Mixed week for liberty in the taxi industry

July 24, 2014 | By JONATHAN WOOD

Congratulations to our friends at the Institute for Justice who, due to a legal victory last year, saw Milwaukee eliminate its cap on the number of taxi licenses available. As Reason reports, this has an incredibly significant impact on the taxi industry. Under the cap, licenses had a nominal cost of $85. But, because so few licenses were available, the fortunate few members of the cartel could fetch as much as $150,000 for their licenses on secondary markets. By removing the cap, Milwaukee has made it possible for hard-working entrepreneurs to enter the industry at the more reasonable price of $85.

But the news is not all good. New York’s Taxi and Limousine Commission has gone completely out of control in its dogged pursuit of the city’s taxi cartel’s interests. Earlier this month, we noted the Commission’s impoundment of a car because its owner gave free rides to cancer patients. Now, it’s reported that Commission agents forced a man and his pregnant wife to take a long, frigid walk home last January. Why would they do something so ridiculous? Because they spotted him picking up his wife from the curb outside of a friends apartment. That was enough for the officers to decide that he must be operating an illegal cab, threatening the cartel’s profits.

That was no isolated case. Commission agents have impounded thousands of cars from innocent people giving rides to friends and loved ones. Even when a judge eventually throws out these ridiculous charges, the poor victim will have to pay out hundreds of dollars in city, towing, and attorneys’ fees. Is protecting the cartel really this important?