Until recently the taxi cab business in virtually every city in the country functioned like a medieval guild. And as Adam Smith might have predicted, we consumers are worse off for it. But for me at least, things have changed.
Say I need a ride to the airport. I can tap an icon on my cellphone and a car will arrive, usually within five minutes.
I normally take whatever vehicle is available; and that's most likely a black town car. But if I have several passengers with me and we have a lot of luggage, I can order a van. A map appears on my cellphone and I can actually see the car's avatar as it wends its way in my direction. I'm continuously updated on the expected time of arrival.
Despite the marvels of modern technology, GPS is not always perfect. The car might arrive at the back of a hotel, while I'm standing at the front. So I tap another icon that puts me in telephone contact with the driver. That way I can communicate my location orally.
When the car arrives, it's clean. The air conditioner works. And it doesn't reek of fried chicken or curry or anything else the driver had for lunch. The driver opens the door for me as I enter and exit the vehicle. He addresses me by my name, which he learns electronically when I order the service. And he has likely undergone a far more thorough background check than the driver of a garden variety taxi cab.
When we arrive at my destination, billing is automatic. I don't have to worry about whether I need a credit card or cash. No worrying about what is an appropriate tip. Within minutes after my arrival, an email message tells me how much I owe and asks me to approve the charge. It also asks me to grade the service on a five point star system.
Normally the charge will be from 20% to 50% more than a taxi cab fare. Most of the time I think the service is worth it. If it's a short haul and a regular taxi is handy I might take the cab. Competition and choice. That's the beauty of the free market.
The company that provides the service I am describing is called Uber. It is fast expanding to cities across the country. And the public loves it.
Who wouldn't love it?
Taxi cab companies, it turns out. They seem to think they deserve a monopoly on local transportation. And they are on a campaign to stop the Uber intrusion into their market or regulate them out of existence in cities all over the country.
The danger is that they will get help from City Hall. In Dallas that's everyone from members of the city council to the city manager to the police chief. These supposed public servants are acting as though they are on the payroll of Yellow Cab.
John C. Goodman is President and CEO of the National Center for Policy Analysis, Senior Fellow at The Independent Institute, and author of the acclaimed book, Priceless: Curing the Healthcare Crisis. The Wall Street Journal and National Journal, among other media, have called him the "Father of Health Savings Accounts." He is also the Kellye Wright Fellow in health care. The mission of the Wright Fellowship is to promote a more patient-centered, consumer-driven health care system.