The Thing with Regulation

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One helpful outcome when particular controversies arise over regulation is that statements of principle and assumption emerge that offer a common-sense check.  So, as taxi companies sue to impose regulations on the ride-sharing service Uber — rather than advocating to have the regulations under which they, themselves, must operate eased (go figure) — we get statements like this:

Echoing a larger global fight over ride-hailing services, the taxis argue that under Rhode Island law any driver or company providing for-hire automobile rides must comply with the stringent regulations enforced by the Public Utilities Division. 

“None of them do, and all of the services provided by Uber and Uber drivers are therefore illegal,” the lawsuit says. “This massive illegal operation puts the public and consumers at risk and erodes the viability of licensed, authorized and legal taxicab operators.”

In what particular ways do ride-sharing services “put the public and consumers at risk”?  The cars could be in bad repair or with some sort of health issue or infestation.  The driver might have mental issues.  Who knows?  The world is an unpredictable place.

But if freelance cars through Uber really offer an inferior or dangerous service, shouldn’t taxi drivers be able to compete?  Couldn’t there be a national certification that they, themselves, could promote through Uber or by setting up a competing app?

Special interests like to talk about their concern for the consumer, but they treat them as if they aren’t really people, as if we’re all just drones who won’t make any decisions but will slide right into a filthy, smoking wreck of a car driven by a guy in a hockey mask just because an unregulated app brought it to the curb.  If consumers aren’t drones, then shouldn’t it be relatively easy for the clean cab with a national certification and a friendly driver to charge a little bit more and put the scary guy out of business?

Of course, that would mean the taxi company would have to compete with drivers and with technology, and the reality is that the ride-sharing service isn’t a nightmare.  That’s why the established companies are scared.



  • Mike678

    “This massive illegal operation puts the public and consumers at risk and erodes the viability of licensed, authorized and legal taxicab operators.”

    The nanny-state mentality in a nutshell. You are not responsible enough to judge risk, so we will do it for your–for a price. Stop thinking, stop evaluating, stop innovating–just do what we want you to do.

    Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety. –Ben Franklin

  • Rhett Hardwick

    Does anyone know the current value of a taxi “medallion” in Providence. In larger cities, they were well over $500,000. Not sure that is any longer the case. It might explain some of the current controversy. Sort of like watching the value of your mortgaged house slide to nothing.
    Not sure regulation works that well. The “towing” business is highly regulated, look back to the Cianci days and see who his largest contributors were. “Police tows” pay 4 times what AAA pays.

    • ShannonEntropy

      The monopoly here that really gravels me — and it takes a *lot* for me to use “gravel” as a verb — is the Airport Taxi scam at TF Green. To add insult to injury, they don’t even have a covered shelter so Dog forbid you need a ride and it’s raining out

      And they mercilessly harass any other cabs that have the audacity to even drive thru the lower “arrival” level of the terminal where their stand is located. So do what we do … when you call your cab company, have them pick you up on the upper “departure” level and you will bypass them completely

      The things you have to do to get by in this State !!

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