We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Italy keeps up its traditional ways

…of backwardness, protectionism and cronyism. Sorry, Italy, I love you in so many ways but this is just Third World:

The International Business Times reports, “Italy court bans Uber across the country over unfair competition for traditional taxis”

An Italian court banned the Uber app across the country on Friday ruling that it contributed unfair competition to traditional taxis. In a court ruling, a Rome judge upheld a complaint filed by Italy’s major traditional taxi associations, preventing Uber from using its Black, Lux, Suv, XL, Select and Van services from operating within the country.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on TumblrShare on RedditShare on Google+Share on VKEmail this to someone

29 comments to Italy keeps up its traditional ways

  • Mr Ed

    But cars are unfair competiton to horses, except in Venice. Even there, the hippo might have the edge over its equine cousin.

    I suppose that San Marino can shine as a beacon against the perils of unification.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Mr Ed, you wrote,

    But cars are unfair competiton to horses

    While writing this post I took a look at some Italian papers and tried to figure out what Italians themselves thought about it. Massimo Gramellini, a writer for Corriere Della Sera, made almost the same point as you did:

    Perhaps at the time of the invention of printing by Gutenberg the scribe monks came together in combative committees No Gut [I didn’t understand this bit – NS], and found a zealous and romantic judge to support them. But of their “no”, all memory is lost. Or is it?

  • Mr Ed

    Natalie,

    ‘No Gut’ is an Anglo-german pun on ‘No good’. His point is, as you say and by my rough Italian (from da Ponte’s libretti) that this is another wail against progress. I womder if the ban applies in Campione d’Italia, the Italian enclave over the Swiss border and inside the Swiss customs area? Or will Uber have to ally with the Knights of Malta in Rome and route their journeys via a server in 68 outside of Italy at via Condotti, Rome?

  • Lee Moore

    Note that it is a court that has done this. Not the people’s elected representatives. Last week we had the Venezuelan Supreme Court assuming the powers of the legislature, and a few weeks back we had a Hawaii judge second guessing the President on the correct balance between immigration and national security.

    One is naturally wary of recommending a communist revolution with the attendant slaughter of the judiciary en masse. But hanging a few up by their heels and birching them seems difficult to take issue with.

  • Mr Ed

    But hanging a few up by their heels and birching them seems difficult to take issue with.

    Come now, we are nice, sensible people here. How about a civil ‘restoration’ upon successful mpeachment? On conviction, removal from office, disbarment from the profession and being ordered to pay back as restoration every penny of fees earned or salary received in the entirety of the convict’s legal career (in full, e.g. the hourly rate and VAT or salary, including judicial salary) and being required to account for fees in respect of every day of professional life up to impeachment.

    And as it would be a personal matter, no crowd-funded buyouts permitted to count towards sums due.

  • “Perhaps at the time of the invention of printing by Gutenberg the scribe monks came together in combative committees”

    My primary source for the idea that their more commercial counterparts, the scriveners, did exactly this is a children’s book that I read when a child myself, and recall imperfectly. It is described as “meticulously researched” but I know not whether the writer had specific evidence for her plot of scriveners trying to derail Caxton.

  • Laird

    The problem is the use of the modifier “unfair.” It is competition, pure and simple, which the taxi drivers (understandably) oppose. That the court saw fit to append such a modifier is a tacit acknowledgement that to ban competition itself would be illegal (as well as unpopular), hence the perceived need to add some sort of moral component to the ruling. Pretty transparent, though.

    I note that this was a ruling by one lone judge, and that Uber intends to appeal. It will be interesting to follow this.

  • Laird:it is ‘unfair’ simply because the ‘traditional taxi’ licensing system makes it so. The purveyors of traditional taxiing are hamstringing (is that a word?) their own industry and making themselves unable to compete on a level playing field. It’s akin to a football team insisting their players wear their boots on the wrong feet and then complaining to the referee.

  • bobby b

    Let’s not get too antagonistic towards the judiciary.

    It has historically stood up (at least in my country) for the words and values of the Constitution when elected officials wandered too far. Much of the anti-elitist due process fairness we see in our system is there only because judges said “stop” to pols pandering to majorities.

    And especially now, when Gorsuch is just coming on line and various liberal SC Justices are nearing their sell-by dates . . .

    They do stray from their designated roles at times, but on the whole, the judiciary has served us well.

  • bobby b

    “The purveyors of traditional taxiing are hamstringing (is that a word?) their own industry and making themselves unable to compete on a level playing field.”

    They decided to purchase security at the cost of their freedom.

    But the governments who sold them the security turn out to be unable to provide it. Those governments are still trying hard to impede change, because they depend on being seen as the prime source of security – that’s what they have to sell, after all – but the market has made them irrelevant.

  • Nicholas (Unlicenced Joker) Gray

    It’s a fast-changing world out there! Maybe the judge senses that teleportation machines are just around the corner? He’s getting Uber-users used to the unemployment lines.
    As for Australia, we also are living in the past. We have these throwback things called horse races, where cars are forbidden. I can’t wait for the first Ferrari to win the Melbourne Cup!

  • Wolfred

    An excellent ruling.

    Uber should be blocked, banned everywhere.

    Uber is only a play by the SV robber barons to destroy the competition in order to set up a monopoly. John D. Rockfeller would instantly recognize the strategy and heartily approve.

  • Wolfred

    Find and read the series of articles published on the Naked Capitalism web site about Uber. People talking about competition and a playing field are blowing hot air.

  • Paul Marks

    The scribes did come together to block printing – in the Ottoman Empire (that “tolerant” place so beloved by demented “liberal” academics – whose “liberalism” would make Gladstone weep).

    There were fewer printing presses in the whole Ottoman Empire (even in the 18th century) than in the average Western city.

    But then the West was not “unified” and nor was Germany or Italy.

    If guild restrictions (or whatever) were too restrictive in one area – one went to another area.

    The “harmonisation” of the European Union (that Grand Design to create a new Ottoman style Empire) was yet to come.

  • I recently went to Budapest and found Uber unavailable there, too. I think in a few years people will be so used to using Uber, and so unfamiliar with the “delights” of a traditional taxi service, that holiday destinations were Uber is banned will start to see a marked drop in visitor numbers. I think soon a city not having Uber will be like a hotel not having WiFi.

  • […] Samizdata (and others), it appears Italy has banned […]

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Tim Newman: good point about WiFi. Lack of Uber availability is going to be one of those markers as to whether a country is broadly pro-enterprise, and those that are not.

    And this is also proof that the supposed reach of the EU Single Market is thin. If a Single Market really does exist, why are nation states attacking this transformative technology and getting away with it?

  • Stuck-record

    I’m a big fan of Italy, and possibly other countries, banning Uber. Not because I’m against Uber (far from it) but because I’m in favour of A-B testing. It’ll be great to have some comparisons in operation of how these things play out. My suspicion is that countries/regions/cities that adopt the approaching technologies; crypto-currencies, micro-payments, sharing-economy etc, will undergo enormous, profound (and hopefully positive) changes.

    If it all works then the luddites will be massively poorer and desperately playing catch-up. If it fails then they’ll be able to laugh at us for destroying ourselves.

    Only time will tell.

  • Uber is only a play by the SV robber barons to destroy the competition in order to set up a monopoly. John D. Rockfeller would instantly recognize the strategy and heartily approve.

    The two primary things drawing people to Uber are price and convenience (the two things taxies are designed not to give you: prices are set by the state, and supply is artificially fixed).

    If having driven a local taxi cartel out of business (and good riddance) Uber then jacks up prices in a major way, other Uber-like competitors will rapidly appear (indeed they already are even in the current environment. I am thinking of investing in an Uber-like local service in Bratislava). Uber having shown how it is done, it is really not that difficult (it is just an app, for gawd sake).

    See what happened to China when it tried to use its ‘monopoly‘ position in the ‘rare earth’ market… unless you have a local government using the law to keep out new market entrants, high prices just pull in new players that will break that monopoly (and it is not like writing a frigging app and recruiting drivers is even nearly as capital intensive as digging a mine). The only two ways a monopoly can survive is by not acting like a monopoly or by the government enforcing that monopoly (i.e. what you want to happen).

    So if you think the state should ban Uber, the same state who artificially limits the supply of taxies and arbitrarily sets prices, then you are either a taxi driver or a Luddite (or both).

  • John B

    ‘traditional taxi associations’ – the Mafia.

  • ‘traditional taxi associations’ – the Mafia.

    Certainly not dissimilar, but more similar to Guilds or Unions, whose members are able to charge excessive rates because they exclude and threaten those who attempt to undercut those rates.

    In most places they are enabled by city councils who use taxi licensing as a means of rent seeking and other corrupt practices.

    The reason that market economics clearly says that barriers to competition by producers (price cartels, union closed shops, etc.) should be broken up is that the road to riches is done by maximising consumer freedom and minimising producer constraint.

    As a free marketeer I am happy that good producers exist and I will support them with my custom, but being a producer or a provider of utility should give you no rights whatsoever other than the right to freely ply your trade.

    Uber is an example of the creative destruction of capitalism writ large, but only so long as the destruction of taxi associations and their local government enablers is replaced by a free market where any cab company can ply its trade in a similar manner.

    The point about tourism is well made. Uber is a great tool for tourists to avoid being ripped off, but this presumably is exactly why they have been banned in Italy, because the state feels that tourists going to Italy have no right to avoid such extractions.

    Remember that when you next go on vacation there.

  • Deep Lurker

    See what happened to China when it tried to use its ‘monopoly‘ position in the ‘rare earth’ market…

    For that matter, the Standard Oil case itself is a progressive urban legend:

    According to most accounts, the Standard Oil Co. of New Jersey established an oil refining monopoly in the United States, in large part through the systematic use of predatory price discrimination. Standard struck down its competitors, in one market at a time, until it enjoyed a monopoly position everywhere. Similarly, it preserved its monopoly by cutting prices selectively wherever competitors dared enter. Price discrimination, so the story goes, was both the technique by which it obtained its dominance and the device with which it maintained it.

    The main trouble with this “history” is that it is logically deficient, and I can find little or no evidence to support it.

    http://www-personal.umich.edu/~twod/oil/NEW_SCHOOL_COURSE2005/articles/research-oil/john_mcgee_predatory_pricing_standard_oil1958.pdf

  • Mary Contrary

    @John Galt, I think John may have meant “the Mafia” literally, in this case.

  • Mary Contrary

    I’m in Barcelona today. The first thing I did on clearing customers was reach for my phone to call an Uber to the hotel. No Uber in Barcelona. 🙁

    @Jonathan Pearce: “Lack of Uber availability is going to be one of those markers as to whether a country is broadly pro-enterprise, and those that are not.”.

    Absolutely. I think it already is.

  • TimR

    I have lived in Spain for the last 17 years. It comes as no surprise that Uber has been given the elbow here.

  • Wolfred

    And the reason that Uber can offer, for now, price and convenience are those deep-pocketed SV robber barons willing to absorb massive losses in the present all in the expectation that will make a killing in the future. First with the IPO and then by jacking up the prices paid by customers and turning the screws on the drivers.

    And the idea that competition will arise naturally and quickly is pie-in-the-sky. Uber will have honed their game for many years by that point and with their “we don’t have to follow any rules, we are Uber” those hapless souls trying to set themselves up in business against Uber will quickly find themselves broke.

  • Laird

    Wolfred, that is utter nonsense. Even assuming that Uber is successful in driving out of business all the legacy taxi companies, the barriers to entry in the Uber-competition market are almost non-existent (thanks in large measure because Uber itself having shattered them). The only advantage it will have is name recognition, but if it tries to jack up prices that won’t be enough. Monopolies only survive if there is government support for them (as with the existing taxi companies), or if they don’t act like monopolies and keep prices (and profits) low enough to drive away potential competitors. We all win. Your ignorance of economics is breathtaking (unless, of course, you’re simply a tool of the taxi cartel).

    But if you really hate Uber that much, the solution is simple: eliminate the taxi medallions and state licensing. Allow anyone to compete for riders, however he chooses (phone app, cruising, cab stands, old-fashioned telephone, etc.). That will guarantee the lowest possible prices for consumers. And that’s what you seek, right?

  • bobby b

    “And the idea that competition will arise naturally and quickly is pie-in-the-sky.”

    If Uber was able to somehow patent the entire concept of hailing a ride through an app on a mobile phone, then they could conceivably shut down competition.

    They tried
    . And they continue to try. The US Patent Office has rejected Uber’s first several attempts to patent the concept. They have been able to protect their own specific app, their logos and icons, and whatever slogans they’ve used in advertising.

    But their main patent fight continues as they attempt to appeal the USPTO’s final rejection of their patent application. Until they do, all a competitor needs to do is come up with their own app, gather together a stable of willing drivers, and go.

    As an entry into a proven concept, this seems affordable.

  • Alisa

    Speaking of competition, Uber is so old news!