RON HART: Uber versus Goobers

Published: Thursday, April 3, 2014 at 04:13 PM.

MIAMI , FL — I was just out of grad school, broke, and working in New York City . Buddies and I split a Brooklyn apartment where we spent five hours a night sleeping. Everything in New York is expensive, particularly cabs.

We used gypsy cabs to take us home late at night. Traditional Yellow Cabs would usually not go to Brooklyn , and if they did the fare was twice the rate of our guy, Raul. His motto was, “We will go anywhere; we ain’t yellow.”

I have always had a soft spot for hard-working immigrants pursuing the American dream. Raul was reliable and affordable. There is nothing more American than a foreign taxi driver.

It was clear to me even back then that certain things are expensive because they are government-regulated. Invariably, the products that are the most expensive are the ones most regulated: Cable, health care, energy, education, etc. Costs rise and value declines whenever the visible and sticky hand of the government is involved. When the “invisible hand” of the free market is allowed to operate unfettered, costs go down and value goes up.

In the case of the taxi monopoly, much of that governmental “regulating cost” takes the form of bribing, donating to and taking care of the politicians who protect it.

Now comes the app-based industry disrupter to those cab cartels, Uber cabs. Instead of calling a fixed-rate, local cab company and hoping it does not send a felon in a 20 year-old nasty car that he probably lives in, you can use your cell phone to e-hail an eager-to-please owner/operator of a nice Town Car or Yukon.

Uber cab drivers are remarkably efficient and affordable. They are courteous, tell you when they will pick you up, send you a receipt (no tipping), and have bottled water for you. You rate them online immediately and they are paid accordingly.

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