EDITORIAL: Federal appelate courts see through the taxi cartel

Over the past two years, the Las Vegas cab cartel has offered a variety of protectionist proposals to combat the entry of Uber and Lyft into the local transportation market. Fortunately, state lawmakers — for the most part — haven’t played along. As a result, local consumers and tourists have emerged as big winners.

Rather than seek the freedom to compete, local taxi interests prefer the same old tired cronyism. With ridership numbers plummeting for Southern Nevada cab companies — and even on Strip bus routes — some members of the Nevada Taxicab Authority remain committed to seeking relief in Carson City next year through legislation designed to entangle ride-hailing services in a regulatory thicket.

The desperation isn’t confined to Nevada. The lengths to which the entrenched taxi establishment will go to avoid competition have become more ludicrous across the country. In both Miami and Chicago, for instance, cab companies offered the feeble argument that allowing ride-hailing services into the marketplace constituted a “taking” under the Fifth Amendment, so they should be awarding “just compensation” for the loss of their “private property.”

Las Vegas taxi interests were no doubt watching those cases carefully. Earlier this month, however, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals became the second federal appellate court to wholeheartedly reject this nonsense.

“Even the most cursory examination of the code reveals that the county did not give the medallion holders the right to enjoin competition,” wrote Judge Stanley Marcus for the unanimous three-judge panel in the Miami case. There is “no basis for the medallion holders’ assertion that they were entitled to, or could reasonably rely on, a competition-free marketplace.”

The ruling mimics a decision in 2016 by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. In that case, a unanimous three-judge panel dismissed the absurd notion that the Constitution protected Chicago’s taxi monopoly from competitorrs.

‘“Property’ does not include a right to be free from competition,” wrote Judge Richard Posner. “A license to operate a coffee shop doesn’t authorize the licensee to enjoin a tea shop from opening. When property consists of a license to operate in a market in a particular way, it does not carry with it a right to be free from competition in that market.”

Judge Posner went on to point out that to buy the cab company logic would be to accept economic stagnation. “Were the old deemed to have a constitutional right to preclude the entry of the new into the markets of the old,” he wrote, “economic progress might grind to a halt. Instead of taxis, we might have horse and buggies; instead of the telephone, the telegraph; instead of computers, slide rules.”

The federal courts have seen right through these Hail Marys. When taxi lobbyists start shoveling similar self-serving bull the next legislative session, Nevada lawmakers should, too.

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