“We are not attempting to curtail commerce. What we want is if they are going to do business here they have to follow the rules.” After reading this quote and the accompanying story, I fired up my trusty rusty statist translator, and this is what came out:
“We’re not attempting to curtail commerce, but if you don’t give us money and get our permission to freely trade services for currency, we will use force to either imprison or extort more money from you.”
Jokes aside, this is a very real problem. The state, and taxi drivers whose monopoly on this portion of transportation has been maintained by the state are attempting to forcefully stop competition from entering the taxi marketplace. This is not free market enterprise, this is coercive force regulating the market. The city of Memphis (and a number of other municipalities around the country) are attempting to squash the competition that these startups are providing to the market. The existent rules Memphis officials are so desperate to maintain do not exist to promote safety, they exist to ensure the city gets its cut of the pie, and continues to receive the support of taxi drivers who have taken advantage of a system that allows them a legal monopoly on the market.
Uber and Lyft are not doing any wrong or otherwise harming anyone by not having a state license to operate. Funny enough, the controversy with Uber and Lyft is actually a solid analogy for the immigration controversy as well. The problem is not people entering a marketplace without a license. There is no transcendent moral law that requires everyone have a license to do their job (which is what U.S. citizenship ultimately boils down to, a license to seek employment in the country and a requirement to pay taxes on the goods earned from that employment).
The problem in this situation is that the state believes they can require someone to have a license to work, and that they believe they are entitled to a share of the profits of that person’s labor. Get rid of the forceful and unethical state regulations of the marketplace, and allow the best businesses (and best individual workers, wherever they may be from) to freely compete for a share of the available demand. This is the solution to the ongoing controversy surrounding Uber, Lyft, or any similar ride sharing services. Deregulate, decentralize, and stop creating and enforcing laws that artificially slant the market one way or the other. In the absence of state favors to compete for, services will begin to compete for a share of the market by better serving consumers. Everyone (except the state) wins.