Taxi medallion markets collapse across America

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Wow, it’s great to see a post that’s unequivocally good news, no “on the other hand” whatsoever.

Now if we can only get some more rent seeking, regulatory capture “investments” to go the way of the taxi medallion.

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One universe of stuff to watch is current litigation against so called “certificates of necessity” – in Kentucky, for instance, if you want to start a moving company, one needs to get approval the government, but that approval is contingent on getting approval from moving companies already in the business. As you can imagine, this is rarely given.


“I have had a pretty successful thing,” said Gary Karczewski, 65, a
Chicago cabbie who inherited his medallion from his father 28 years ago
and earned enough to purchase two homes and help send his two daughters
to college

Too bad: Cabbies are supposed to be poor, buddy. Welcome to the 21st Century.


Cory, can you discuss your concerns about Uber labor practices in a bit more detail? I know a lot of folks don’t like the freelancer model; are there other issues? I’ve been a limited user of Uber in the past, and personally the model seems reasonable to me. How do others feel?

They’re generally shady. They’ve done things like spam competitors with fake rides and encouraged surge pricing by artificially limiting their drivers they also start off with high wages in new markets and pull the rug out from under their employees once they become popular.

Their CEO has in the past suggested they use their data to track journalists likely stemming from a conversation about sexism – and the founders refused to fire him.

The model is reasonable. Their business ethics aren’t. Though, it says a lot that they’re still better than the medallion system.


Here… right here. My problem is what happens when you put the rubber to the road, and actually implement the model. If you have a model, and the implementation turns out exploitative… well, how good is your model?

How successful is it and what is the end goal? Is the only goal to fatten a few people’s wallets? Or are you more concerned about changing society for the better? Some would argue because the investors seem happy, the Uber model is a success, and the creation of profit is the ONLY measure of success. [ETA] I’m not saying you’re arguing that, but some do and will continue to do so.

For me, it does come down to very real limitations of the freelancing model, and the inherent instability of it, viewing it from the labor side. Subjecting EVERYTHING to a market doesn’t necessarily make things more humane. Of course, some people don’t care about that as along as it generates a good return. Lack of regulation has also led to some problems on the side of the consumer, in some cases putting them in some real danger or even putting the driver in danger (which can be a problem for medallioned taxi drivers as well). That’s not to say that such a thing necessarily puts the consumer in physical danger, or even that the majority of Uber drivers have been problematic (after all, they want return customers, correct?). But it is something to think about.

The question probably comes down to this: who is running regulation, and who does it benefit. To say that government regulation is the answer or is never a problem is wrong, of course. But industry-based regulation can be a good way to skate out of ensuring the safety and well-being of the drivers and the public.

I was at a conference last week, and one of the papers discussed the shift to the modern monetary system. One thing I was struck by was her discussion on the role of personal honor in facilitating trade, which seems to be one current idea floating around, the reputation economy, something Cory discusses in Down and Out, with his whole “wuffie” economy. At the end of the day, ANY system can be subject to gaming and corruption, but how we can figure out one that is both economically fruitful, but inherently humane at its core. For me, ensuring human beings aren’t exploited (as well as the environment, animals, etc) SHOULD be our top priority in shaping a new economy. I’ve yet to see the return to classical liberal economic theory since the 70s really be human-centered…



Here… right here. My problem is what happens when you put the rubber to the road, and actually implement the model. If you have a model, and the implementation turns out exploitative… well, how good is your model?

The rubber gets put to the road when I tell the app I want a ride. If an Uber driver doesn’t feel exploited, he picks me up and then drops me off at my destination. They don’t even have to advertise because all of the publicity they get from the media.

Are you all going after AirBnb next? Please don’t also don’t try to ruin that for everyone.

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Your Uber drivers must all be those strangely spherical ones…


Are you saying that no exploitation has taken place, that it’s a perfectly balanced system? I’m not saying Uber drivers (or other freelance workers) can’t do well and thrive. I’m saying that we need to look at it as an aggregate, and if there are problems with the model in terms of how it treats employees, that’s a discussion that needs to be had:

I don’t think discussing labor practices constitutes ruining anything. Should we just sweep any possibly problems under the rug for the benefit of the consumer? Do you simply not care about the conditions of employment? If so, you don’t have to read about it. It seems like it is something you should care about… Other human beings providing you a service through their labor are just that - human beings. If they are being exploited by their employers, that’s a discussion we need to have.


I used AirBNB once. The room was decent, it was cheap, and the hosts were so obviously desperate to make a good impression as they rented out most of their small home and confined themselves to one room, that I felt deeply ashamed of myself for participating in the insidious beggar-thy-neighbor operation.


While I think it’s good we are removing an artificial barrier to entry, it seems unfair to punish the medallion holders. Some owners may be shell companies, but I’ve met plenty of Cabbies in Chicago who took out a personal loan to buy the medallion - it’s wrong that they are bearing the brunt. The medallion program should end, but with compassion for the people involved, and with the same rules for all people.

People seem to have a real problem with this concept (you do a good job of it here) - you can agree that some actor is scum but still performing a useful function, and that if there are two parties both are scum and we don’t need to pick sides.

Uber the company are scum but they never would have gotten anywhere if the existing taxi systems weren’t so f#@$ed up and artificially protected from competition. People use Uber because it’s so much better than using taxis (usually).

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Fucken A, you said it. My fear is that I drive in traffic on a regular basis, and while I choose to make choices that I believe will help the group as a whole (I don’t tailgate, and I try to do the ‘zipper’ thing at merge points, as in you go, now I go, etc.), it appears (confirmation bias) that everyone on the road has their Me-First hat on, and they really could give two shits about how I’m driving, or that their antics are screwing the rest of us.

Please Wesley Crusher, take us with you to your utopia. And, uh, is Deanna in? I’m feeling a little anxious lately.


This must be that freedom thing I always hear about

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I wonder, actually, how Gene Roddenberry would address the end of the Cold War and the changes that came along with it. I kind of think that the Cold War directly contributed to what little bit of humane economic system we had, but once the “communist threat” was “defeated”, well, all it did was to contribute to the notion that the capitalist system was the only game in town, and could expand how it pleased (hence neoliberalism). It’s like the end of the Soviet Union really opened up the capitalist id…or something.


it seems to me that the way to fix this corrupt medallion system is simply to make it so that the only person who is allowed to drive on any given medallion is it’s named owner. Make it so you can’t transfer medallions, only hand them back to the licencing authority and you immediately wipe out this shady underground trade.


Not to mention the evil bastard son of capitalism which seems to be rearing it’s head in places like Vietnam and China. Buy anything you want, but say anything bad about the government in charge, and that’s your ass!


I don’t see how owning a medallion is any different than owning a ridesharing company and bleaching 20 to 30% off of drivers while they live out of their cars. It’s just share shifting and for long time it was illegal until a corrupt company like Uber came along and bought a politicians to make it legal.

I think you should be able to leave them to your children or spouse, but I agree with you for the most part.