The city of Alexandria, Virginia, passed a law in 2005 to require that each cab respond to two dispatch calls every day. WAMU reports on the results:
Says [driver Chaudhry] Ahmed, “If they’re going to do this kind of stuff, then for sure we’ll be out of business and standing in line at the unemployment office.”
Alexandria created the rule back in 2005 to prevent taxi drivers from spending all their time picking up fares at hotels and the airport. Since that time, one company has closed because it couldn’t meet the requirement and another has been put on probation. But Transportation Chief Bob Garback says the city doesn’t want to shut anybody down: “Our objective is just to make sure that we have reasonable taxi service here. Shutting companies down doesn’t really serve that purpose.”
Alexandria didn’t want to shut companies down. Someone just had an idea and decided to codify it, without much thought as to where cab drivers actually find passengers, how much it costs to respond to dispatches, and so on.
No doubt most regulators and legislators don’t want to shut companies down. But special interests and activists and irate citizens press their ideas, and policymakers respond. It always seems like a good idea at the time: guarantee every worker a minimum wage, put a cap on rising rents, or make sure that banks lend money to borrowers who can’t really afford a house. And then when low-skilled workers become too expensive to hire, or builders decide they can’t make a profit on new apartment houses, or millions of mortgage holders are unable to make their payments – well, “Our objective was just to do something reasonable. We never intended to screw up the workings of the market and cause firm closings, unemployment, apartment shortages, or a wave of defaults.” But that’s the result of throwing a monkey wrench into the economy.