Everything Forbidden Is Also Compulsory

Conservatives are fond of saying, usually in regard to homosexuality, “Everything not forbidden is compulsory.” At National Review recently, Kevin Williamson reminded readers of the provenance of that particular formulation:

One of the finest books ever written about politics is The Once and Future King, in which young Arthur, not yet king, is transformed by Merlin into various kinds of animals in order to learn about different kinds of political arrangements: Hawks live under martial law, geese are freewheeling practitioners of spontaneous order, badgers are scholarly isolationists, and ants live under totalitarianism, with T. H. White famously rendering their one-sentence constitution: “Everything not forbidden is compulsory.”

The District of Columbia can go the ants one better: It makes things simultaneously forbidden and compulsory. D.C. banned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in 1973, but didn’t repeal its sodomy law until 1993. So for 20 years you couldn’t be fired for being gay, but you could be arrested.

Now the District has extended its confusion to the mundane matter of taxicab regulation. WAMU reports that

Several Washington cab companies may miss a June 29 deadline to upgrade at least 6 percent of their fleets to wheelchair-accessible vehicles….Under the D.C. Taxi Act of 2012, the 27 cab companies with fleets of at least 20 taxis were supposed to convert or purchase accessible vehicles….After meeting the 6 percent ratio this month, D.C. cab companies will be faced with upgrading to 12 percent by the end of 2016 and 20 percent by Dec. 31, 2018. 

Disability-rights advocates are angrily demanding that the companies “give us the taxicabs we deserve.”

But meanwhile the District limits entry into the taxi business with a tag system, so that:

Because of the District’s freeze on the issuance of H-tags, independent drivers may not purchase and operate their own wheelchair-accessible taxis. Instead drivers have to rent the taxi, usually a minivan with a rear ramp for power wheelchairs or motorized scooters, off a company’s lot.

D.C. native Arika Woodson, 35, approached the D.C. Taxicab Commission with a proposal to operate her own taxi company exclusively for people in wheelchairs, but was turned away because of the H-tag freeze.

So the District government is requiring taxi companies to spend money to make their cabs wheelchair-accessible. At the same time, it’s also refusing to grant taxi licenses to entrepreneurs who want to put wheelchair-accessible cabs on the streets. It’s compulsory and forbidden all at the same time!

And one more point: Before the conversion mandate, “Two government-subsidized ride programs, Roll DC and Transport DC, provided 19 vehicles for people in wheelchairs, primarily to make doctors’ visits.” So wheelchair-accessible taxis are forbidden, compulsory, AND taxpayer-subsidized in the District of Columbia. It’s a trifecta of interventionism.