I feel much safer today, knowing that the City of Chicago is busy saving me from…salvaged cars used as cabs. Turns out that a Chicago cab operator has been using old wrecked police cars and other junkers for his taxi fleet. This went on for years, apparently, even though the city is supposed to check each in-service cab once a year. Thank heavens another hardened criminal is off the street.
There are at least two fascinating aspects of this story. The first is the cost of a taxi medallion. $150,000-plus? Whoa. Are you kidding me? I could start a small factory for that. The second is the fact that there is no record of anyone ever having been hurt because of one of these cabs.
A fairly frequent user of Chicago cabs, I have absolutely no fear of the cab itself. I have often marveled at how close one car can come to another without making contact, been confused about the real meaning of a red light, and wondered about the psychological profile of my driver. But worried about the vehicle? Never.
All this makes me wonder how much money and effort have gone into sustaining a cab fiefdom. The City of Chicago must make about a kajillion dollars off cab licenses and fees. What would happen if they just let cab owners run cabs without restriction? Try this one on. Cab drivers would put “junkers” to good use, saving tons of money. Because of the saved money, they would have to lower prices to compete as plenty of other people did the same thing. That is, right up until it became unprofitable to start a new cab service. Gosh, that market thing works well.
I do not expect this to happen before Willie Nelson stops smoking pot. Why? Because too many people make money off regulating cabs. Think how many bureaucrats would be unemployed if there were no regulations. I don’t think each and every one of them is evil. They are just trying to make a living, and I doubt that many of them stop to think about the larger economic issues surrounding their dubious economic contribution to society.
As a system, though, something has gone horribly wrong. We have allowed government at all levels to regulate without restriction and dictate without restraint. A man who finds an economically viable use for what others see as junk is rewarded with millions of dollars in fines. Is this the kind of system we want?
Terry wants to be Chicago.