Date: June 28, 2016

Brexit, Slovakia, and direct democracy

However unpleasant and undesired the British popular decision to leave is, the post-referendum analyses only confirm the long held EU-wide trends.

In the light of the decades of survey reports shelved in the EU archives, the outcome should not have caught anyone by surprise. The fact that it did, indicates the lack of attention to public opinion expressed by the means of surveys and polls. Local and national experience could have been similarly utilized to avoid repeating the common miscalculation in national strategies which do not address the faltering public interest in politics. The Union has been investing in Eurobarometer surveys for over four decades without actually delivering the message to national governments; and sadly, also without actively committing itself to solving identified problems. Worse, in line with the knowledge collected through polls, misinformed public involvement sprinkled with a pinch of frustration normally has catastrophic longer-term repercussions. The British referendum, power of Robert Fico´s faction stretching over the third consecutive term and penetration of the Slovakian decision-making structures by far-right neonazi party, all illustrate the dark side of neglect of public opinion and subsequent misinformed participation in major decisions.

If sufficient attention had been paid to polls, it would have been clear that on the European scale, most people feel insufficiently informed about what happens in the Union. Low EP election turnouts confirm the survey´s conclusion; lack of knowledge and information on processes and impact on an individual and the country results in one of the two possible scenarios. The first is a neutral attitude towards the Union and related lack of interest in participation due to the uncertainty regarding the individual´s role. The second scenario is the opposition to integration based on circumscribed or misrepresented information and the lack of more in-detail knowledge on internal functioning. The general trend then goes as follows: the more interested the one is in developments unfolding in politics, the more positive attitude towards the Union he harbours. The higher the education he acquired, the more supportive of the EU and further integration he is. This relates not only to better information regarding overall benefits the Union offers to its member states, but more specifically to a personal gain from skills in the larger market. Full-timers are generally more optimistic about the integration prospects. Further, the older the individual is, the less enthusiastic about the whole European project he is likely to be. Local and national political elites influence public opinion and the attitude towards the European Union tends to reflect the one held towards national government.

Finally, media should responsibly fill in the knowledge gap; however, the record of fulfilling the function is rather vague. 

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Uber vs city regulations: Who should win? (an interview with Taylor Millard)

Uber is locked into fierce fights across the country with local governments and its drivers over what its obligations are under regulations. Uber argues that it is an innovative company that local governments and established taxi companies want to bully. Local governments argue that Uber isn’t abiding by regulations that ensure safety and fair competition.

The fights are happening in cities across America and countries across the world. Uber and Lyft have pulled out of Austin, Texas over a rule that doesn’t exempt their drivers from mandatory fingerprints and background checks. Uber and Lyft drivers in San Francisco will be required to maintain business licenses, at a cost of $91 per year, and abide by vehicle inspections. Uber argues its drivers are independent contractors, but some of the drivers are taking part in a class action suit arguing that they are employees, which would require Uber to provide them greater benefits.

Taylor Millard, a blogger for HotAir.com, host of the Saturday Night Cigar Lounge show, and critic of the racist pro-Trump “#Cuckservative” movement, wrote about the controversy these new economy apps are facing in California and criticized the local governments for what he viewed as heavy-handed overregulation.

The government shouldn’t have so much personal information about drivers and Airbnb users, some of which is publicly available online, he argued. Furthermore, these regulations are just to help protect politically-connected incumbents taxi industry, he wrote:

It’s pretty obvious why both San Francisco and Los Angeles want to do this: money. For San Francisco, it’s a chance to get around $3.3M total from Uber and Lyft drivers a year. It also provides protection for the taxi cab industry which is seeing its rates decline because of Uber and Lyft’s popularity. By protecting the taxi cab industry, the politicians make sure their own campaign accounts stay full. Los Angeles could reap in plenty of cash from their own hotel tax for affordable housing, while also protecting those massive Hilton and Marriott hotels strewn across the city. It’s the perfect set up for both cities to get their monetary cake and eat it too.

I wanted to get to know better the conservative position on Uber and regulations, so I asked him. After all, Republicans have mentioned Uber as an issue on which to try to appeal to millennials, and they have a “Support Uber” petition on its website. But what kind of regulation, if any, should Uber face? So I asked Millard. Here is our email interview:

Mitchell Blatt: If taxi companies and licensed hotels have to abide by one set of regulations, that require them, for example, to purchase insurance and pay occupancy taxes, but Uber and Airbnb (and other such companies) don’t have to abide by those regulations, would that be fair competition?

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