Earlier this month the Fargo Forum reported that the Fargo City Commission was considering a re-write of local taxi regulations which would have had a negative impact on Uber and other ‘ride-hailing’ companies. The City Commission wisely tabled the draft regulations and directed staff to write separate rules for ride-hailing companies.
When traveling I use Uber wherever it is available. The service is fast and efficient and the technology is user friendly. On a trip to Washington, DC last month I used Uber exclusively and was very happy with the service.
Now comes a Bill in the ND Legislature (HB 1144) that seems to be squarely targeting Uber and similar companies. I do not know what is behind this Bill but it sends the wrong message. Reasonable regulation makes sense, but regulation to erect barriers to new technology or new ways of doing business do not serve the public.
I do not know whether Uber or similar companies will be successful in North Dakota, but that is my point. It is not up to me, or the State, or local government to decide which companies will be successful; it is up to the market.
Cronyism and picking winners and losers continues to be a problem in North Dakota and across the country. A closely related issue that many of us fought in the Legislature is the use of government regulation to stop competition. Successful businesses and professions come to the Legislature every session with legislation designed to erect barriers to competition. These efforts are always promoted as ‘protecting’ the consumer but often they reduce choices and raise prices. Protection of the consumer is window dressing.
At this critical point in the State’s history we should be encouraging new technology and new business. We should fight unnecessary regulations that put road blocks in front of new business. And, we should limit the use the public funds to support ‘favored’ businesses. The next ‘big thing’ in our state will not come from some Commerce Department program – it will come from entrepreneurs free from unnecessary regulation.
On each trip we took using Uber last month we asked the drivers what they thought of Uber. With one exception the drivers were enthusiastic. With Uber they have the opportunity to ‘moonlight’ and earn some extra money for their famliy or to build their own business as an Uber driver. Uber is not perfect but it provides opportunity, which is needed today. And government has a role, but that role should not include erecting barriers to new business or protecting the status quo.