by David McElroy
When governments create problems and shortages, the free market rushes in to try to give people what they need. But in the face of almost every innovation, there are politicians and their corrupt friends in the private sector trying to make sure nobody upsets the status quo.
Do you ever take taxis? I rarely do, but I find the experience unpleasant when I have to. You call a dispatcher — who’s frequently surly and unpleasant — and then wait for a cab driver to show up. You might get a decent driver or you might get a jerk who’s unpleasant to deal with. Then you’re taken to where you want to go, at which point you pay a fee that some government bureaucrat set — very possibly in collusion with the people who own the taxis.
In many cities, there aren’t even cabs to meet the demand. There are set numbers of permits available for taxis and nobody can legally go into business without one of the permits. The people who own the existing permits fight to prevent more permits from being issued, because they don’t want competition. They like a world in which a government agency decides how many people can be in the business. That way, they don’t have to use things such as better services and lower prices to compete for business. (Actually, they’re prohibited from charging lower prices.)
There’s a free market solution to this terrible situation, but politicians and bureaucrats are trying to kill it. There are new smartphone apps — Lyft, Sidecar and Uber — that allow anyone to get a ride from someone who has a car that’s registered with the service. If you need a ride, you tell the app what you need and the app tells you who’s available. You choose your driver (and car) and that person picks you up. At the destination, you’re given a suggested “donation” and you’re allowed to rate the driver.