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It seems Gotham is once more gearing up for a fight with the free market. Its target this time: Uber and Lyft. Those are the hippest way to get from A to B in 2018. Anybody can be a taxi.

New York's city council passed a one-year moratorium on new "for-hire" vehicle licenses (which Uber and Lyft drivers need to operate). The city claims this will give it time to study the industry. Stop and ask yourself: Should a city government have the authority to prevent a business from hiring new employees? In what (democratic) world does that make sense?

Can you imagine how outraged people would be if the city put a cap on new baristas? Who would pour our $7 coffee?

The Wall Street Journal reports some aldermen in New York have complained that the number of Lyft and Uber drivers has soared to more than 100,000 (up from 63,000 in 2015) compared to the 13,000 yellow cabs in the city. We'd call that the wonder of the free market as consumers decide to stop spending money in one place and spend it in another, as per their convenience. But it might as well be demon magic to this city council.

Fayetteville learned this lesson the hard way in 2014 when it told Uber the company couldn't operate in city limits. Customers (a good number of them UA students) and Uber told the city to kick rocks. And when Fayetteville police started ticketing drivers, Uber just paid for all the citations. Their pocketbook was bigger. Eventually, lawmakers made ride-sharing companies legal statewide, and the free market won another battle.

It's unwise to artificially protect one industry (taxi drivers) and pick a fight with another (Uber/Lyft). The customer is always right--well, most of the time--and if they're overwhelmingly choosing for-hire drivers over cabs, then there's nothing government can really do about it in the long run.

Though it will try. As long as there is creative destruction in the world of business, there will be constituencies that will holler when stuck. The trick is for government to know when not to just do something, but sit there.

Editorial on 08/10/2018

Print Headline: When will they learn?

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