Issac Bailey

Myrtle Beach perverting free enterprise in Uber fight

Uber drivers should not be required to have a Myrtle Beach business license.

And if that is unfair to taxi drivers, loosen regulations on cab companies instead of handcuffing Uber.

No matter how you slice it, those willing to use their vehicles in the ride-sharing outfit should not be considered criminals.

Every argument that says otherwise is about misdirection or a desire to maintain the status quo.

In the latest episode in what’s becoming a seriously-silly controversy, an Uber driver was ticketed twice within the span of a week for the sin of … providing people a ride in his private car for a fee.

This is from a story by my colleague Elizabeth Townsend:

Police responded to a call about a driver operating without a business license about 1 a.m. Monday at Broadway at the Beach, authorities said.

Officers saw the car headed toward Robert Grissom Parkway and did a traffic stop. When officers spoke with the driver, he told them he had been cited last week for operating without a business license and that he wasn’t operating as an Uber driver any more, according to the report.

The driver initially felt compelled to lie, as though he had gotten caught transporting large quantities of cocaine across state lines.

During a week in which police officers in Horry County detailed the ways they are overworked and underpaid, and a period in which Myrtle Beach is gearing up to pay boatloads of overtime for the Atlantic Beach Memorial Day Bikefest, we are forcing police officers to chase down Uber drivers.

This past July, multiple city officials went on record about how they would strenuously regulate Uber, including a potential police sting operation and the city filing civil suits.

Councilman Randal Wallace said “lock them up.”

To recap: We are not talking about drunk drivers or armed robbers or johns and prostitutes.

We aren’t talking about people who stick guns in the faces of bank tellers.

This isn’t even about purse snatchers or nude, intoxicated tourists taking to skinny dipping under the moonlight.

We are talking about people who sign up to provide a service to those wanting an option cheaper than a cab.

The argument is that it would be unfair to not force Uber drivers to meet all the requirements of taxi companies.

And that’s true — because free enterprise isn’t fair.

Uber shouldn’t be required to do what cab companies do — because it is not a cab company.

The laws saying they should be treated alike should be repealed, not strengthened.

In fact, Uber’s entrance into the market should be used to rethink the city’s taxi regulatory structure. Should there be one at all?

Can something go wrong during an Uber ride? Can someone be attacked or be badly hurt during an accident?

Yes, and yes.

Those things can — and do — happen with cab companies as well.

Uber officials say they conduct criminal background and driving checks. But even if they didn’t, that should simply be between the driver and his passenger.

If I choose Uber instead of a cab, I’m willingly taking a risk, small though it may be.

Myrtle Beach residents “hitch” rides all the time, and sometimes once they reach a destination, they offer the driver a small fee, for gas or out of courtesy.

Must those everyday drivers be forced to attain a business license, too?

Cab company owners feel most threatened. But that’s no reason to violate basic concepts of free enterprise.

This isn’t health care, a complex multi-layered system that requires a collective solution to make it work best for as many people as possible.

Allowing Uber to operate without these restrictions would mean cab companies would be forced to adjust.

By doing so, competition increases and the consumer ends up with more options and better prices.

Why would Myrtle Beach, or any other governmental entity, want to prevent that?

Is using law enforcement to corral Uber really the wisest use of taxpayer dollars?