From Free to Fair Markets by Richard Holden;Rosalind Dixon;

From Free to Fair Markets by Richard Holden;Rosalind Dixon;

Author:Richard Holden;Rosalind Dixon;
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: OUP Premium
Published: 2022-06-15T00:00:00+00:00

D. Basic Leave

There has been fierce backlash in many countries against the rise of casualization, and especially the gig economy. Some on the left, including the UK Labour Party, have promised to ban certain parts of the gig economy—such as Uber and AirBnB—outright.18 And several jurisdictions have imposed a levy on ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft. For instance, New York City imposed a $2.75 fee per ride for all such trips in Manhattan.19

Some of these measures are also inconsistent with democratic liberalism and a commitment to markets—for instance, those aimed at deterring ridesharing. A tax that is specifically imposed on ridesharing services, but not on taxis, makes ridesharing relatively less attractive compared to taxis and thus tilts the playing field in favor of taxis. A tax with this purpose is illiberal in the sense that it reduces the benefit that comes from ridesharing. The sole basis for such a tax is to please a certain constituency—taxi owners and drivers—that have political clout. In assessing the appropriate intervention, be it a tax or other policy, it is important to treat all people who are in the same economic situation the same way, regardless of the particular part of a given sector they are in. If job security and lack of access to leave and other benefits is a problem for one set of workers in the point-to-point transportation market that warrants intervention, then that intervention should apply equally to all workers in the point-to-point transportation market.

Other measures, however, reflect a concern to protect existing businesses, including taxi medallion holders who have experienced a sharp decline in the value of their medallion as a result of the introduction of ridesharing services.20 Compensation for medallion owners disadvantaged by ridesharing services is also consistent with democratic liberalism. Although technological progress almost always produces winners and losers, and compensation is not always warranted, some medallion owners constitute a particularly sympathetic case.21

Taxi drivers who once enjoyed being part of a point-to-point transportation market with high barriers to entry have seen their position, and earnings, come under significant pressure. Sometimes this has had tragic consequences. These economic pressures, along with predatory practices from unscrupulous lenders facilitated by shady medallion brokers,22 have led to a spate of suicides among New York taxi drivers, as the New York Times reported in 2018.23

And some levies reflect a commitment to worker protection and the provision of benefits: for instance, a per-trip tax is used to fund the kind of leave entitlements that workers in the gig economy typically do not receive, such as annual, sick, or parental leave. As has been widely commented upon, these people are classified by the platform companies that power the gig economy as independent contractors rather than employees. This means that, in particular, they do not receive benefits such as healthcare and overtime pay (or even social security contributions); they are unable to unionize; and they are not even required to be paid the minimum wage.

Of course, this is in dispute, both legally and politically.


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