In an age when people slap their own backs for celebrating diversity and tolerance, their xenophobia shines when they use government authority to enforce their own values over others and limit choice.
Take Golden resident, and seeming hater of affordable housing, Daniel Hayes. He said of his statewide anti-growth initiative, “They’re building too many apartment buildings. We have enough apartment buildings to last us 10 or 15 years.”
How does he know how many apartment buildings are enough? Apparently, it’s like a good melon – you just know. Tell that to those who can’t find an affordable apartment.
So certain is Mr. Hayes that we have enough he wants a law to stop the building of more. Mr. Hayes owns a house, so who cares if others can’t find a rental.
You know, sometimes the market does work, like when a business closes after it can’t attract enough customers. Take Denver B-cycle. This non-profit bicycle sharing program is folding due to plummeting ridership, thanks in great part to the for-profit competition from electric scooters and bikes.
B-cycle survived mostly on contributions from companies like Kaiser Permanente, and oil companies like Anadarko and Suncor who want to look warm and fuzzy. (Side note to oil companies: please stop giving your money to goofy causes and people who hate you. Instead use that money to make the moral case for fossil fuels and show how your industry has done more to advance humanity than any other. Stop apologizing.)
How did B-cycle measure success? Not making by money. They proudly boast how many calories were burned and carbon saved by cyclists peddling their bikes. What people renting a two-wheeled conveyance more likely care about is getting around in Denver. That’s why they choose electric bikes and scooters they don’t peddle for their short trips.
Just like you, when I first saw some hipster sporting a man-bun tooling around on an electric scooter I wanted to run him over, partly because it looked so stupid and partly because I’m jealous of young people with hair. But I have used these scooters a few times and found them surprisingly helpful with the added benefit that when I ride it makes it look so un-cool it scares the hipsters.
Like or hate these scooters they fill a market need, no government planners required.
Competition from B-cycle won’t kill electric scooters so, of course, it’s about time the city of Denver did. The city is again proving what Ronald Reagan said of the government’s view of the economy: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.
Unlike B-cycle, electric scooters keep moving. So, Denver is going to limit the number of companies that can provide the service. This is the same thinking that limited the number of taxi cabs allowed in Denver generations ago, choking mobility and stifling competition until Uber went around the law and busted the market open.
Scooter companies soon will have to win a contract with the city in order to risk their investors’ capital and provide a desired service. The city plans to limit the number of contracts to perhaps only one company. This makes the City and County of Denver their one and only customer, not the riders. As Mel Brooks said in History of the World, “it’s good to be the king.”
Like Mr. Hayes in Golden, planners know how many scooters and which scooter companies should exist.
“Having a contract really gives us more control on what kind of operation we want to have,” Heather Burke, spokeswoman for Denver Public Works, told The Denver Post. The key word is CONTROL. Limiting other people’s choices and choosing the winners and losers in the market is control, arrogant and intolerant control — not that planners ever see it that way.
Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of issues around electric scooters and bikes from safety to them littering walkways. I’m not suggesting there shouldn’t be rules that apply to the companies that put them out to rent and the customers who rent them.
I am suggesting limiting choices, whether it’s apartments or scooters, should be left to consumers.
Jon Caldara is president of the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver.