If it exists, we should regulate it!
At least, that seems to be the government’s mentality regarding new companies like Uber and Lyft. In the past few years, these so-called “ridesharing” services have become increasingly popular in urban areas because:
- Uber and Lyft hire part-time, amateur drivers who operate their personal vehicles. This cuts down on operating expenses, making ridesharing much cheaper than a traditional taxi service.
- Customers request rides through a smartphone app, which is often much more efficient than calling a taxi.
- Customers pay with their credit card through the app, so they no longer have to worry about having enough cash while on the go.
Unfortunately, the state of Virginia is trying to ban ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft for operating without proper permits which require drivers to pay heavy fees, undergo extensive screenings, and obtain commercial insurance. For part-time drivers who just want to make a bit of cash, getting government authorization defeats the whole point of ridesharing.
I can make my own choices.
[pq]A law that protects an obsolete industry at the expense of customers does not serve the common good.[/pq]
When the states impose restrictions on companies, they are making a big assumption: an ordinary person is not capable of making a responsible decision.
When I reserve an Uber, I know that drivers have undergone background checks and are probably good enough to not get into an accident while I am in the car. I know, however, that they have not gone through the screenings and professional trainings that a taxi driver has. If this really concerned me, I’d get a taxi. But the convenience and cost of ridesharing has made it worth the minimal risk that I undergo.
Here’s the real reason for regulation.
Risk and responsibility aside, I don’t think that safety is the complete reason behind the state’s disapproval of ridesharing. Uber and Lyft are putting traditional taxi companies out of business, and that is worrying powerful lobbyists. As one taxi company noted,
We need to support our taxi firms with enforced regulation to ensure public safety and to ensure taxis will be available to all for services and not forced out of business due to these “new models” of unregulated taxis. Let them go to the legislature and let’s hope the legislature ensures operations that sustain the industry and ensure public safety and proper regulation.
A law that protects an obsolete industry at the expense of customers and new businesses does not serve the common good. But it does give your elected officials rapport with (and often financial support from) rich business owners and persuasive lobbyists.
Government favoritism affects everyone.
In some instances, it is hard to see government favoritism as a threat to my wellbeing—even though I know that it slows innovation and drives up prices. But this case is different. As a young professional in the Northern Virginia area, I rely on services like Lyft and Uber to get me to where I need to be quickly and affordably. I don’t always know if I will be able to find a taxi in my area—much less afford one.
Unfortunately, this case is a perfect example of how powerful lobbyists can destroy jobs, crush innovation, and put ordinary people at a severe disadvantage for their own gain.