Stephen Colbert to Uber’s Travis Kalanick: Can you teach me basic economics?

Colbert Travis Kalanick

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert may not be the place where one can find Conan O’Brien-quality humor. It may not be the place where one can find Jimmy Kimmel-quality interviews. It is, however, the best late-night location for viewers who want to find a man who doesn’t understand basic economics.

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick was invited onto The Late Show on Friday for a generally hostile interview. Under the guise of, “Hey, I’m just asking questions!” Colbert treated his “guest” like he does everyone who he’d like to take down a notch. He failed because it’s not a good idea to take on a successful businessman before grasping basic economics.

Colbert: Explain surge pricing to me. Ok, if I’m someplace in say, Australia, and there’s a threat of a terrorist attack, why do prices triple? Is that how we should be treating each other?

Travis Kalanick: Absolutely not.

Colbert: But that happened.

Travis Kalanick: What happens is, when demand outstrips supply, the price comes up in a particular neighborhood or across the city. If it’s in a neighborhood and we see many more people need a car than there are cars available price goes up in that area. The drivers are told. They then go to that place so that more people can get a ride out. Sometimes, something happens in a city. We don’t know what it is. And if it’s an emergency, we basically turn it off because I just think community expectations are — an emergency, major weather events, things like that — we turn it off.

Let us turn to a scenario used by economists like Thomas Sowell. Say there is a hurricane and no power. The demand for flashlights will skyrocket. If the “greedy” store does not raise prices, then rich people (perhaps like Stephen I-brag-about-my-Tesla-car-during-interviews Colbert) are likely to buy many flashlights. Each member of a seven-person family may get a flashlight. If those prices are raised, then it is much more likely that, say, seven different families each buy one flashlight. The flashlights will be allocated much more efficiently. A guy like me, who already has a flashlight, won’t purchase an extra one “just because” I’m there buying water and canned tuna.

On another level, think of what Colbert is saying about how Uber drivers should respond during a terrorist attack (on the anniversary of 9/11, no less). Imagine there is a terrorist attack and you are an Uber driver. In Colbert’s mind (i.e., the mind of a man whose job is to tell jokes in an air-conditioned studio), you would be a jerk for charging more to drive into a life-threatening environment. Guys like Colbert can stand on a moral pedestal precisely because they don’t have to drive cars for money.

The interview continued on (no softball questions for you, Mr. Kalanick), and before long the subject once again turned to insinuating the wealthy businessman is really just looking for ways to exploit his employees until they are no longer necessary.

Colbert: Here’s another thing. I know you talk about how good this is for drivers, but you said you want like self-driving uber cars. That’s not for the driver. That’s just — we’re employing robots at that point. How is that helping … drivers at that point?

Travis Kalanick: Google is doing the driverless thing. Tesla is doing the driverless thing. Apple is doing the driverless thing. This is going to be the world. And so the question for a tech company is, “Do you want to be part of the future, or do you want to resist the future?” And we feel that, in many ways, we want to not be like the taxi industry before us. That’s how we think about it.

Colbert is the type of guy who probably lamented the invention of the internet because the music industry changed and it forced all those Tower Records employees to get a different job and possibly learn a new skill set. Today, however, he probably loves listening to Spotify on demand.

The good thing about The Late Show is that viewers get to see the “real” Stephen Colbert. The downside (for him) is that he can no longer hide his economic ignorance behind false personas.

Rob Schneider: Watch My New Show, Rob! PS: Western Civilization Sucks.

How do you sell a new show to Americans? If you’re Rob Schneider, you go on the radio and admit that the inspiration for “Rob!” never wanted to come here. And then you bash Western Civilization.

Rob Schneider has been trying to resurrect his career for awhile now. In the past he thought taking jabs at Dennis Miller’s conservatism would win him some brownie points with liberal critics. Perhaps it worked, because he was given a shot at his own show, the eponymous “Rob!” While I personally think it’s quite a gamble (to put it nicely) to create a show based on the strength of Rob Schneider’s shoulders, God bless the producer who did.

Rob’s newest strategy for winning over American audiences is to fully disclose that the inspiration for the show, his wife, never really wanted to come here. As a cherry on top, he proffers that Western Civilization was inferior to the Mayans and Aztecs, except in their ability to spread disease. Washington, DC’s Elliot from Elliot In The Morning never threw him a life line, but then why would he? A guest’s stupidity often makes for great radio.

Elliot: I know that in reading about the show they talk about how it’s loosely based on your real life. I don’t believe you ran off and eloped to Vegas, but what’s with your wife’s family—

Rob Schneider: My wife is from Mexico. She came over here on a tourist visa. I was madly in love with her. She didn’t want to get married, to be honest. It’s different than in the show. My wife never saw herself getting married. She loves Mexico more than America. That’s her country. She worked there. She’s given up her culture, her language, her family, her friends, the food. She wasn’t like the people who want to come to America. She never saw that, but she fell in love with me. I talked her into getting married. And we did. We just went off to the courthouse. Some idiot took a picture of me and her on their cellphone, and the next thing you know it’s on the tabloids…

Elliot: One of the clips that I’ve seen, you’re in grandma’s room and you’re straightening the portrait and it falls and there’s all prayer candles underneath. Is that her family?

Rob Schneider: She’s Catholic. They’re very religious. They don’t just believe in Jesus. They also believe in Jesus’ mom. They have the whole Catholic thing going. It’s lovely. There’s a thing about the Mayan and Aztecs, who were just ahead—the most advanced civilization in 1492 was not the Europeans. The Europeans were only advanced in filth and disease. That was their biggest advance… I’m getting way too into this, aren’t I?

Could it be that one of the reasons why Rob’s wife didn’t see why millions of immigrants flock to America every year is because her mind is filled anti-colonialist clap trap?  Why would anyone want to move to America if someone put their brain through the multicultural rinse cycle? Rob probably has some very astute observations about inter-racial marriages, but like his acting career he’s prone to stumbling and bumbling through the delivery. Perhaps at another time I’ll discuss my own inter-racial relationship (and now marriage) just to say I’ve waded through that mine field, but right now it might be best to discuss the so-called superiority of the Aztecs. If Rob wants to play that game, let’s do so.

I’ll refrain from discussing inter-tribal rape, head lice, and infanticide. Instead, I’ll let Dinesh’ D’souza dismantle Rob’s inane argument:

When Cortes captured the Aztec emperor Montezuma and his attendants, he would only permit them temporary release on the promise that they stop their traditional practices of cannibalism and human sacrifice, but he found that “as soon as we turned our heads they would resume their old cruelties.” Aztec cannibalism, writes anthropologist Marvin Harris, “was not a perfunctory tasting of ceremonial tidbits.” Indeed the Aztecs on a regular basis consumed human flesh in a stew with peppers and tomatoes, and children were regarded as a particular delicacy. Cannibalism was prevalent among the Aztecs, Guarani, Iroquois, Caribs, and several other tribes.

Moreover, the Aztecs of Mexico and the Incas of South America performed elaborate rites of human sacrifice, in which thousands of captive Indians were ritually murdered, until their altars were drenched in blood, bones were strewn everywhere, and priests collapsed with exhaustion from stabbing their victims. The law of the Incas provided for punishment of parents and others who displayed grief during human sacrifices. When men of noble birth died, wives and concubines were often strangled and buried with them.

Multicultural textbooks, committed to a contemporary version of the noble savage portrait, cannot acknowledge historical facts that would embarrass the morality tale of white invaders despoiling the elysian harmony of the Americans.

Would you like me to drop another bomb on you, Rob? I probably shouldn’t, since I have the feeling that your show is a big piece of unexploded ordinance sitting on the CBS lot. I wish it wasn’t, but everything in my gut says that the CBS producers sought to fill the void left behind by really bad television shows watched by George Lopez fans.

Oh, and before you accuse me of being the angry, racist white guy stewing in his basement over minority television shows, I have have one thing to say: Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Classic. What kid in the 90’s didn‘t love it? And if that doesn’t convince you, “Yo, Holmes, forget it, I’m off to Bel Air.”