L. Gordon Crovitz | July 26, 2015 6:44 p.m. ET | www.wsj.com
Progressive New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and Socialist Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo found common cause on a shared threat while attending a recent climate-change conference at the Vatican. “The people of our cities don’t like the notion of those who are particularly wealthy and powerful dictating the terms to a government elected by the people,” Mr. de Blasio declared. “As a multibillion-dollar company, Uber thinks it can dictate to government.”
But before Mr. de Blasio could return from Rome, he learned that people really don’t like when politicians try to take away their favorite app for getting around the government’s taxi cartel. The mayor was forced to drop his plan to limit Uber to a 1% annual increase in cars, far below the current rate.
It’s hard to see why Mr. de Blasio thought that would be good politics. Two million New Yorkers have downloaded the Uber app onto their mobile devices—a quarter of the city’s population and more than twice the number of citizens who voted for Mr. de Blasio. But it’s easy to understand why he views Uber as an ideological threat. A tipping point is in sight where big-government politicians can no longer deprive consumers of new choice made possible by technology—whether for car rides, car sharing or home rentals. Mr. de Blasio’s experience should encourage other politicians to sign up for innovation.
Uber has become a wedge issue. The Conservative mayor of London, Boris Johnson, took the opposite approach from Mr. de Blasio. “You are dealing with a huge economic force which is consumer choice, and the taxi trade needs to recognize that,” he said recently. He told a gathering of taxi drivers in London: “I’m afraid it is a tragic fact that there are now more than a million people in this city who have the Uber app.” When cabbies objected that Uber drivers were undercutting their prices, Mr. Johnson replied: “Yes, they are. It’s called the free market.”