The Labour Party. Never happier than when telling us what we can and can't do, making decisions for us - for our own good, of course - and generally poking their noses into every tiny aspect of our lives. The latest attempt to butt into our business comes courtesy of Shadow Transport Secretary Mary Creagh, she of the 'sexist Thomas the Tank Engine furore, who has weighed into the row between London's cab drivers and the operators of driver hire app Uber.
No surprise that Creagh has backed the - heavily unionised - taxi drivers who loath the app. Creagh's argument is that apps like Uber must fit into the UK's regulatory framework. It's the left's favourite theme when it comes to the sharing economy: regulation first, reality last.
Dean Baker of The Guardian displayed this attitude in a recent article in which he lamented the potential impact of Uber on taxi drivers' wages and stated that Uber and apartment-rental company AirBnB are 'facilitating rip-offs'. His solution? More taxes, more regulation.
Declaration: I love AirBnB. My partner and I recently had a wonderful holiday in New York, staying in an apartment off Columbus Circle that we found through AirBnB. It was way cheaper than any hotel, far more private and personal and a much, much better way to immerse ourselves in the life of the city. Yet the New York Attorney General has been hounding AirBnB for the details of its hosts in the city, looking to hunt down people running 'illegal hotels'. In San Francisco, AirBnB is facing a near-as-damn-it ban, threatened by two initiatives that would severely curtail those 'allowed' to share their home for cash. Not coincidentally, both cities suffer from overwhelmingly left-wing local government.
The left just can't help themselves; they've never met a special interest group they didn't like. I've no doubt that taxi drivers hate Uber and that hoteliers think AirBnB hosts are threats to their business. I've also no doubt that the sharing economy does not 'fit into the UK's regulatory framework', because that framework is designed to protect precisely the sort of powerful vested interests that the sharing economy is confronting.
The word 'cartel' is defined as 'an association of manufacturers or suppliers with the purpose of maintaining prices at a high level and restricting competition', a definition that perfectly fits the taxi industry in many parts of the UK and elsewhere, where the number of new entrants is artificially limited and tariffs almost universally charged at the higher end of the scales set by licensing authorities. No wonder they're afraid of Uber, which puts the passenger quite squarely first.
What's clear is that it's not the sharing economy that's at fault, but rather the very regulatory framework the left is scrambling to uphold. It is old and out-of-date, designed for a world where consumers had no other choice but to be fleeced by groups with strong political pull.
The sharing economy changes all that. We now have a choice. We can choose to utilise our assets by offering to share our car or our apartment, we can choose to take up that offer - after reflecting, like adults do, on the pros and cons of so doing.
Transactions in the sharing economy are voluntary, mutually beneficial and, through reviews and recommendations, largely self-regulating. We don't need licensing committees cross-examining would-be Uber drivers, or teams of inspectors poking around AirBnB hosts' apartments. We're perfectly capable of making our own decisions, but Mary Creagh and the rest of the nannying left think otherwise.
What a surprise.