Would you be upset if you had to pay “too little” for a limo ride?
Nevertheless, the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission requires limo drivers to charge a minimum of $50 per ride, no matter how brief the ride may be. In 2001, Florida lawmakers foolishly empowered the Tampa-area Commission to set minimum fares. These began at $40 for limo rides, then rose to $50.
The purpose is to protect established firms from competition. “That’s why taxi companies love it — because it protects taxi companies,” says Justin Pearson, executive director of the Florida chapter of the Institute for Justice, the valiant libertarian law firm. “Large taxi and limousine companies have divvied up customers.”
Dave Shaw, president of West Florida Livery Associate, admits that taxi and limo companies backed the $50 minimum. That way, “there wouldn’t be any issues where limousines were charging the same amount as taxi cabs.” Of course, the mere desire to see certain prices prevail, low or high, does not imply any entitlement to see those prices imposed by force.
The Institute for Justice has sued on behalf of limousine business owner Thomas Halsnik and two limo customers. IJ argues that the Commission’s mandatory minimum violates the right of customers to bargain and the right of owners to make a living. “The government shouldn’t make it a crime for businesses to give customers a good deal merely to protect politically powerful insiders from competition.”
Exactly. The government shouldn’t force us to pay more so the politically powerful can be unfairly protected from competition and enriched. But it too often does.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.