Here is a letter to The Baltimore Sun:
April 25, 2014
To the Editor:
The ominous word “loom” in the title of today’s article on possible regulation of services such as Uber and Lyft (“Rules Loom for Car Service,” p. 1,) is well chosen. It would be a sad loss to Maryland riders and drivers alike for “the Maryland Public Service Commission … to categorize Uber and other popular ride-share companies as ‘common carriers’—subjecting them to the same regulations as taxis.”
The reason for the proposed restriction of Marylanders’ freedom to exchange money for car service on mutually agreeable terms is complaints not from happy users of the services, but from unhappy competitors. As you write, “traditional cab companies … have argued that Uber, a smartphone app that connects passengers with drivers, enjoys an unfair advantage.”
It is an unfair advantage. The taxicab companies are right. It is unfair for the Maryland Public Service Commission to burden taxicabs with restrictions from a bygone era, while cars working with modern information technology suffer no such restrictions.
But the way to make things fair is not to burden Uber with the same restrictions taxicabs bear; it’s to relieve the taxicabs of those restrictions. Competition is doing all the regulating we need. Leave Uber free of bureaucratic meddling. And free the taxicabs!
Likewise free the Maryland Public Service Commission from any concern with car service of any kind. Relieve the public servants in the relevant department(s) of the duty to carry out an evidently counterproductive activity; let them devote their talents to some value-creating service instead, perhaps in the private sector.
Howard Baetjer Jr.
Department of Economics