Too Many Taxicabs
By Vin Suprynowicz
Special to The Libertarian Enterprise
Has there ever been a clearer demonstration of the way regulatory
agencies, foisted on the public as measures to "protect" the
consumer, in fact "protect" only the right of the regulated firms to
be free of competition?
Drive up and down the Las Vegas Strip, or in and out of McCarran
Airport, and you might agree at first glance that Las Vegas has
plenty of taxicabs. Those are, after all, the most lucrative routes
to which cabbies can swarm.
But try to find -- or even call for -- a cab in almost any other
part of this one-million-population Valley, and it can be another
Why? Because -- just as in New York, and every other urban
capital of garbage-strewn American statism -- Nevada has a government
"Taxicab Authority," designed to keep prices high by creating an
eternal shortage of cabs.
Where did we get the idea that some government agency should
determine for us the "proper" number of anything available in the
Are there "too many" pizza places in this town? Quite possibly,
if by "too many" we mean that a fair number of stores seem to go out
of business each year, thanks to narrow profit margins enforced by
the fact that -- should Tony's try to charge $16 for a large --
Roberto's down the street is likely to steal all their customers away
by advertising the same thing for $12.
Would it thus be a good idea to establish a Nevada Pizza
Authority, scientifically determining the "ideal" number of pizza
restaurants to be allowed in each square mile?
Once one neighborhood pizza place had paid several thousands of
dollars for its pizza license under such a system, of course, it
could be expected to show up and testify against the "economic chaos"
which would surely result if any second pizza parlor were ever
permitted to set up shop in its "protected market." Waitresses would
be regularly paraded down to the hearings, showing off the blubbering
infants who (the commissioners would be solemnly assured) would
surely starve if their struggling moms were "thrown out in the
street" by the threatened "excessive competition."
Such a scheme sounds absurd on its face. Yet it's accepted
without question when the commodity is taxicabs.
Richard Flaven ought to know the ins and outs of the business --
and where the market would support another entrepreneur. Mr. Flaven,
39, is a Taxicab Authority compliance officer at McCarran Airport.
His father, Robert Flaven, is the Taxicab Authority's chief
When Mr. Flaven applied last fall for the required license to
operate two cabs out of cab stands in Boulder City and Henderson's
Galleria Mall -- the southernmost suburbs of Greater Las Vegas -- one
might have expected the state Taxicab Authority to check, perhaps,
and make sure no "employee preference" was being shown one of their
But that wasn't the problem at all, as reported by author and
Review-Journal columnist John L. Smith on March 21. No, the problem
was that the taxicab authority hasn't licensed a new cab company in
Southern Nevada in a quarter of a century, and sees no reason to
start now ... even if the city's population has quadrupled.
So, having shelled out $50,000 to apply for his license, Mr.
Flaven the younger was curtly told last November that his application
had been rejected. He reapplied in January, and will have his case
heard again in May.
Mr. Flaven doesn't sound too upset. "It's a long process," he
told John L. on March 20. "But it means everything to me. To have an
opportunity to serve the public and to build a stronger company than
what I have; that's everything."
Mr. Flaven has good reason to modulate his comments. Should he
gain his license, then the Taxicab Authority would of course stand as
a bulwark, defending him from unwanted upstart competitors,
guaranteeing him a share of the healthy profits of a market
Central government planning based on "scientific evaluation of
the public's economic needs" is collapsing around the world,
sometimes in flames but more often rust and rubble, in whimpers of
disgust and embarrassment. America won the Cold War by standing as a
champion of the free market, with all the prosperity and opportunity
Isn't anyone else embarrassed by what is arguably America's
freest state -- Nevada -- insisting on the perpetuation of the
Central Government Commissariat of Taxicab Planning?
The solution is not to sell Mr. Flaven his license, and then slam
the door for another 25 years. The solution is for the 1997 Nevada
Legislature to disband and de-fund the Nevada Taxicab Authority,
instructing it that -- as its final duty -- it is to send a letter to
Mr. Flaven, informing him: "Go ahead; good luck; you don't need no
Vin Suprynowicz is the assistant editorial page editor of the Las
Vegas Review-Journal. The web site for the Suprynowicz column is at
http://www.nguworld.com/vindex/. The column is syndicated in the
United States and Canada via Mountain Media Syndications, P.O. Box
4422, Las Vegas Nev. 89127.