To Courtney, With Love

Dear Courtney,

In the last few days, you have become an icon in France. Sure, you were already an icon: you are passionate, unconventional, and provocative. We, the French, like to think of ourselves as all of that, and more.

So, Courtney, when you landed in Paris last Thursday, you should have felt at home. Instead you were hit right in the face - almost literally - with conservatism.

When the car you were travelling in was targeted by angry taxi drivers, you were probably still a little groggy from a long flight. You were, I can imagine, totally unaware of the feud which had erupted in and around the streets of Paris.

You were scared. You were outraged. You were asking how the French authorities could let this happen. In that instant, you became one of us. #JesuisCourtney became a popular hashtag on Twitter. Your fiery tweets translated what we were all feeling, watching these taxi drivers throwing a massive tantrum to hang on to their privileges.

You see, Courtney, taxis are what we call in France a "regulated profession". Put simply, the public authorities limit the number of taxis allowed to circulate in French cities. Taxi drivers are required to have a "license", which they will usually purchase from a fellow taxi driver who has decided to cease her or his activity. These licenses are rare. On what has paradoxically become anything but a regulated market, they are today very costly.

So when Uber and other private driver companies came along, taxi drivers felt threatened. To a certain extent, their fears were - and still are - understandable. They have put in a lot of effort and invested a lot of cash to be authorized to drive around French cities with a taxi sign on their car roof.

Uber was the designated enemy last Thursday. There are definite grey areas which need to be addressed, so Uber can adapt to the French legal system - in particular regarding social security contributions. And this issue has not only arisen in France. But there is a much deeper issue, beyond Uber: France needs to adapt to the new world.

A French law passed a few months ago actually prohibits Uber's UberPop service which links clients to non-professionals who use their own private car as a taxi. The only reaction from the French government to last Thursday's madness was a reinforcement of the taxi police to track down UberPop drivers.

France needs to let go of the excessive regulation in the taxi sector. Lack of competition means that today there are not enough taxis in French cities. In New York, you simply need to wave your hand and before you know it you are whizzing around Manhattan. In Paris, any Parisian - and indeed any tourist - will tell you how difficult it is to find a taxi at any time of the day, let alone at night. Added to that, taxi drivers have a reputation - which to me is a bit of a sweeping and unfair generalization - of being rude, sneaky when it comes to choosing the itinerary or meddling with the taximeter.

Some sort of compensation should be sorted out for those taxi drivers who have had to buy a license. But, Uber or not, it is about leaving behind the old world, embracing freedom and welcoming the rise of the sharing economy.

The economy will gain from this. Employment as well. Consumers will have a better service. And yes, Courtney, we will be able to welcome you again, properly, without any bruises or bashes.

We were a little hurt when you called on the American authorities to ban all travel to France. But you spoke up for us on Thursday. And although we can be grumpy and arrogant at times, we are usually soft-hearted when it comes to forgiving provocation.

So please don't give up on France! To you, to your fellow American citizens, we want to say: we love you and we want you back! If you could just stop spying on our Presidents, we would be very grateful. But we love you nonetheless.