The Cabs Are Not Alright
Rent-Seeking In Omaha and Lincoln NE
Perhaps some things should have one owner -- like roads -- but what about transport? This 2012 article is from Reason, Spt 28.
by John K. RossIn August, Nebraska’s Public Service Commission (PSC) denied Servant Cabs’ application to operate in Omaha, which is now served by a monopoly of five taxi companies under common management, and the rest of the state.
Hotel managers speak of shoddy service: long wait times, cabs that never arrive, dirty vehicles and a shortage of taxis during periods of high demand such as bar closing hours or large events (like the College World Series, which takes place in Omaha each June). One stated that after hour-plus waits, many bar patrons give up and drive home under the influence.
Disabled residents described the drastic need for more wheelchair-accessible transportation options, which Servant would have provided. Currently, disabled residents who need to travel during hours or along routes not covered by public transportation call ambulances because of the scarcity of cabs that can handle wheelchairs.
Even some Omaha cab drivers, who complained of poor treatment by existing companies, testified for Servant Cab, saying more competition would benefit consumers and cabbies.
OTOH, commissioners cited complaints from Lincoln residents and officials about Servant Cabs’ failure to meet customer demand in Lincoln -- complaints that look very similar to some of those aired by Omaha residents about a shortage of cabs in Omaha. To PSC commissioners, a monopoly's failure to serve Lincoln customers justifies protecting a monopoly in Omaha.
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JJS: Some see markets functioning fine without monopolies and regulators, some see government calling the shots working well. Regardless of who’s right in general and who’s right in particular cases such as taxis, there’s a more basic issue, which is: when government grants any privilege -- even and including a deed to a parcel of land -- how much should the lucky recipient of the privilege pay?
When those who get the taxi medallions and the land titles must pay the full annual rental value of their monopoly (on cab service or on a location), then they can no longer afford to exclude others, and they leave some “fares” and some land for others. Less monopoly of ridership or locations means more competition and lower prices for buyers, and more revenue for government. Then government could lose its counterproductive taxes, eventually run a surplus, and pay the citizenry a dividend.
But first a critical mass must understand that the values of nature and privilege are common wealth, values that belong to us all, to be shared fairly and efficiently. In a just economy, who knows how much transportation would be needed if cities became compact and car-free? The power of justice is unlimited.
To learn more about natural values and geonomics, there's a webinar you could sign up for, "Sustainable Economics for the 21st Century". Co-Hosts are Alanna Hartzok and Wendell Fitzgerald. Nov 4th focuses on Economics of War and Peace – Land and resource wars; financial domination; US foreign policy; ecocide; shifting from “full spectrum dominance” to full spectrum sharing; the money question; religious conflicts; resource rent for public revenue; geo-confederation for conflict zones; earth rights democracy. To register
Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics and helped prepare a course for the UN on geonomics. To take the “Land Rights” course, click here .
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