Housing Complex

Introducing the Ubertarian

uberAppearing this morning on NewsTalk with Bruce Depuyt to discuss the latest controversy surrounding the car service Uber, my colleague Perry Stein made inadvertent reference to "Ubertarians," before correcting her tongue slip to "libertarian." Her subconscious was onto something. D.C. is home to a growing and curious breed, progressive young professionals who bemoan the city's income inequality one instant and approach a black limo the next, asking "Are you my Uber?"; who condemn the government for under-regulating the banks and for over-regulating businesses and developers; who lament the decline of American labor but wish the teachers' union didn't have so much power in D.C. schools.

Who are these Ubertarians? Here are a few characteristics they share:

1. They support government regulation—except when it inconveniences themClamping down on the big banks? Yes, please. Tighter safety standards? Love 'em. Restrictions on app-based taxi competitors, or on the number of bars or restaurants in their neighborhood? An outrageous imposition on the free market!

2. They love public transit, especially the not-so-public kind. Build new Metro lines! Add more bike lanes! Create dedicated bus lanes! Except riding the bus is so slow sometimes. Better whip out the iPhone and hail an Uber. Thank God for car-free living.

3. They hate meddlesome neighbors, but will eagerly meddle themselves when riled up. The local Advisory Neighborhood Commission is opposing new development in the neighborhoods? Myopic NIMBYs! they cry. What's that? A liquor license moratorium is up for consideration? Time to pay their first visit to the ANC, and start an online petition while they're at it.

4. They vote Democratic, but they kind of love Pat Mara. Don't confuse the Ubertarians for libertarians—they're as bleeding-heart as the next Washingtonian. But they're born contrarians, which can be congitively dissonant in deep-blue D.C. So when a chance comes up to vote for a progressive, gay-rights Republican and stick it to the knee-jerk liberal, over-regulating D.C. establishment, they'll jump at the opportunity. Take note, potential mayoral candidate and former (progressive, gay-rights) Republican David Catania....

5. They hate the Height Act. Government regulation that hinders the free market and makes housing less affordable to the poor? It's an Ubertarian's nightmare. Scrap it altogether, and while we're at it, get rid of zoning, too. Cities are built on density and money, not viewsheds and sunlight.

Got any more traits to add to the Ubertarian archetype? Share 'em in the comments.

Photo from Flickr user Adam Fagen

  • SEis4ME

    WOW Aaron, you've outdone yourself here by highlighting the walking contradictions many of those w/in the group you mentioned...fit.

    I wish I would add more to it but you've done a pretty good job yourself.

  • Ari

    Meh. It's fine to point out the hypocrisy of calling for better public transit but not really working for it because you feel like you can afford Uber. But the question isn't about taxis vs buses. Why is it too much to ask for both extensive public transport and a pleasant experience for the occasional taxi ride? I don't like Uber because it's "disruptive" and that gives me some sort of delusion of being edgy and daring. I like it because drivers are courteous and they actually show up when requested, via my phone, which I also use to check my email, remind myself of my grocery list, and other totally mundane things that everyone with a smartphone does. I don't use it much because it's very expensive. So are cabs, which is why good public transit is necessary for the vast majority of trips. Why is the answer reduced to "accept that taxis are unpleasant" or "give up, get a car, and leave it parked on the street most of the time"?

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  • J

    Im for Uber services and My taxi because of pure convenience - they show up SUPER FAST. Regular cabs and sedans you end up waiting forever or dealing with unsavory characters half the time or drivers who refuse credit card payments. Whats the point of adding credit card machines and then berate me for wanting to use it?

  • http://Www.DCLibertarians2014.blogspot.com Bruce Majors, Libertarian for Mayor

    Actually one suspects the Ubertarians are reacting to the self-contradictions of the political class, including WCP editors and their political co-religionists. They know it's why DC can't have nice things - in DC one group wants to regulate or outlaw nightlife because it's noisy, and another wants to outlaw tall buildings. But if you have tall buildings, you can either live high away from street noise, or let bars be sky bars you can't hear below.

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