Capitalists in Cuba, Communists in Connecticut
Want to catch a cab in Havana? Good luck. No new taxi licenses have issued since October 1999, fees are set by the state, and license renewal fees are high. But last week, Cuba took a surprising step and announced that it was going to loosen up the rules, even going so far as to let taxis set their own rates in the city. Rates are still capped, and the number of licenses will be determined by local officials, but it's a pretty big step for Cuba, where nearly all aspects of commerical life are state-controlled:
The move by President Raul Castro's government also breaks with the policies of his ailing brother Fidel, who long accused private taxis - legal and otherwise - of seeking "juicy profits" and fomenting a black market for state-subsidized gasoline that Cuba "had sweated and bled" to obtain.
Unfortunately, capitalism isn't yet on the march for Connecticut taxi drivers. A few large companies dominate the market in the state, and independent taxi drivers are routinely denied licenses after a long wait.
"More than half are rejected in part because they were unable to prove their business was necessary. Imagine if we required a restaurant to prove that a town didn't have too many restaurants before they were allowed to open a new one," said Robert McNamara from the Institute for Justice.
Last month, Connecticut drivers rallied in Hartford to get the state laws changed. There's one advantage they have on their Cuban bretheren—if you tried a stunt like that in Cuba, you'd probably wake up dead.