So I was driving down the road the other day and pulled up behind a pest control van at a traffic light. On the back was a bumper sticker that read: “Hire Licensed Contractors | IT’S THE LAW!” And that really bugged me — no pun intended.
What business is it of the government to tell me who I can and can’t pay to spray my house for critters?
For that matter, what business is it of the government to tell me who I can and can’t hire to unplug my clogged drain, paint my house or landscape my yard? And who in Hades does the government think it is telling me who can cut my hair?
It’s not really all that surprising that government constantly involves itself more and more in our lives. It is, after all, the nature of the beast. It’s what government does. But as Ronald Reagan famously warned, “As government expands, liberty contracts.”
The real problem here, however, is that government has unindicted co-conspirators in this “licensing” racket. Businesses and industries across the spectrum enlist the “licensing” power of ever-willing government nannies to limit, restrict and often squash competitors and upstarts rather than compete in an open market.
Which brings me to Uber. Uber is a ride-sharing service that operates in cities all across the United States — but not yet in Nevada. In short it’s an alternative to
taking a taxi. Drivers are pre-screened and use their own cars. Rates are pre-set and disclosed. Mileage and time is tracked by GPS on the driver’s smart-phone. The fee, including tip, is automatically billed to your credit card.
Now, this is a private transaction between a willing driver providing a service to a willing customer with a mutually agreed upon technology company serving as the facilitator handling the arrangements. It’s total free market competition.
Alas, the all-powerful taxicab industry is not amused. Indeed, it recently used the strong arm of government to ban Uber from operating in the state of Virginia and is gearing up for battle to stop Uber from starting service in Nevada. Why? Because Uber’s drivers aren’t “licensed.”
But what if you don’t want the government’s “protection” from “unlicensed” drivers? As grown adults living in supposedly the freest country in the galaxy, shouldn’t you be allowed to decide for yourself who you want to give you a ride to the grocery store?
My guess is that Uber will ultimately win this battle. The people love Uber. They want Uber. And by golly, they will have Uber.
Let’s just hope this starts a long overdue conversation on just which businesses and professional services truly warrant government oversight and “licensing” for the public good, because the fact is… the overwhelming majority don’t.
* * * * *
Chuck Muth is president of Citizen Outreach, a non-profit public policy grassroots advocacy organization. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.