Magic Taxi

Today’s news features a story about taxis in New York City. The taxi industry in that city is strongly (and corruptly) regulated in such a way that it enforces what amounts to a tightly-controlled cartel system on taxis in the city. Taxi medallions are astronomically expensive and highly difficult to get, and there’s only a small number of them, which translates in the real world into the fact that you have to either have money and pull in order to get one, or work for someone who does. Everything that Ayn Rand complained about in Atlas Shrugged regarding an “aristocracy of pull” is made manifest in the New York City taxi industry.

Recently some bright young minds tried to shake things up a bit by introducing apps that would allow people in New York to “e-hail” a cab by entering their name and location, which would then send the info out to a system that would summon a taxi to come get them. This has been introduced in some other cities and worked well. It’s even been beneficial to drivers, who get sent directly to fares instead of driving around in search of one. Ah, but it’s an alteration to the iron-clad, government-enforced legacy business model of the New York taxi system, and thus, as with any wild card thrown into the mix of what had been a fine-running gravy train, it was viewed, no matter what its advantages and improvements in efficiency, as a threat. TechCrunch’s Gregory Ferenstein explains what happened next:

“Transit trade groups pulled out the race card and managed to block smartphone taxi “e-hailing” a day after they were cleared to pilot in New York City. Associate Justice Helen E. Freedman issued an emergency injunction against smartphone taxi app companies Hailo and Uber, after hearing arguments from the several car service groups alleging that smartphones permit drivers to discriminate against passengers based on race, name, age and location.”

Ferenstein seems genuinely puzzled as to how anyone could come to the conclusion that smartphone apps could exacerbate racism in the taxi business. The anonymity provided by the use of the app would seem to hinder racism, or at very least it would be a wash, as any driver who didn’t like the look of his potential passenger for any reason, race or otherwise, could simply keep going, app or not.

This is because Ferenstein, being a technology guy, doesn’t get the point of the whole affair. The point is not that these taxi trade groups are really concerned that using apps to hail cabs enables racism (they aren’t), or even that the trade groups’ real motivation is to preserve their business model (that much is obvious). The real point is that the soft tyranny of political correctness has, after being used to great effect and for a very long time to cow anyone of even the mildest of right leanings into submission, come to so terrify the public that every corrupt two-bit hustler in the land (and the NYC taxi industry certainly counts as an example of those) has by now figured out that all they have to do is to shout the magic “R” word, and they’ll get basically everything they want. This is, of course, similar to the way in which advocates of mass immigration, legal and otherwise, have gotten basically everything they wanted via the master stroke of recasting a labor arbitrage and union-busting issue as a race issue.

All this with the New York taxis and the corruption thereof is, then, just a side effect of a larger (and much more concerning) phenomenon. For decades, leftists have loved the word “racist” (and its recently-minted twin, “hate”), because it’s a magic incantation that silences any dissent, shuts down any opposition, and completely relieves them of the responsibility to make their case through facts, logic, and evidence. Just use the magic word, and you can win without having to do any real work. So terrified are people of the magic word that they will do anything to have you not say it, and, if it has been said, will grovel to any degree in order to convince you to retract it. The magic word trumps fact, it trumps science, it trumps reason, it trumps experience, it trumps statistics – it trumps everything.

Of course, it also makes the words “racist” and “hate” into words that have no actual meaning, and thus will eventually lose any legitimate significance or power they may have once had, but who could say no to the use of such a powerful magic word? Nobody, it seems – not even the thuggish crooks who run New York’s taxis.

Well, New Yorkers deserve it. Not all of them, of course, but most of them. New York is one of the most reliably liberal places in the country; thus, what they are getting is simply what they wanted, what they voted for over and over again, and what they endlessly try to nag others into duplicating. You wanted a land where people are so frightened of the prospect of being branded with The Scarlet “R” that they will give in to any demand in order to avoid it, no matter how foolish, immoral, insensible, or corrupt that demand may be? You got it. Now enjoy it as you walk home thirty blocks in the pouring rain at 3AM because you can’t simply use your iPhones to summon a cab, as those in the more sensible parts of the world can. What was it that Pilkington said to Napoleon? Oh, yes: “Serves you right.”

As for me, I don’t believe in magic, which is simply something that fools the weak-minded, and so I’m not afraid of their magic words. That’s the weird thing about magic – once you stop believing in it, it stops having any effect on you.