by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Those who’ve been following recent developments surrounding the company called Uber might appreciate this blurb from the latest issue of National Review.
In London, Madrid, Milan, Paris, and Berlin, taxi drivers went on strike in June, parking their cars in city centers and snarling traffic to protest Uber, the car-sharing app that is undermining the position of the taxi cartels. Not the smartest people in the world, these taximen: In London, Uber sign-ups were up eightfold during the strike, because nobody could get a cab. And that is the problem in miniature: Taxi licensure is designed to serve the interests not of consumers but of taxi companies, by, among other things, keeping new competitors out of the market and preventing price competition. Here at home, the State of Virginia has ordered Uber, Lyft, and other similar companies to cease operations, but it is not even clear that the taxi regulators have the authority to do any such thing: The companies are not taxi services. Uber, insisting that its service is legal, is rolling past attempts to ban it. As the firm’s founder explains: “There’s been so much corruption and so much cronyism in the taxi industry, and so much regulatory capture, that if you ask permission upfront for something that’s already legal, you’ll never get it.” The regulators would do better to accommodate themselves to the new technology rather than fight it — and to remember whose interests they allege to serve.