Virginia state government has banned Web-based/app-based car-ride services Uber and Lyft from operating in the state. After applying heavy fines. After demanding the services follow rules originally devised for taxis and limo and bus services.
It seems tantamount to banning the automobile a century ago because the horse-and-buggy regulations on the books didn’t fit.
Uber and Lyft call what they provide “ride-sharing” services, allowing people with smart-phone and tablet apps to “hail” rides they need, from almost anywhere to almost anywhere. The folks providing the rides have signed up and even taken classes, and both parties rate each other after the transaction. Riders can “steer clear” of low-rated drivers if they want. And drivers can not offer rides to low-rated riders, as well.
It’s quite a service.
I first heard about this idea from economist David Friedman, a generation ago. He called it a “jitney” system, and offered it as an alternative to mass transit systems that are just too capital intensive to make a profit while still servicing diverse needs.
Now, the idea is off to a good start with two excellent services. Technology has allowed for safe, low-transaction-cost contracting between strangers. This sort of person-to-person (P2P) revolution could change everything.
Including government patronage. Or the need for much government regulation. Taxicab services are heavily regulated in most places. The excuse is usually safety and traffic considerations, but let’s be frank: it’s mostly a government power grab. Horning in on territory. Collecting a fee.
Uber and Lyft leverage the capital car-owners invest, and such P2P services are probably the most efficient contracting systems possible. If free market principles should apply to anything, it is jitney services.
So, Virginia, lay off. Free the P2P.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.