Tron’s protagonist, Sam Flynn, goes looking for his dad, whodisappeared twenty years previous. In the course of his search Sam gets sucked into the same computer his father was and finds a society of programs represented in human form. This society is ruled over by CLU, a program created by Sam’s father to create the “perfect” society. This includes destroying defective programs, and making dissident programs fight each other in brutal death matches.
When Sam Flynn finally does find his father, Kevin Flynn, he learns that CLU had turned on his own creator because they had different ideas of what constituted “perfection”. Kevin explains that at one point certain programs had spontaneously generated. Kevin grew to see this a a miracle whereas his creation CLU saw them as an imperfection. Kevin learned what many libertarians already know, that “perfection” is not the forceful implementation of any one man’s vision, but is the order that spontaneously occurs when people can interact voluntarily. Any time someone endeavors to use force to mold the world into their version of perfection, this miraculous, spontaneous order must be crushed. Such a dynamic is ubiquitous in the world around us. One poignant example is the conflict between traditional taxi companies and ride sharing companies like Lyft and Uber.
For those new to Lyft and Uber, they are apps that help to connect people willing to give rides at a competitive rate and people wanting rides. The company takes a percentage of the cost of the ride, but the driver ends up with usually 80% of the rider’s fare. After the ride drivers rate passengers and passengers rate drivers. Only drivers with average ratings of 4.0 out of five or higher are allowed to continue driving to ensure high quality.
Before ride sharing companies Taxi companies in most locations benefited from elevated fares due to entry barriers. The most infamous of these barriers is New York’s Medallion system. In order to operate a taxi in New York you must purchase a medallion from the city, and you can only do that after winning a lottery for the opportunity to purchase one. Since the supply of the medallions is limited, this restricts the supply of taxis and raises the cost of fares. With artificially elevated fares, the value of medallions is high and has been as high, at one point, as one million dollars.
Since Uber and Lyft started operating in 2012 many people preferred these ride sharing companies to traditional taxi companies. The ride sharing companies, stating that they are not a traditional taxi service and therefore not subject to the medallion regulation started operation and offered lower costs and better service than the traditional taxis simply by virtue of their rating system. The taxi companies responded by lowering their fares to try to recapture their market share that had been lost to Uber and Lyft, but with the lowering of fares also came a crash in the value of the NYC Taxi Medallion. Currently the price of a Taxi Medallion is only speculative since sales of the medallions have all but ceased. The taxis, and the city council, had thought that they had come up with a perfect system, but a simple technological advance such as peer-to-peer ride sharing sounded the death knell for the Taxi oligopoly.
Much like CLU in Tron: Legacy the Taxi Industry fought the rise of ride sharing companies like Uber, and Lyft, and in some places, like Las Vegas, they succeeded in prohibiting ride sharing. Unlike CLU, the taxi companies became comfortable and unconcerned about any potential competition due to their politically enforced entry barriers. Ride sharing companies started operating in a legal grey-area and through superior service and prices were able to win over powerful advocates in both their drivers and passengers. In most areas when politicians tried to move against these companies their constituencies provided a sharp political backlash and despite the deep connections of the taxi industry in cities like Chicago, and New York, it was politically impossible to stop the ride sharing companies from operating.
This is one of Tron: Legacy’s true moral lessons, that order that needs to commanded and maintained by force, is no match to the power, and beauty of spontaneously occurring order.