The Agenda

The Surge Pricing Controversy

Recently, the social transit start-up Uber sparked a great deal of anger and resentment over its “surge pricing” strategy. To guarantee the availability of vehicles on demand, the service dramatically increases prices during periods of high demand, like New Year’s Eve, etc., in popular, dense cities. Uber has done a good job of explaining its reasoning, in my view. Either you use surge pricing or you simply tell customers that cars are not available even at a high price that at least some of them are willing to pay, which is really strange. Brendan Mulligan offers an alternative: he suggests that a clearer indication of what exactly surge pricing entails would help mitigate some of the frustration.

This minor dust-up serves as a reminder of the embeddedness of economic transactions. People feel as though Uber was taking advantage of them, despite the fact that the service leapt in to fill the void created by an overregulated taxi marketplace. One is reminded of Michael Munger’s critique of anti-gouging laws and, more broadly, his work on euvoluntary exchange.  

Relatedly, Munger links to a really thought-provoking essay by the democratic socialist philosopher Michael Walzer on the ethics of competition — it is one of the best critiques of market I’ve ever read, partly because it is so subtle and intelligent. Other critics of the market could learn a thing or two from Walzer. But they probably won’t. 

Reihan Salam is president of the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of National Review.

Most Popular


How States Like Virginia Go Blue

So this is what it feels like to live in a lab experiment. As a native Virginian, I’ve watched my state come full circle. The last time Democrats enjoyed the amount of power in the Old Dominion that they won on Tuesday, I was entering middle school in Fairfax County. In 1993 the governor was a Democrat, one ... Read More
Books, Arts & Manners

Why Study Latin?

Oxford professor Nicola Gardini urges people to read and study Latin. He believes that Latin is the antidote for the modern age, which seems transfixed by the spontaneous, the easy, and the ephemeral. His new book, Long Live Latin: The Pleasures of a Useless Language, argues that Latin combines truth and ... Read More