Here’s a riddle for you: What’s better than one disruptive technology? Two disruptive technologies, teaming up to fight back against government oppression!
The Argentinian government — or more accurately, several local Argentinian governments — apparently unperturbed by the other South American nations literally collapsing due to too much government, have decided that Uber, the wildly popular ride sharing service, is not welcome in their country. Responding to lawsuits and heavy pressure from taxi unions, a judge has ordered credit card companies to stop doing business with Uber, effectively cutting off its major source of revenue.
Fortunately, credit cards are no longer the only game in town when it comes to payment systems. It turns out that Argentina residents are pretty tech savvy folk, and when the company suggested users pay with Bitcoin, the encrypted, untraceable digital currency, users adapted while hardly missing a beat.
Meanwhile, the government is developing its own “taxi app” designed to basically extend taxi companies’ monopoly on transportation into the domain popularized by Uber. This is basically equivalent to the U.S. government’s action to shut down private postal delivery, establishing the Post Office monopoly in 1851. Anyone who has had to wait in line at one of those God-forsaken institutions knows how well that turned out.
Argentina’s situation is a prime example of what economists call regulatory capture and rent seeking. The special interests, in this case the taxi unions, have managed to obtain such a tight hold on the government itself, that they are able to paralyze innovation, competition, and economic growth for their own benefit. Politicians have become so beholden to these interest groups that they are forced into acting against the interests of the nation as a whole, and of its people. One could not get further from the nominal duty of an elected official, and yet such perverse incentives always arise in governments eager to give out special favors to those willing to pay for them.
Uber’s eagerness to partner with Bitcoin is thrilling for advocates of liberty, and a perfect example of what libertarian theorist Samuel Edward Konkin III called “counter-economics,” a strategy for reducing governmental power he defined as “peaceful human interaction forbidding by the state.”
While fighting legislative battles is a time-consuming and expensive undertaking with no guarantee of victory, simply going out into the world and doing something great is a practical way to demonstrate the benefits of freedom to the population. When a lone company tries to do this, they are almost inevitably shut down pretty quickly by the authorities, but when multiple companies, like Bitcoin and Uber, start teaming up to thwart the powers that be and circumvent burdensome regulations, that’s a pretty exciting prospect. It’s easy to imagine a future where not two, but five, ten, or twenty companies all work together to provide a service to consumers without the government’s consent.
It remains to be seen how the situation will play out in Argentina. Will the taxi unions succeed in shutting down all competition? Will Uber decide that the market is not worth the effort, and withdraw as it did in Austin, Texas? Or will the partnership with Bitcoin be fruitful and inspire the company, and others like it, to more creative ways of getting around regulatory meddling? For those of us who value choice, freedom, and peaceful human interaction, we can only hope it’s the latter.
This article originally appeared on Conservative Review.