Marco Rubio wants to be President of the United States. And like most people who want to someday lead the free world, the Republican Senator from Florida wrote a book. I haven’t read it — life is short and precious — but Buzzfeed’s Kyle Blaine has, and apparently it contains a chapter called “Making America Safe for Uber.” Rubio details how he used the popular transportation app run by hyper-capitalist manchild Travis Kalanick to convince his liberal students at Florida International University of the glories of the free market.
“The students in my class were genuinely intrigued by this innovative service and wondered why they didn’t have it in Miami,” he writes. “I explained to them that it was because of regulations created by government.”
Rubio’s not wrong. Like many other cities that have banned Uber, Miami exerts strict control over taxies, limiting the number of drivers and barring newcomers like Uber from competing against industry incumbents. And considering the way Rubio frames the conflict — as the big bad government making it harder for students to get a cab home from the bar on Friday night — it’s no wonder he’s got his students lining up for an honorary membership to the Travis Kalanick Ayn Rand Fan Club, complete with decoder ring that lets you order an illegal Uber in cities where the service is prohibited.
But any disinterested observer who’s followed the company’s struggles closely knows this is a massive oversimplification. Yes, the limitations on taxi medallions are a pretty clear example of government regulation failing to serve both the public and markets. But what about insurance requirements? Safety requirements? And what’s the company’s responsibility when one of its drivers, er, “partners,” er “contractors,” commits sexual assault on the job? And should Uber be allowed to share our non-anonymized location data on where its riders use the service? Or would the government be “overstepping its bounds” by enforcing data-sharing laws that benefit the public?
In truth, Uber is a much more appropriate illustration of the way free market principles and governments can work together to shape industries in ways that are both fair to new entrants and safe for consumers. It’s too bad Rubio didn’t teach that lesson — and they say liberals are the ones indoctrinating our college students.