Uber and Lyft vs. City Hall

Jim Epstein in Wisconsin Interest Magazine


Wisconsin Interst Magazine |||

I've got a cover story in the latest issue of Wisconsin Interest Magazine looking at how Uber and Lyft have turned the cab business—and politics as usual—upside down in the Badger State. Here's an excerpt:

"All of a sudden on a weekend in downtown Milwaukee there were hundred of cars to choose from if you want to get home from the bars," says Anthony Sanders, who was the lead attorney for the Institute for Justice in the Milwaukee lawsuit. "The drivers were more confused than anyone because for the longest time you could barely get a job driving, let alone own your own vehicle," he says. "It was just marvelous to watch it all play out."

Milwaukee's taxi regime unraveled at an astonishing pace. Ald. Robert Bauman, who sponsored the legislation that boosted the number of permits by 100, came out with a new bill lifting the cap altogether and legalizing services like Uber and Lyft. Bauman's bill was a model of laissez-faire governance, mandating that drivers submit to regular vehicle inspections but little more. The legislation sailed through the council, and in August, Mayor Tom Barrett added his signature.

Uber and Lyft transformed the city's taxi laws by throwing a wrench in the political sausage factory. The city's 1992 cap came into existence in the first place because permit holders, with much to gain, hired the law firm of Adelman, Adelman & Murray to lobby the council to impose a cap. The bill passed the council without getting much attention because future drivers and the general public—those most hurt by the cap—weren't clued in, so they didn't know to object.

Uber and Lyft clued them in.

Read the whole thing.

Reason on Uber and Lyft.

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  1. The only people I feel sorry for are the taxi business owners that purchased those expensive medallions from the Taxi Mafia.

    You’ll see the regulations start hitting Uber once accidents occur with drivers that are un-insured.

    At the end of the day, you will end of with
    a with bankrupted existing drivers that will see their investments into the taxi mafia go to zero
    b taxi drivers that will probably earn less than the current taxi drivers
    c very very happy passengers
    d regulations will creep right back in (probably sponsored by Uber to take out the next guy with the better idea)

    I guess since I don’t depend on driving taxis for a living, I look forward to the lower prices and the large number of drivers.

    1. It is not the government’s job to ensure a particular industry is profitable. If it were, we’d still light our houses with candles.

      It sucks for the individual cabbies to shelled out their cash to purchase medallions, but if you are going to try to profit by rent-seeking.

      Oh and I’m pretty sure Uber and Lyft cover their drivers while they are “on the clock” so I don’t think that’s an issue.

      1. “but if you are going to try to profit by rent-seeking…”

        Looks like I forgot to finish that sentence. Try again:

        But if you are going to try to profit by rent-seeking, then I will not cry for you when you lose your ill-gotten rents.

  2. I’ve lived in downtown Milwaukee for almost two years now. The bars I would go out to were all about a 15-20 minute walk from my apartment. Without fail, it would be a 15-20 minute wait for a cab if I called one of the two major cab companies in town, so it almost always made sense for me to walk if I didn’t plan ahead and get a cab.

    Now, I pull up an app on my phone, click a button and at almost any hour I can get in (1) a nicer car, (2) driven by a friendlier person, (3) who gives me candy, and (4) plays music they think I will like, rather than whatever crap they want.

    It’s better in every way for everyone, except the leeches profiting from an artificial government monopoly. Forgive me if I do not shed a tear for them.

    1. plays music they think I will like, rather than whatever crap they want.

      Fuck you man. If you don’t like my fuckin’ music get your own fuckin’ Uber!

      1. +4.6 rating

  3. Uber hiring staff in Vancouver, despite city moratorium

    Ride-for-hire app company Uber is looking to hire managers in Vancouver, despite the city government’s decision last week to impose a six-month moratorium on issuing new taxi licences.

    City council voted to use that time to study what the impacts might be of several changes to taxi licensing in the city, including how a ride-share service like Uber would fit into the picture.

    Bauer [general manager of Yellow Cab] also said if Uber is allowed to operate in Vancouver, it will create a financial catastrophe for traditional taxi operators.


    1. It may be boo-fucking-hoo for us that don’t earn a living driving taxis that we invested a bunch of money to licence with the taxi mob.

      It is probably bankrupcy, divorce, etc.etc.etc. for the current drivers.

      And, as I mentioned before, you’ll see two things:
      1. Uber will go out of business as copy-cat will follow for cheaper and better.
      2. A few accidents with unlicenced or under insured drivers will lead the path to regulations.


      But on the other hand, we need to unwind these taxi mafias.

      1. What is it with you and the existing medallion holders? You act as if it’s government’s job to keep them in status quo.

        Like the guy said, if your philosophy held, we’d all still be burning candles.

        If moving sidewalks came along, or transporters, or cars that could fold up into 5 pound briefcases, would you want them banned too?

        Hell, you’re posting here eliminates post office jobs, secretarial jobs, jobs making and selling stationery. Why gives you the right to throw them out of work and into bankruptcy, divorce, etc. etc. etc?

        1. So we should be writing our random Dune quotes on postcards and mailing them into Reason? How would Fist cheat the commenting system then? Courier service?

      2. A few accidents with unlicenced or under insured drivers will lead the path to regulations.

        Yeah no Uber has insurance for that.

    2. They’ve also started up in Ottawa. PLEASE come to Calgary. Bastards in Ottawa are handing out fines after calling Uber up. Why doesn’t Uber leak their identities?

  4. “This Edison fellow must be stopped!”

    /Whale oil sellers

    1. Rockefeller was who saved the whales, not Edison.

  5. Intersting…

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