousy 15k extension on a LOC on a profitable business but Bixi get 35 million from the city of Montreal on a loser model. Everyone knew this was next: Bankruptcy - of taxpayer dollars.

  • Jerry on the boat||

    How the hell can you create $50 million in debt with just bicycles?!

  • db||

    Individually handcrafted bicycles with no.interchangeable parts and lubricated by artisanal mayonnaise?

  • Killaz||

    Served on a deep dish pizza with pepperonis made out of foreskins from a late term abortions.

  • ||

    Pretty much. Those bikes are pretty gay.

    It really is for the hipster-doofuses. And boy do those things take up space.

  • From the Tundra||

    It really is for the hipster-doofuses

    Indeed. You just can't make it up:

    https://www.niceridemn.org/explore_by_bike/

    Actually an order of magnitude uglier than yours...

  • ||

    Jesus. Christ.

  • db||

    Dude. That is the prompt critical acccident of hipsterism. The survivable radius of that is well outside the borders of the state of MN and therefore should count as an act of war againstseveral states and provinces.

  • From the Tundra||

    Or a rally cry. We're all in this together, people. If it can happen here...no one is safe. We must fight the spread of ugly hipsters riding ugly, taxpayer-subsidized bicycles.

  • lap83||

    "accident of hipsterism"

    No accident. The Twin Cities are full of extremely liberal and sheltered white people. That is almost a scientific formula for hipsterdom.

  • Pope Jimbo||

    At least they learned their lessons from the Yellow Bike program in St. Paul and lock them up.

    (They St. Paul program simply put out bikes painted yellow for anyone to use. Surprise surprise, they were all stolen).

    I have seen people actually riding those green monstrosities, but I have never seen any info on how the program is doing financially. My guess is not well or the local rag would be trumpeting it from the rooftops.

  • SIV||

    They pay for the bikes with the 16% sales tax on a drink in a downtown bar or restaurant.

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    And it's still illegal to use them to get home if you're wasted.

  • Radioactive||

    OMG. Where can I get a stick to put between his spokes...bet I could make him cry real hipster tears.

  • Radioactive||

    step 1. Go to Canada
    step 2. fucking stay there
    step 3....

  • Ted S.||

    The comments were depressing, but then these are the people who decry media concentration until it's concentrated in a place that's been given the government imprimatur.

  • PapayaSF||

    Bixi said cash-flow problems began when it tried to develop new proprietary technology for international clients.

    Proprietary bike-sharing technology??

  • ||

    Hey, it's a start. Whenever the the free-market is given a chance especially in places like Italy where 'nationalized' entities still operate, it's good.

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/ga.....s-italo/2/

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    The Daily Beast clutches pearls over Oregon GOP's gun raffle in honor of MLK.

    Someone should tell them that MLK was a "gun nut". He even applied for a CCW permit! *GASP!!!!!*

  • PapayaSF||

    If the GOP were smart (sorry, I'm not betting) they'd use this sort of thinking to craft a free-market health care reform plan to replace Obamacare. Innovation! New technology! Washington doesn't have all the answers, and one size does not fit all! Deregulate health care and let a thousand flowers bloom! Some things won't work, but some things will, and the best way to find out which is which is to try!

  • RishJoMo||

    I dont think Slap Daddy JoJo is going to like that.

    www.AnonPlanet.tk

  • John Galt||

    Slap Daddy JoJo is a serious ding-dong.

  • John Galt||

    I was unaware the president has accomplished anything other than maintaining, or as many believe accelerating, the stripping the American people of their constitutionally guaranteed rights.

    Say hello to the new boss...

  • John Galt||

    Actually, we should all be thankful for the "miracle" of Internet technology. It's the only thing out there at present that stands even a sleight chance of preventing the egomaniacal politicians and their violent, often murderous, 'enforcers' from enslaving the entire human race.

  • PH2050||

    I've heard this said before:

    If the pols knew what ARPANET would eventually become they would have attempted to strangle the tech in its crib.

  • Radioactive||

    much like their parents should have done with them...

  • mtrueman||

    "they would have attempted to strangle the tech in its crib"

    I don't think so. They wouldn't have needed to strangle anything. They would simply have decided not to put the time and effort into creating it in the first place.

    And I think it's safe to say that private concerns, risk adversive and short sighted as they are, would never have conceived of, let alone develop, a project like the internet.

  • mtrueman||

    None of the examples offered are what I'd call technical innovation. They are new types of social networking over the internet.

    I'd classify innovations like touch screens and GPS as technical and they came about solely because of government involvement and investment. There was nothing stopping private concerns developing these except for their shying away from risky ventures that were very long term in nature.

  • Brandon||

    I actually prefer hotels to AirBnB, but I don't want to prohibit it.

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