“When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first thing to be bought and sold are legislators”  – P.J. O’Rourke

It’s not often that government corruption is laid as bare as it was in December in Austin.  The city council there voted to increase profits for the three companies that are the exclusive legal taxi companies by eliminating their competition.  

Uber and Lyft, which no command economy could have even predicted, much less invented, have been seized upon by millions of Americans because it works so well.  For both customers and operators, it meets needs unmet by the allowable solutions provided by the Austin taxi cartel and their partner lackeys in city government.  

Under the guise of safety, or perhaps I should say “safety”, the city council decided to require all people who engage in charging for rides have cars with full commercial signage or “trade dress”, as well as be fingerprinted, be prohibited from dropping off or picking up passengers where cabs are allowed, and onerous data reporting requirements as well.  

Uber and Lyft, if you didn’t know, use a system of dispatch unlike taxi companies – both the rider and the driver are accountable for their actions.  Known to one another by their real legal names, and should either party behave unacceptably, such as a driver speeding wildly, or being rude, or a passenger leaving a mess or vandalizing the vehicle, all parties are held responsible for their actions.  

Cab drivers generally hate the system, while riders seem to like it – at least enough to make 7 year old Uber a company likely worth over $50 Billion.  Unlike cab companies, Uber and Lyft have had to gain market share and develop a new market in a climate of regulatory hostility as opposed to crony capitalism.

Austin taxi companies have long purchased the services of the city council – it’s really how they exist.  Without the government requiring that people who wish to pay for transportation use the 3 companies that own the legislators, anyone could compete and win business – while that competition would yield lower prices and better service for the people of Austin, it would no doubt result in a drastic decline in the campaign coffers of the Austin city council members.  

Uber thought they could do an end run around the council by getting a referendum passed overturning the new regulations meant to crush Uber and Lyft.  They were wrong.  The vote failed, and Uber and Lyft began this week by announcing they were not going to service Austin.  A victory for safety to be sure….  For the 10,000 + drivers put out of work, well I suppose that’s just collateral damage.  Gotta keep the campaign coffers full  people safe.