Miami Police Squeezes Lyft Drivers With Excessive Regulations

Miami Police Squeezes Lyft Drivers With Excessive Regulations

In the high tech age of the Internet and smartphones, new business opportunities are abundant. Take, for example, two ride-sharing companies called Uber and Lyft. If you need a ride, use an app to find Uber or Lyft drivers in your area. It makes life easier; people can make extra cash in a dismal economy; everybody is happy. Except for the regulators and the taxi and limo cartels.

Let me give you an example of what happened to Lyft drivers earlier this month in Miami:

On his maiden voyage as a driver for Lyft, the renegade car service, Juan Arango picked up a fare at the Ramada Plaza Marco Polo Resort in Sunny Isles Beach.

Moments after dropping the passenger off at the Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne on Wednesday, Arango turned onto Crandon Boulevard — and got stopped by Miami-Dade County cops.

The passenger was not just a fare — he was an undercover Miami-Dade County code enforcement officer, and the ride was a sting. Arango’s white Toyota Corolla, which hadn’t even been sporting Lyft’s signature hot-pink mustache on the hood, was towed away on the spot.

Five minutes later, the police pulled over another Lyft driver on the same street. … Both drivers told the Miami Herald they didn’t know the county considers their business illegal. (Miami Herald)

Yes, a sting operation was put into play to bust a driver with no clue about the struggle currently happening between innovation and regulators. Again, Miami cops went after Lyft drivers instead of confronting the company about the issue. Was this the right way to go about things?

When free enterprise and unregulated industries don’t pay a “toll” to government and local bureaucrats, we get this.

Glenn Harlan Reynolds of USA TODAY writes:

Regulators — and the industries they protect — will try to tell you that all this regulation is in service of consumer protection. Why, if you use an unlicensed, unregulated car service, you might be robbed, raped or overcharged! As if those kinds of things never happen in ordinary cabs or limos. (Actually, I think services like Uber and Lyft are actually safer, since they keep a clear record of when, where, and by whom riders are picked up, and track the cars involved.)

The truth is that although occupational regulation is usually presented as a protection for consumers, it’s usually demanded by the regulated industries themselves, and not by consumers at all. That’s not surprising, because it’s usually the regulated industries and the well-off people controlling them who benefit. In Chicago, a taxi medallion (license) costs $360,000 while the actual drivers — employed by the medallion owner — can earn less than minimum wage. And consumers pay higher taxi rates because of reduced competition.

A taxi driver in Chicago makes minimum wage in exchange for a $360,000 license. Is that worth it? In the end, the consumer pays more for the services, because excessive regulations drives prices up and makes competition impossible.

Reynolds of USA TODAY provides another example:

In my hometown of Knoxville, Tenn., the Institute sued to strike down a state law requiring that caskets be sold only by licensed funeral directors, who were charging about double what their competitors asked.

And, despite the Institute’s best efforts, this sort of restriction is growing: According to University of Minnesota Professor Morris Kleiner writing in The New York Times, “In the 1970s, about 10% of individuals who worked had to have licenses, but by 2008, almost 30% of the work force needed them.”

Why should florists, or interior decorators, be licensed? At a time when the economy is stagnant and jobs are scarce, it’s hard to justify regulatory schemes that protect fat cats with political connections while making it harder for individuals to find work.

Things they are a changin’, to quote Bob Dylan, as technology spawns more companies like Lyft and Uber.

“It’s a situation where technology has kind of outpaced legislation, and we don’t believe the legislation that’s in place covers this particular issue,” says Hilton Napoleon, the lawyer representing the Lyft drivers in Miami. (Miami Herald)

When it comes to government regulations, how much is enough? Was going after the Lyft drivers going too far? Feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts below. Send us a tweet. Or follow us on Facebook as we keep an eye on this issue.



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