The problem with ridesharing is simple.

Lyft and Uber are losing a lot of money.

They are doing so to increase market share: To drive taxis out of business.

That they are losing money, and the fact that they are highly valued means that they, and all their investors, expect that they will eventually stop losing money and start making it hand over fist.

In other words, having driven their competitors largely out of business, they will now raise prices.

Once they are an oligopoly, they will charge oligopoly prices.

They may be slightly lower than taxi prices in the end, because unlike taxi owners and drivers they don’t have to pay the capital costs (obviously not using that term in the way Silicon Valley does) of their vehicles, and they can pay near-starvation wages to drivers as long as the job market at the bottom end remains loose (ie. for the forseeable future. Despite the unemployment rate, the truth is, it’s still hard to get jobs near the bottom).

In other words, Uber and Lyft will squeeze additional profits out of their drivers and provide a very small decrease in prices (perhaps).

This, in manufacturing, is known as dumping: Providing something at less than the cost in order to drive competitors out of business, with the intention of then raising prices later. It’s generally illegal, though often not enforced, just as the simple fact is that most of what Uber and Lyft have done is straight up illegal–against most municipal tax regulations and much labor law.

So we’ll get cheaper rides, for now, in exchange for accepting an oligopoly which crushes it workers and provides little price benefit (and a lot less safety), later.

Doesn’t seem like much of a deal, or progress.

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