U.S. State Department Endorses Uber

Rio de Janeiro, April 1, 2016: Hundreds of taxis paralyzed traffic in a massive protest against a court decision authorizing the operation of Uber.An interesting detail emerged in the coverage of the armed robbery of U.S. swimming star Ryan Lochte and three of his teammates in Rio over the weekend:

The USOC [U.S. Olympic Committee] advised athletes not to use taxis, but to take USOC vehicles, media buses or Uber … Uber is approved by the State Department, one person familiar with the matter said, in part because of its location-tracking ability.

Mr. Lochte and his teammates were riding in a taxi early Sunday morning when they were stopped by gunmen dressed as armed police and robbed.*

You may recall that Rio taxi drivers had held a protest against Uber that paralyzed that city’s streets in April (though paralyzing Rio’s streets generally requires little coordinated effort), arguing that Uber drivers are only able to “undercut them because they are not subject to the same costly training, insurance and safety laws taxi drivers face.” [Emphasis added]

Whether or not explicitly, even the U.S. State Department apparently recognizes that market innovation beats mandated standards.

*Update 8/19/16
The now-revealed actual facts of the case do not affect the point of this post, to wit, “Uber is approved by the State Department.”

Mary L. G. Theroux is Senior Vice President of the Independent Institute. Having received her A.B. in economics from Stanford University, she is Managing Director of Lightning Ventures, L.P., a San Francisco Bay Area investment firm, former Chairman of the Board of Advisors for the Salvation Army of both San Francisco and Alameda County, and Vice President of the C.S. Lewis Society of California.
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