As a writer who is focused on young people’s financial rights, the recent decision by Transport for London to suspend Uber’s license to operate in the capital presented me with an ethical quandary.
Do I support Uber, which has given cash-strapped millennials a cheaper and more convenient way to get from A to B? Or do I support TFL’s decision to crack down on a firm which seems to have exploitation and dirty tricks baked into their entire business model?
As you can probably infer from my strident language, I went for option B.
Now, don’t worry, this ISN’T going to turn into a “why I hate Uber” blog that you’ve read a million times elsewhere. You know the arguments for and against, and who cares what I think anyway?
But writing the Young Money Blog has forced me to face up to how individual financial decisions feed into our economy. Ghandi’s exhortation to “be the change you want to see in the world” never seems more apt than when you’re deciding which companies you want to give your hard-earned cash to.
So when I logged onto Facebook after Uber-gate, I expected to see a few mentions of the decision, mostly in favour of TFL’s attempts to bridle a firm accused of everything from tax avoidance to misogynistic corporate culture.
Yet DOZENS of my friends were sharing links to the official petition launched by Uber to save its own skin. Highly educated, seemingly principled and politically aware…all desperate to keep Uber operating in London. How did this happen?
It’s the Pandora’s Box problem. Once the authorities allowed Uber to start preying on a vulnerable section of the workforce and pandering to consumers’ expectations of what a taxi service “ought” to cost, the situation became intractable very quickly.
And Uber skilfully manipulated young Londoners to believe cheap taxis late at night are somehow an unassailable human right, and that any company offering such a vast leap forward in mankind’s pursuit of leisure can and should be above the law.