People in Little Rock deserve the same access to convenient and plentiful taxi options as people elsewhere in Arkansas and throughout the country. But for years, the city government allowed a single private taxi company to hold a monopoly.
Now, as the result of a successful lawsuit I filed with the Institute for Justice, Little Rock's taxi monopoly is officially dead.
It all started when I was a driver for what was then Little Rock's only taxi company and realized that residents and visitors could use a better way to get around. So I started Ken's Cab.
By using only hybrid vehicles to cut fuel costs and by offering friendly, reliable cab service throughout the region, my business presented healthy competition to my former employer, Greater Little Rock Transportation Services LLC (Yellow Cab). That competition means more job opportunities for drivers and the chance for them to make more money, which is a major win for everybody.
But the taxi monopoly and its powerful allies in the Little Rock city government saw things differently. The city's old, unconstitutional "monopoly rule" only allowed officials to issue new taxi permits if the "public convenience and necessity" left no other choice and the new permits would not harm the existing permit holder. In other words, it seems the law was intentionally designed to preserve the existing cab permit monopoly, even if that meant refusing to allow any more taxis on the street. Little Rock officials blocked my taxis in order to protect my old boss' monopoly, even though the city's Fleet Services Department acknowledged that my business met all of the other requirements to gain a permit.
This made no sense. Why should political connections determine whether you can start a business and who has the opportunity to succeed or fail?
I teamed up with the Institute for Justice and took my case to court. In December, a judge ruled in favor of my business, ruling that economic protectionism like the monopoly rule violates the Arkansas Constitution. In February, city officials acknowledged defeat, and the legal battle was over.
Now, after years of fighting for my economic liberty as a homegrown Arkansas entrepreneur, I finally have seven taxi permits from the city of Little Rock. This means the old, unconstitutional monopoly that limited the supply of taxis and made it harder for drivers to earn a living is dead.
My chance at success means that people will have more and better options to travel around Little Rock--and that other entrepreneurs will have an easier time offering services that people value without special-interest interference.
I started Ken's Cab and fought for its success in order to pursue the American dream without unfair, special-interest handouts. The new permits I finally secured for my cab business are an important reminder that government has no business picking winners and losers.
Ken Leininger is the owner of Ken's Cab.
Editorial on 06/08/2017