Paris Cab Drivers Use Violence Against Uber

This story (via Glenn Reynolds) rings just so true in so many ways.

Uber, the service that allows you hail a car ride from your smartphone, has faced bureaucratic obstacles and legal challenges in nearly all of the cities where it has tried to expand, typically from local taxi and limousine commissions that aren’t happy about the competition. Today in Paris, those paperwork protests turned into smashed windows and flat tires.

Five thousand French taxi drivers are on strike today . . . Multiple men allegedly attacked an Uber car carrying passengers away from the airport . . . Uber has been operating in France since December, when new rules allowed such phone-based services to pick up passengers as long as they wait 15 minutes.

In Paris, the cabs are problematic. One can only get them at designated taxi stations, which often requires one to walk several blocks. (Interestingly, one can call for them from a hotel or apartment, but they put the meter on when they receive the call, not when they pick you up.)

And the French way, dating back to the Revolution, is to protest changes that people do not like by calling disruptive strikes (often involving some violence), which appears to work. This element of lawlessness appears to be accepted as legitimate protest in France.

As I suggested a while back in discussing Gordon Tullock’s work, it is possible that the French cab drivers – while protected from competititon – are not earning monopoly returns. For example, if they are restricted through a medallion system, the purchasing of the medallions would have paid the previous owner an amount that would have covered the higher than competitive returns that were expected from the ownership of the medallion.

These stable, but pernicious arrangements are often disrupted by technological innovation. What this suggests is that when measuring the benefits that new technology provides to us, we should not only consider the productivity gains they make possible, but also the circumventions of problematic regulations.

Reader Discussion

Law & Liberty welcomes civil and lively discussion of its articles. Abusive comments will not be tolerated. We reserve the right to delete comments - or ban users - without notification or explanation.

on January 15, 2014 at 12:14:31 pm


As a former taxi driver during my early college years, I tend to have a soft spot for these folks, so perhaps my question can thus be explained. Anyway, here it is.

Could (not should) any of the licensed medallion owners, who have invested significant sums (approx $700k in some cities) in purchasing a medallion from the City or it's agency with the implied promise that this investment would be protected, via municipal regulation, from diminution have a legal case against that municipality?
In other words, once a governmental entity establishes a monopoly, what are its obligations to the contributing members of that monopoly when the municipality has in fact benefited from such a restrictive practice?

take care

read full comment
Image of gabe
on January 15, 2014 at 14:20:01 pm


I think that's a great question. It was raised in the Charles River Bridge case, where bridge owners lost their decades-old monopoly, and challenged it on the basis that Massachusetts had made an implied agreement that the owners would retain a monopoly and that the state would not permit the construction of a competing bridge.

Like the Court majority in the case, I don't think there's a contractual agreement there. But I do think it would be a legitimate use of fiscal powers to impose a general tax to fund a re-purchase of medallions at a rate that provides some compensation for the loss.

read full comment
Image of David Upham
David Upham
on January 15, 2014 at 16:04:46 pm

Thanks, David:
i was thinking along those lines but did not know if it were permissible.
Of course, it goes against the grain to provide a "bailout" for the beneficiaries of a monopoly - however, it seems that they are, to some extent, compelled participants in such a scheme.

Again, thanks for the info.


read full comment
Image of gabe

Law & Liberty welcomes civil and lively discussion of its articles. Abusive comments will not be tolerated. We reserve the right to delete comments - or ban users - without notification or explanation.