Monday, May 16, 2016

Nonspecific thoughts on Proposition 1

On May 7, Austin voters rejected Proposition 1, regarding what kind of background checks are mandated for ridesharing drivers. One very brief summary of the implications of yes and no votes is here. I never dug into the details myself, mainly because I’ve been feeling unenthusiastic about voting in general (but that’s another story). But I thought the hubbub around the vote was interesting, not least because no one seemed to know what the proposition actually said. Also, I saw two common fallacies underlying much of what was said against the proposition, both of which appear in lots of contexts:
  • If a corporation wants something (e.g., Uber and Lyft want a specific standard of background checks for their drivers), that something must be bad.
  • If government does not make something happen (e.g., ensuring that ridesharing services are reasonably safe), that something will not happen.
As categorical statements, both are wrong (which I do not mean as a comment on Proposition 1 specifically). One could view the first as arising from the intention heuristic and the second from a lack of understanding of how markets function.

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