Until I talked to Sen. Marco Rubio this afternoon, I had no idea you couldn’t buy a Tesla in New Jersey, the best sunscreen isn’t even on the market in America, or that Miami Dade County, Florida has a taxicab crisis.
Rubio spoke at Uber headquarters in Washington, DC today (read Alex Pappas’ report here), and I caught up with him over the phone after his speech. (If you’re not familiar with Uber, it’s a smart phone app that connects you with a driver “at the click of a button.” Of course, like many innovations, incumbents aren’t thrilled about the new kid in town. And in places like Miami-Dade, onerous regulations are helping the incumbent taxicab industry keep them out.)
The company’s travails provide a case study for someone like Rubio who is looking to persuade tech-savvy young people — who tend to be politically progressive — that free markets encourage innovation, while onerous regulation can stifle it. Rubio says that he was teaching a course at Florida International University recently, when he used Uber as an example that “connects the dots between policy and real life.”
So much of conservative economics is abstract that it’s helpful to have an example that hits home with students who are fans of the service (or might even be interested in starting their own app in a garage some day). “First we explain the real life impact innovation has on our lives,” Rubio said, “and then we give an example of how big government stifles innovation.”
According to Rubio, most people believe “we need big government to protect the little guy,” but the case of Uber demonstrates to young people how “big government — more often than not — is an impediment to the guy who is striving.”
Rubio also cites this as an example of how some businesses use government regulations to destroy competition. “Imagine if Blackberry had been able to use regulations to keep down smart phones,” he averred. “Imagine if Blockbuster had been allowed to use regulations to keep down Netflix.”