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AirBnb

New York City has an Office of Special Enforcement that spends 95% of its time investigating rentals for possible violation of state and local laws — many of which are arranged on websites like AirBnb, Bloomberg reports. And the hotel industry and labor groups are only too eager to help, hiring their own private investigators to rat out AirBnb hosts who flout a ban on short-term sublets.

Why it matters: These self-styled rental vigilantes are just one example of how incumbent industries are leveraging state and local regulators to resist competition from online upstarts and emergent technologies. In other cases, taxi interests have helped ban Uber in places like Nevada, and utilities have worked to stop the spread of rooftop solar panels for residential real estate.

Are these tactics legitimate? The anti-solar campaigns by utilities appear to be naked attempts to buy protection from competition from regulators, but other such efforts seem to have more merit. As the Yale Law & Policy Review puts it, "The short-term rental sector, for example, thrives in the shadow of land-use regulation that . . . restricts supply, drives up costs, and segregates housing from employment and amenities."

  • In other words, a company like Airbnb profits by offering suppliers and customers a way to avoid onerous regulation. In some cases, they force a public discussion about the legitimacy of commercial regulations.

All politics is local: There will be no uniform solution. Along with other hot-button issues like police reform and educational access, this debate will unfold differently in different corners of the U.S. and the world.

Go deeper

10,000 trees near giant sequoia groves to be removed after fires

A firefighter looks up at a giant sequoia tree after fire burned through the Sequoia National Forest near California Hot Springs, California, on Sept. 23. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

"Upwards of" 10,000 trees near giant sequoia groves have been "weakened by drought, disease, age, and/or fire" and must be removed in the wake of California's wildfires, the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks announced.

Why it matters: The damage to these trees, considered "national treasures," and work to remove them means a nearby key highway must remain closed to visitors as they have "the potential to strike people, cars, other structures, or create barriers to emergency response services," per a statement from the national parks.

Obama stumps for McAuliffe, urges Virginians not "to go back to the chaos"

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Former President Barack Obama framed a Nov. 2 gubernatorial race as a bellwether for the Democratic Party and the country, telling a crowd at a campaign event for Terry McAuliffe on Saturday that "I believe you, right here in Virginia, are going to show the rest of the country and the world that we're not going to indulge in our worst instincts."

Why it matters: With just over a week to go before Election Day in the Commonwealth, McAuliffe is bringing out the big guns. The 44th president appeared on the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University to urge supporters to get to the polls.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Axios AM Deep Dive: America’s murder surge

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images

Homicides rose at the fastest rate in at least six decades last year. This Axios AM Deep Dive, led by Future correspondent Bryan Walsh, looks at the state of gun crime.