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Outlaw taxis – a modest proposal

22 Sep
A shorter version of this was published yesterday at Breitbart’s Big Government.


Uber – the best known of several ride-sharing companies that run an app that allows passengers to use their smart phones to find drivers for hire and pay them with credit cards – is now worth over $40 billion dollars.  By contrast, the value of taxi medallions is dropping in major cities, faced with the competition from Uber, Lyft (valued at $2.5 billion), and the other ride share upstarts are providing.  In New York City, for example,  taxi revenues are dropping almost 10% annually.

Uber et al have a lot of advantages over the traditional taxi cabs: generally lower prices; the certainty of knowing you’ve hired a ride share vehicle and it is actually coming to you, as opposed to attempting to hail a cab; and being able to contract for and pay for a ride without the rider knowing your race, radically reducing the racial discrimination against black consumers well known to African Americans and regularly depicted in American comedy.  It’s capitalism and free markets abolishing racism and bigotry and making people wealthier by giving them more options and lower prices.  As capitalism always does.

Lobbyists working for the taxi companies have struck back, attempting to get politicians like NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio to outlaw Uber and the others; and Hillary Clinton has made warnings about the “gig economy” part of her campaign.

Part of the campaign is using a PR megaphone to amplify and repeat any anecdotes about sexual assaults that have occured in Uber cars, particularly those where drivers assault a passenger.  These stories are anecdotal however, and it is hard to compare sexual assault, and crime generally, across different transportation providers, in part because police don’t collect and categorize the incidents that way.  An internet search will turn up stories about rapes in taxi cabs as well, despite the supposedly more thorough background checks of their drivers.  The DC Metro system reports  one to three rapes on its system for most of the recent years, but over 80 “sexual offenses.”  As a result, D.C. now budgets tax dollars on a PR campaign asking passengers to report sexual harassment – apparently they are betting Bill Clinton will be moving back into the White House.  (On the much less populated L.A. subway, the L.A.Times reports that one in 5 riders reports “unwanted sexual behavior,” and one in 14 says they have been groped.)  I myself, pretty obviously not female, in several decades of only very occasionally taking a D.C. taxicab or Metrobus, have had one taxicab driver suggests he offered additional services, and one bus driver smile broadly and adjust his wares as I got on a late night bus in a rather suggestive move that was so unexpected it didn’t register until minutes after I had sat down – and I am assuming these things happen to women more often.


But the rape scare mongering is just the jury tampering.  The anti-Uber pogrom has gone beyond the taxi lobbyists and corrupt taxi commissions and been picked up by the labor movement and the Democrat Party’s statist establishment as a way to strike out against any opportunities for work that can’t be subjected to the with-holding tax – the federal government’s free loan program to itself – and that can’t be easily unionized.  Shannon Liss-Riordan, a boney, witchey-looking Boston labor lawyer who specializes in attacking independent contractors, is suing Uber to have all Uber drivers reclassified as employees.  She plans to stuff Uber drivers, and young entrepreneurial Hansels and Gretels in general, into her statist oven.  (Who will be feasting?  According to OpenSecrets FEC records, Ms. Liss-Riordan donated about $15,000 to Barack Obama, Elizabeth Warren, and Joe Kennedy in 2012-2013 alone.)


These obviously serious issues don’t require outlawing Uber, as the taxi lobbies want.  Uber can make its application procedure stricter at anytime, and will do so if anyone sues it for damages – just as many apartment buildings now do criminal background checks on applicants in an effort at due diligence to indemnify themselves if it turns out someone sues them for letting in a pedophile or rapist as a resident.

Less discuss some even weightier issues.

7-11.  Who among us has not gone into a 7-11 or similar establishment, to get that all important first cup of coffee of the day.  Like many Americans, we want it hot, we may want it black or blond, sweet or not, but we want it now.  And whom do we meet?  Very often, a taxi driver.  Often one from a country where milk or cream, especially in little plastic containers infused with chocolate or hazelnut or Amaretto, is an unheard of luxury.  He stirs, he pours, he measures, he tastes.  He adds honey or Splenda.  After three or four minutes he steps aside, and the native born American on his or her way to work can finally put cup to tap and get his or her morning Java.  Uber drivers do not clog the nation’s coffee lines.  They are at their second job, and they are driving their own car which they got in at home where they could make and bring their own favorite coffee in their own thermos or cup.

Bike Lanes.  Perhaps you are ecologically minded, morally superior to both the Ubertarians and the Taxi cronyists.  Or perhaps in the Obama depression you just can’t afford to buy or repair an automobile.  You are happy some cities have added bike lanes that you can use on downtown streets, just for you, where you don’t threaten pedestrians – especially dog walkers with 3 or more leashed dogs all running in different directions – and cars don’t threaten you.  You are familiar with government vehicles, delivery vans, and construction trucks parking in your bike lane, and maybe even an Uber or a taxi double parking in it for a disembarking customer.  But the Uber driver will never park in the parking lane and have his Uber driver friend stand in your bike lane so they can chit chat – it’s his or her second job and they are trying to make money, not kibbutz with their friends.  Taxi drivers on the other hand seem to park in lines where they think people will be emerging from hotels etc. needing a taxi, and they get out and stand around and talk – in the bike lanes.

Corruption.  All kidding aside, this is the real issue.  The taxi industry, as it exists now, in almost all cities has been a regulated oligopoly or monopoly paying off politicians or their staffs as well as taxi commission members to limit competition and thereby keep prices higher, in exchange for donations, bribes and kickbacks.  The reason local cities are ruled by statist Democrats who keep their populations unemployed, in poverty, and illiterate (so they will continue to vote for Democrats), is that powerful economic interests keep the Democrats in power.  Real estate developers are part of the mix – D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton rakes in donations of $200,000-400,000 each election, to run unopposed, mainly from construction unions and real estate developers (one year she got around $40,000 from a single New York based development firm), and she sits on the Congressional committees that dispense federal leases and federal land parcels in D.C. (No journalists ever investigate this.).  Another part of the mix is government “teachers” unions, that donate heavily to Democratic candidates who oppose school choice and who protect the daily kidnapping and selling of poor brown and blacks kids to the unions and their failed schools, in exchange for campaign donations.  Finally there are the taxi commissions, which have long been bribing local Democrats to keep fares high by restricting competition and new transport providers.  The results:  Baltimore, Anacostia, Ferguson – tinderboxes of poverty and hopelessness.

Some cities have changed a little as reform minded yuppie Democrats have moved into urban areas.  Charter school movements are sweeping some cities.  In Washington, D.C. the voters in newly gentrified Columbia Heights neighborhood tossed out an incumbent, the city’s first elected gay city Council member, Jim Graham, in the 2014 Democratic primary, in part because one of his staffers was prosecuted for taxi commission related bribes.  (Graham himself, now a private sector citizen, has come around to favor deregulating taxis and Uber.)  Washington City Paper dubbed this new species of left-liberal urban Democrats who want free markets and consumer choice in any area important to themselves, from their car service to their children’s education, “Ubertarians.”


We need to end taxis, taxi commissions, and taxi medallions just to clean up our politics and get rid of politicians who are willing to prevent the progress and innovation and free entry into markets that creates new jobs and new wealth.

It’s time to swing the ax and get rid of taxis and taxi medallions.  They are our decade’s peculiar institution.  Yes those who have invested in them will lose hundreds of thousands, even millions of dollars.  It doesn’t matter.  They can make money driving for Uber, just as the plantation owners of old could learn to pick their own cotton.

Monday’s Papal Eve recommended reading (updated all day)

21 Sep

Judge Nap: Pope Francis is an economically illiterate Peronist (reason)

Ubertarianism – a modest proposal (Breitbart)

Why the GOP secretly supports the Iran Deal – follow the money (National Review)

How dare voters pick a candidate (AmericanThinker)

Young conservatives call for deregulating tech progress (TechCrunch)

Ahmed’s clock is a fabricated morality tale (NYPost)

Sprouting a penis at age 12 (UK Telegraph)

Abjuring penis at a bachelorette party (Verily)

The U.S. lawyer bubble has popped (Quartz)

Can Bernie win with only the white liberal vote? (WashingtonPost)

The most Irish parts of the U.S. (IrishCentral)

Leftovers attempt to imagine what marines think about the candidates (MotherJones)

Labor force at all time low (CNSNews)

Falling oil prices lead to falling home prices in oil states (WSJ)

Race, racism and rationing — the case of taxis

13 Sep
Here is a free market economics grad student project:


Some African Americans claim they cannot get a cab.

The supply of cabs in most cities is regulated and restricted below free market levels.

Does the number of complaints (per capita) that cabs won’t come to black neighborhoods or stop for black people correlate with the amount of regulation of cabs, by municipality?

Are taxi drivers simply skimming off the cream, by taking the customers in the safest neighborhoods, who they believe are the most likely to tip, because there is not an unregulated supply of taxi drivers that can match the total demand for taxis at a market clearing price?  Supply is restricted to below demand, so only the safest routes and best tippers get the supply.

In a free market would a racially discriminatory cab company lose business to an UrbanTaxi app that hired or affiliated drivers who (whatever precautions they take about safety etc. of neighborhoods) did not ignore customers of color?

Uber vs The State

22 Oct

Über vs Taxicab Commission again

4 Mar
Über, which was founded by a Ron Paul tech venture capitalist, is fighting the corrupt DC taxicab commission again, according to the Examiner:

Popular taxi and sedan service Uber is charging an automatic 20 percent tip on cab rides booked through its app or website.
The DC Taxicab Commission says that’s illegal — but so far the agency can’t do anything about it.
The District’s top taxi regulator, Ron Linton, told cabbies last month that Uber shouldn’t be doing that and that he had asked them to stop.
“We are surprised as we had been assured by their attorney that Uber would comply with the regulations to prohibit charging a mandatory gratuity,” Linton said in an email Friday.
Uber says it doesn’t think the automatic tip is illegal.
“We don’t believe that it is illegal to include a gratuity — which goes entirely to the driver,” said Uber General Manager Rachel Holt. “Uber customers know about the policy before they use our product since information about the tipping policy is on our blog, website and in the email we sent to all customers when we rolled out the product in DC.”
“We feel it’s really important to put that actual tipping power in the hands of the user,” said Taxi Magic spokesman Matt Carrington.
But another taxi app startup, HitchRides, does.
“We have found that consumers like the convenience of getting to their destination and simply getting out of the car and getting on with their business,” said the company’s founder, David Miller. “When you have to figure out a tip, it’s an extra step in the process.”
App developers said whether they’re allowed to charge a tip is still a gray area in D.C. law, despite the Taxicab Commission’s pronouncements.
The commission said it won’t be able to do anything about the tips until a rider complains about them, at which point the commission will seek a refund for the rider and fine the driver, Linton said.
Uber ran into trouble with D.C. law last year, when Linton said the company’s sedan service was illegal and performed a sting operation to slap a driver with a $1,000 fine. The D.C. Council since passed legislation allowing the town car service — which charges customers using a blend of taxi and limousine methods — and exempting it and similar sedan services from fare regulation.