February 11 2014

Kutcher on Entrenched Monopolies and Regulatory Bullying

Abby Schachter

He’s handsome, he’s funny and he’s (finally) dating a woman his own age. But those aren’t the reasons to hail Ashton Kutcher as the best celebrity. He wins the prize because of what he said to Jimmy Kimmel last week. The late-night host asked Kutcher to discuss his many business dealings and in response offered a succinct and important critique of all that is wrong with big government.

Kimmel joked to the audience that Kutcher “owns about three-quarters of the internet” and wanted to know how his technology investments were succeeding. Kutcher responded that he is a partner in an investment firm that finds start-up technologies they want to support. Kimmel then asked Kutcher about one of those investments, an app called Uber, which Kimmel credited with “being a good step toward eliminating drunk driving” (You see girls, Ashton is a dreamy entrepreneur who cares!).

As Kutcher explained it, Uber is simple. “You push a button and a car shows up,” he said, eliminating the need to find a traditional cab because the Uber service uses your phone’s GPS system to find your location and come get you. It also allows the user to be as drunk and incoherent as he likes since he doesn’t need to tell a dispatcher where he is. Kimmel asked if the service was available only in Los Angeles and New York or elsewhere. Kutcher said that it was global, but still couldn’t get into some places.

Kimmel asked Kutcher to describe the problem so Kutcher he did. There’s “only [trouble in] some cities where there’s some old, antiquated legislation that doesn’t allow it to exist there…. [There’s a] Mafioso village mentality of ‘we’re not going to let the new guy in’…in Miami it doesn’t exist because of some dumb regulation that says it can’t exist there. For a while in Denver they couldn’t have…cars there…[W]ith Uber cab or airbnb or any of these new peer-to-peer networks, you have old-school monopolies and incumbents, and old-school governments that get kickbacks from various people that don’t want the new guy to come in so they try to kick them out of their city. But the people are going to have what the people want and the people say they want Uber and the people say they want airbnb.”

When was the last time you’ve heard such a short, pointed critique of entrenched monopolies and regulatory bullying, and from a handsome celebrity? How about never? And this isn’t even the first time that Kutcher has come out with some surprisingly down to earth words of wisdom. His acceptance speech at the Teen Choice awards last year was another prime example.

He had a lot of great things to tell the audience, which was made up of younger fans (as he pointed out when he got up to the stage –“this is the grandpa award”). But his dissertation on opportunity is worth highlighting. He was offering the audience and his fans “insider secrets to keeping your career going” that he said he hoped would help those listening. “I believe opportunity looks a lot like hard work,” Kutcher declared.  (Take that President Obama who is now arguing that people losing their job is actually liberating.) Kutcher continued: “I’ve never had a job in my life that I was better than. I was always just lucky to have a job. And every job I had was a stepping stone to my next job. And I never quit my job until I had my next job. And so opportunities look a lot like work.” He also spoke about generosity, kindness and being sexy and he did it all clearly and with real feeling. He even admitted that Ashton is his middle not first name. It’s Chris.  

Now, it would be wonderful if such pronouncements from the mouth of a celebrity weren’t quite so rare. It would be better if more celebrities who are given a big microphone would more often use it to explain what are, in truth, deeply American values. But given how rare this is, let’s just celebrate our current best celebrity and wish him all the best. Keep it up Chris.

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