Liberals Love Monopoly Taxis
By: Michael R. Shannon
Many DC–area residents have a taxi story. Few have happy endings. Mine occurred on a very rainy day at Union Station. I’d been shuffling along in an endless taxi line when my turn finally arrived. The cab pulls up and fortunately I happened to glance inside before I entered.
The cab’s vinyl–covered backseat was already occupied by a puddle of rainwater. A situation like this is a win–win for the cab driver: He gets a fare and my pants soak up the wet spot. It’s harder so see an advantage for the passenger.
Since DC taxis operate under a regime of rules and regulations my role as a cog in this vast machine was to get in the cab, let my BVDs absorb the water and beseech the authorities to rectify this injustice to my private parts at a later date.
But I’m a conservative, so I asked the driver to wipe the seat.
He replied, “Get in the cab.”
I asked if paper towels had been invented in his country and he replied, “Get in the cab.”
Peer pressure began to rear its ugly head. Line dwellers pressing up behind me wondered why I didn’t get in the dang cab. What’s more, the petty line bureaucrat was holding the door open and motioning me inside.
Further negotiation with the driver appeared pointless. Instead, I decided to try a market–based solution. Taking this cab and getting to my destination sooner was not worth riding like a frog in a puddle, so I asked the rider behind me if he wanted the cab. Evidently worries about mold growing in places that are hard to reach were less for him than myself, so he took the taxi. I took the next one, which featured a dry seat.
Citizens are competent to conduct transportation market transactions like this without government intervention, yet in DC liberals are not only increasing taxi regulation, they are aping policies that have been proven to be monopolistic and anti–consumer in other cities.
Mayor Vincent Gray (D–What, Me Worry?) and Council member Mary Cheh (D–Serious, Intellectual Glasses) want to establish a taxi monopoly by instituting a medallion system. This would limit the 10,672 licensed cabdrivers and 116 cab companies to only 4,000 medallions, stifling future competition and guaranteeing higher prices.
The medallion system in New York and Boston has proven a windfall for medallion owners and a disaster for competition. The last medallion sale in NYC went for $1 million each. In Boston the average price is $400,000. Both prices are in indication of artificial market scarcity created by government.
As part of the medallion package, DC would impose vehicle age and mileage limits, while offering the ability to pay with a credit card — something that has been possible in Las Vegas for years — but there is no mention of installing paper towel racks.
Cabs would also be limited to a single color, white in the esteemed Ms. Cheh’s opinion, while potentially adding a surcharge to each fare so the customer can pay for the politician’s “improvements.”
This is why liberal government is so expensive. There is simply no area of life or color scheme that the progressive mind does not think it can improve with a few laws and subsequent regulation.
The question is: why is government involved at all? Medallion systems and cab commissions protect existing businesses and generate campaign contributions at the expense of the public. This latest taxi legislation only proves the DC council is incapable of embarrassment, since the last time it was discussed a staffer for Council member Jim Graham (D–Bribe, What Bribe?) went to jail for soliciting bribes from cab companies that would benefit from the bill.
The federal government deregulated the airline industry over 30 years ago and ticket prices are lower now than in the 70’s. (Of course this also made it possible for people who wear pajamas in public to fly, but you take the good with the bad.) Bus companies are competing on the DC to NYC route and fares have never been lower and the buses vie with each other to offer more passenger amenities, without design help from Ms. Cheh.
Government doesn’t need to set fares, limit cab numbers or pick the color. All that’s required is a background check and exam for drivers, vehicle safety inspection rules, a requirement that fares (determined by the company) be clearly visible on the door of the cab and a reasonable number of inspectors. The market can handle the rest.
Is something like this possible? Can we ever prevent government from meddling in areas it isn’t needed?
It just so happens I have an idea. Make it illegal for candidates to accept campaign contributions from any industry that’s operations are substantially regulated by the office they seek.
I think we would soon see a tidal wave of deregulation.
Michael R. Shannon is a public relations and advertising consultant with corporate, government and political experience around the globe. He is a dynamic and entertaining keynote speaker. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.