Paul Greenberg

Naturally creative outfits like Uber and Lyft keep running into the same wall of vested interests in city after city -- like Little Rock, Ark., this week. Which is why its city attorney has been writing lawyer-letters to both companies demanding that they cease and desist their subversive attempt to practice free enterprise. And he's waving the law in their faces -- the kind of law imposed by local politicians all too willing to do crony capitalism's bidding -- local politicians like Joan Adcock on Little Rock's city council. Alderwoman Adcock sounds much disturbed by these ominous signs that free enterprise is breaking out in Little Rock's comfortably closed market for cab rides. Let ordinary citizens use their apps to summon a ride quickly, conveniently, efficiently and economically, and where will it all end?

The alderwoman can provide a limitless supply of doomsday visions. She foresees a horde of unqualified drivers, or worse, invading the public streets. Let free enterprise get a foot inside this door and the public safety will be at risk, unlicensed drivers will run rampant, and the sky will fall.

Anybody who's ever used a service like Uber or Lyft elsewhere, or just glanced at those operations' actual policies, knows better. As a spokesman for Uber points out, the company does extensive background checks before accepting drivers, provides liability coverage, and is careful to screen those offering drives.

To see how such operations really work, Alderwoman Adcock might try one -- like Lyft in San Francisco -- and experience the ease, economy and convenience of it for herself. Try it, and I bet she'd like it.

And here's one more factor for the alderwoman and Little Rock's other city fathers/mothers to consider: When a new enterprise enters the economic picture, it may not so much supplant older, established companies as supplement them, for it could offer a different range or level of service. And the customer base for both old and new businesses could grow.

As usual when competition enters the picture, both old and new enterprises benefit by learning from each other, and the whole industry improves. Whether the stultifying monopoly is in public transportation or public education, the effect of such a stranglehold can be equally paralyzing, and its being broken can prove just as energizing.


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.