Walter E. Williams

The most prevalent theme in President Barack Obama's Dec. 6 Osawatomie, Kan., speech was the need for greater "fairness." In fact, though the president never defined the term fair(ness), he used it 15 times. Explaining his new hero, Teddy Roosevelt, Obama said: "But Roosevelt also knew that the free market has never been a free license to take whatever you can from whomever you can. He understood the free market only works when there are rules of the road that ensure competition is fair and open and honest." What's fair competition is somewhat subjective, but let me suggest a few examples of what's clearly unfair.

Say a person wants to become a taxi owner. He has a driver's license, a car and accident liability insurance. Is it fair that in New York City, he has to first purchase a taxi license (medallion) that as of October sold for $1 million? Taxi licenses in Chicago go for $56,000. In Boston, they are $285,000, and in Philadelphia, they run $75,000. Is that fair competition?

In some cities, to own a taxi one must obtain a certificate of "public convenience and necessity." At a Public Utility Commission hearing, incumbent taxi owners show up with their attorneys to protest that another taxi company is not needed, and the application is denied. I'd like to have Obama -- or anyone else -- tell us whether that's fair competition.


Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
 
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