Josh Barro

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Authoritarianism is, among other things, a revenge of mediocrity.

The bully with the biggest ego and largest pulpit appeals to a nation’s mean streak, seeking out those who’d rather cow than compete. Together they swing a hammer like a weapon rather than a tool, looking for a target to blame. Russia hacked the election (likely with some degree of collusion from the GOP) and the FBI acted foolishly on bad intel to disrupt Hillary Clinton’s campaign, but there’s no avoiding the reality that nearly 63 million Americans found a tyrant enticing, many of them drawn in by his absolute worse qualities.

From Business Insider essay by Josh Barro, who recently recused himself from the Republican Party:

Yet here we are, with a Republican president who calls himself “the most militaristic person” despite avoiding the Vietnam War on account of bone spurs. A Republican president who takes credit for others’ successes and no blame for his failures. A Republican president who fires the FBI director because of an investigation into any wrongdoing of his associates and then blames his press secretary for people getting mad about it.

A Republican president who is twice divorced and gleefully recounted his philandering to the press, posing as his own spokesman. A Republican president who boasted to a casual acquaintance about his history of sexual assault — “when you’re a star, they let you do it” — and then excused those comments as “locker-room talk,” as though it were normal for a grown man who wished to be president to display the maturity and respect for women you’d expect from a caricature of a junior-varsity high-school football player.

This is not the behavior of a man. It is the behavior of a man-child. Donald Trump surrounds himself with fellow man-children who behave in a similar manner. And a great many American voters eat it up.

Why? Well, one reason is that many men in America right now have little to offer women. They do not live up to either to the old, chauvinistic standards for adult men or the new, egalitarian ones. They want what Trump has — the women, the money, the brass-plated apartment — without having to do better or be better to get it.

They think they’d be better off under a return to high-school norms, where men could “be men” but really be boys, and gain status through cruel dominance plays without bearing any real-life responsibilities.

This approach to life worked for Trump because he inherited hundreds of millions of dollars. But it is no way to run a country or a society — or a political party.•

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Preliminary numbers suggested the emergence of Uber and Lyft hadn’t damaged taxi-medallion valuations, that ridesharing was somehow more complementary than disruptive, but that didn’t make sense and appears to have not been true. In a New York Times’ “Upshot” piece, Josh Barro reports that medallions have indeed surrendered 17% of their worth since technologists took aim at the sector.

One thing regulated taxis could do to compete: Allow a few hundred of the medallion owners in popular Uber cities to participate in a pilot program which makes redundant the best strategies of the Peer Economy cars–smartphone hailing, cashless paying–adopting the most popular new practices of the profession sans the surge pricing. From Barros:

“Most major American cities have long used a system to limit the number of operating taxicabs, typically a medallion system: Drivers must own or rent a medallion to operate a taxi, and the city issues a fixed number of them. In New York, which established its medallion system in 1937, that number is 13,437. The number has risen only gradually since the late 1990s, even as the city’s economy has boomed.

The turmoil in the medallion market has been obscured in part because publicly disclosed data about taxi medallion prices can be misleading. And the turmoil suggests that the taxi business, which has undergone little change over many decades, is now in the midst of a revolution.

‘I’m already at peace with the idea that I’m going to go bankrupt,’ said Larry Ionescu, who owns 98 Chicago taxi medallions. That might be overly dramatic; after all, Mr. Ionescu also compared Chicago’s pro-Uber mayor, Rahm Emanuel, to Nicolae Ceausescu, the reviled ex-dictator of his native Romania. It’s likely Mr. Ionescu remains a very rich man. In November, Chicago medallion sale prices averaged $298,000, well below the $357,000 price that was typical this spring, but far up from the $50,000 price of a decade ago.”

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On the face of it, the Sharing Economy is a conservative wet dream, subverting regulations and damaging unions. But politics on the granular level is never quite that simple, and so far Blue States have been somewhat friendlier to Uber and others. The deciding factor seems to not be ideology but population density and consumer demand, so Los Angeles, blue as can be, has embraced such services while some red enclaves have not. From Josh Barro at the New York Times’ Upshot:

“The R.N.C. chairman, Reince Priebus, probably doesn’t get a lot of phone calls from taxi medallion owners, or car dealers, or other businesspeople who want to be insulated from competition.

But local politicians do; Republicans may be especially likely to hear from them because small business owners are a constituency that skews Republican.

As a result, in practice, it’s not clear Republicans are any more pro-market than Democrats when it comes to business regulation.

Andrew Moylan, a senior fellow at the R Street Institute think tank, has examined ride-sharing regulations around the country and doesn’t see a clear partisan divide. On Monday, R Street and Engine, a group advocating policies that support start-ups, will release a report card rating the 50 largest cities on their friendliness to ride sharing. The eight cities receiving failing grades include ones in blue areas (Philadelphia and Portland, Ore.) and red ones (Omaha, Phoenix and San Antonio).

‘There didn’t seem to be any obvious ideological trends,’ Mr. Moylan said. ‘It may have something more to do with population density and consumer demand.’

In the case of Uber, the cities with the most to gain from innovation tend to be large and dense, and often Democratic. So at the local level, the leaders in welcoming Uber are often Democrats. Conservatives like to mock California as anti-business, but the state is one of just two to have enacted a comprehensive, statewide regulatory framework that is friendly to ride sharing. The other is Colorado, also run by Democrats.”

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