Today's appearance by Jeb Bush at the national Urban League conference is a fine opportunity to circle back to the flap earlier this month about limiting the ride-sharing service Uber in New York City. Facing off against Mayor de Blasio, Uber attracted support from celebrities including supermodel Kate Upton and NY1 political anchor Errol Louis.
At the Urban League conference, Mr. Bush talked about charter schools, but not about Uber. It was a fine speech, but connecting the two issues has the potential to make an even bigger, stronger point.
The big idea here for Mr. Bush or some other candidate to latch on to is that Uber and charter schools are both disruptive, market-oriented phenomena that benefit, and are popular with, minorities and the poor. Ms. Upton got it when she Tweeted, "Why do you want to return to days when only those in Midtown & Lower Manhattan could get a ride?" Mr. Louis wrote about how would-be Uber customers were being treated by the mayor: "ignored and stranded and waving from the sidelines like a black man trying hail a cab uptown."
A new non-profit news site focused on education, The Seventy Four, linked Uber and charter schools together in one post by Derrell Bradford. He traced the similarities in the tactics that Mayor de Blasio used to oppose both Uber and charter schools, which Mr. Bradford called, "opposite sides of the same disruptive, empowering coin." One is transportation freedom, the other is education freedom.
At the website of the American Enterprise Institute, Mark Perry drew a similar parallel. "Progressives seem to trust the heavy hand of government force more than they trust the invisible hand of market, they have more faith in regulated monopolies/cartels (e.g. Big Taxi, public schools) than market competition (Uber, charter schools), and in general favor government solutions and government force over market solutions and voluntary exchange. Or put differently, progressives don't believe in the magic or miracle of the marketplace, they don't trust the market and have instead learned to subjugate themselves to the power of the state, with its volumes of liberty-crushing regulations and armies of regulators," he wrote.
Mr. Bush did write about ride-sharing in a LinkedIn post: "Big government liberals fundamentally can't embrace digital innovation because it threatens the way they govern. They see car-sharing services as a threat to the local government taxi cab cartels. They see food trucks and Airbnb as a threat to urban planning and the tax and fee racket that they've imposed on brick and mortar restaurants and hotels. It's no wonder that under President Obama, they've chosen to regulate the Internet using a law from the 1930s. Regulation is all they know and they've been using the same playbook for decades. I've got a different view on things, and a different approach. I don't mind disrupting the established order."
Good for Mr. Bush.
There's been a long and incorrect assumption that markets just work for the rich and upper-middle class, while minorities and the poor need a heavily regulated, command-and-control, central planning approach. But Uber and charter schools both appeared to win in high-profile political showdowns with the far-left mayor of New York City. Perhaps that shows an increasing awareness that markets can work for everyone, and that the command-and-control approach has failed to bring results.
In other words, the idea that markets work for minorities has spread from the province of a few exceptionally brilliant intellectuals like Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, Clarence Thomas, and Jason Riley to a much larger group of charter school parents and Uber customers. That's good news, and it has potential political consequences that extend far beyond the borders of New York City.
One final related point (or series of related points): the news today that hedge fund manager John Paulson and his wife gave $8.5 million to the Success Academy charter school network in New York run by Eva Moskowitz underscores some of the mechanics of the way that charter schools and Uber are succeeding.
Both use technology. The smartphone makes Uber possible. When Ms. Moskowitz showed me around a Success Academy charter school in Harlem, one of the things I observed was children using computers for "assessments" that measured progress and identified areas where more work was needed by both teachers and students.
Both use measurement. At Uber, there's the five-star rating of driver and passenger — "five for five" reciprocity, in the best case. At Success Academy and other high-performing charter schools, there's a focus on achieving excellent results on standardized tests.
Both use financial incentives. The better charter schools attract more high-dollar donors and can offer better facilities and higher pay to educators. Uber's "surge pricing" helps to get more drivers on the street on New Year's Eve or a rainy rush-hour. In contrast, the standardized pricing of the Taxi and Limousine Commission blocks the Hayekian transmission of information via prices. A central school bureaucracy that allocates ordinary public schools the same amount of money, lock-step, regardless of their performance is another way to prevent price signals from working.
Anyway, this will be one to watch closely going forward. Stay tuned.