Government regulation is often, at heart, state protection of the incumbent businesses. This was a central theme of my book, and is a recurring theme of my column. Radley Balko, at Reason‘s Hit & Run blog today, points us to a particularly ridiculous example of this: A guy offers a lady a ride home; she accepts and offers to pay him; he accepts her payment; it turns out to be a sting for operating an unlicensed taxi service.

The excuse for government regulation of cabs is consumer protection. This example points out that it’s more about protecting incumbent businesses. Having grown up in a Mafia-heavy town, I am reminded of the “property-rights” cartels of the waste-hauling business. While my neighbors in garbage-hauling relied on heavies named Vinny to conduct their enforcement, more up-to-date businesses simply rely on the state to keep out competitors.