Public policy needs to evolve with society, not maintain former status quos

By | April 18, 2014

Public policy needs to evolve with society, not maintain former status quos

Dear governments around the world, and especially Belgium's,

this is not the way to deal with innovation. Technology can and inevitably will bring benefit to society. It's your job to make sure that the way it does so is in interests of your people, making daily life more comfortable and raising their standards of living, while creating an environment fostering innovation in all industries. Blocking innovation doesn't do that. Blocking innovation to retain and revitalize business models that lack the flexibility to adapt, and where the owning companies refuse to innovate themselves, does not achieve that goal.

The long-term repercussions are fatal for your economy; the short-term repercussions are annoyance to your citizens. This doesn't sound like a very good political strategy to me. But what do I know, as much as I'd like to think that Germany and Belgium share a number of common cultural points in terms of how we value and wish to maintainthe modern infrastructure and conveniences that we currently enjoy, perhaps Belgium is so different from the rest of Europe?

Thank you for reading,, and I hope you reconsider.

Reshared post from +Eric Prenen

Idiocy rulez…

14 thoughts on “Public policy needs to evolve with society, not maintain former status quos

  1. Sophie Wrobel

    +Christopher Cooke +Timo Linsenmaier , I agree that intentionally breaking laws is not the way to go about innovation. But I also think that we need pressure in the economy to force monopolies to begin to innovate.

    Banning technology, in general, is a bad political tactic: it paints the party imposing the ban in a bad light. (Repeated) significant fines tend to paint the party receiving the fine in a bad light, unless they are unjustly levied – by significant I mean enough that fines are not just accepted as 'the cost of doing business' and calculated into the cost model from the beginning onwards. But this is all rather difficult to determine, and I personally think that it is more important that the message that ends up says to the public, 'We do not tolerate assholes who don't want to talk and still want to have their way,' and not 'We are a country that hates new inventions.'

  2. Timo Linsenmaier

    +Sophie Wrobel, +Benjamin Vigier said it well in his comment, this is not about innovation in general, but about Uber trying to replace one monopoly with another – there's a good discussion about that here: Don't get me wrong, as a customer, I like the way Uber functions, and I've used it; in addition, taxis in Brussels could do with better service – but regulation is there for a reason, if only to protect the drivers, who are decidedly the weakest part in this. Yes, going to court might appear ham-fisted, but given Uber's reputation for not negotiating with local authorities, it might be their only way. Let's hope that there'll be a compromise that benefits both consumers and Uber's workforce.

  3. Tiago Silveira

    Christopher, do you believe these municipalities are entitled this income source, and do you think this is the best income source they have, considering it is also their job to provide transportation to every citizen?

  4. Christopher Cooke

    I'm not really sure I see how Uber's repeated insistence at breaking local laws is an evolution of anything besides ways to operate without a license and/or evade taxation.  I suppose it's a new way to avoid legal responsibility for the actions of their drivers.  I guess it's also a fun new way to funnel money out of the local economy and into another California based corporation's pockets.

    I have absolutely no sympathy for Uber in this.  They're not the little, righteous mavricks that people keep painting them out to be.  They're a multi-billion dollar entity that is earning a large portion of that fortune by denying cash strapped municipalities a major source of their income.

  5. Francois Demers

    The image is misleading as it paints a possible future scenario +Gary Myers. However, what really happened is one decision by one city's commercial court, and only about UberPop. I could not find anything about Airbnb or the others illustrated.

  6. Gary Myers

    I can see uber and airbnb tread a tricky line between business and personal use, and might need to be regulated as businesses. Can't see the issue for WhatsApp and can't see any indication it is banned.

  7. Francois Demers

    A commercial court banned the ride-sharing service UberPop. That would mean someone took Uber to court. That would be licensed taxi drivers or, more likely, fleet owners… City commercial court judgements are not the same as laws and this one can be appealed or laws amended.
    In the end, this is between a commercial lobby and passengers (clients and voters) in one city, correct?
    Hardly a case against an entire country's policy on innovation. Just vote it away in the next municipal election or start a class action now.

  8. Frank Nestel

    Actually it is an act of evolution if different countries take different paths and speeds to approach technical progress. This way we can later see, who fared better. Not checking these alternatives and given that the attention span of modern politics is below 4 years, we'd have no way to rationally adopt innovation.

  9. Benjamin Vigier

    +Syed Asif Ali, from what I could understand, the target is UberPop, not Uber as a whole.

    The reason being that in Brussels, the local government imposed very strict rules to taxi drivers (special odometers, color and range of the vehicle, working permits and standards …).
    The authorities argue that letting any individual use his personal car to 'do taxi jobs' without having all these constraints would be unfair competition toward taxi drivers.
    They also argued (from what I read) that this would enable people to work without being declared and paying taxes and proper insurance, which would put the customers at risk.

    Most of these points seem valid and should indeed be a base for discussion, but the problem here is the local authorities conception of 'discussion' which basically equates to  "shoot first, ask questions later". 

    Brussels need a refreshing in its taxi offering, there's no doubt about that, and Uber may be a solution. There should be a broader debate (at least this is what I feel, viewed from Flanders).

  10. Ninja On Rye

    I've often wondered if the general global playing field helps iron out such wrinkles.
    For example, if one countries bans all genetic modifications on the basis that it could have harmful consequences, and another country does not, the repercussions after 6 months are not likely great.  But the repercussions after 10 years will be.  

    The judgment comes from how a country is positioned relative to others, for without alternative paths we have little to use for comparison.
    The downsides come when other countries end up compelled down the path of others (a country ends up sanctioned or otherwise penalised by other countries for its own choices), and that making poor choices (forbidding or suppressing certain technology or innovation segments) have, as you say, serious long term consequences for the country that are not trivial to recover from.


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