Scholarly Comments on Academic Economics

Do Economists Reach a Conclusion on Taxi Deregulation?

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Taxicabs are an important part of the urban transportation system, and in most communities are heavily regulated. In the past 25 years many cities have deregulated taxi markets. A substantial literature has emerged examining the merits of deregulation. Here we provide a tour of the main points of contention in the scholarly research on the desirability of taxi deregulation. We find that most economic studies of taxi deregulation find it to be on net beneficial. We mined the literature for economists’ judgments on taxi deregulation. The support for taxi deregulation is preponderant, but not overwhelmingly so. We suggest that the literature favorable to deregulation is richer and broader than the unfavorable literature, which disproportionately is model-building. There is wide consensus that taxi deregulation has been less impressive than advocates had hoped. A very important matter of interpretation is whether the disappointment was due to the over-estimation of what deregulation could deliver, or to deregulation not having been thoroughgoing. Another interpretative issue is whether restrictions on service originating at airports ought to be deemed intervention or contract within the nexus of property relations. Finally, there are also unresolved questions about whether the effects of deregulation have been fully accounted for.