Ž. Šilėnas. LFMI@DC. Bureacracy and taxi

Blog by Zilvinas Silenas

Any trip to the US is special for me. First, this is the foreign country in which I spent most time – four years of studies. Second, it’s the country I like most (except for Lithuania, which is my favorite of course). If I did not live in Lithuania I would definitely be living in the US.

So, these some of my new remark about the US.

First- Papework Reduction Act. I am not sure if all documents have this side note, but I think they should. Especially in Lithuania. You need to know how long it would take to fill out any paper issued by the government. But most importantly, the people are a good source of ideas how to reduce bureaucracy. It does not cost anything, it makes people feel more positively inclined towards paperwork. Do that and you might not need to hire an expensive consulting company or perform “Paperwork reduction studies”. Lithuania needs this ASAP.

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Second – cars. For getting around DC you need a big black SUV. Preferably American-made and with tinted windows, e.g. Chevy Suburban. In the movies faceless government agents or generally evil people drive around in those. By the way – tinted windows is not just a fashion statement. It is hot in USA. New York is in the latitude as Turkey, DC – as is Southern Spain or North Africa.

To continue on the topic of vehicle services, Vilnius is not the only place that comes up with silly regulations. Our driver cannot pick us up next to the hotel, because he is from a different state. Long story short, DC authorities have no idea how to battle “Uber”, so it forbade to pick up and drop off passengers in DC for everyone who is from outside of DC. Our driver tells us it’s complete nonsense since there are lots of people traveling from Maryland or Virginia to DC; many people who work in DC but live in Virginia etc. How would anyone be able to enforce this after all? Because the Taxi Board (yes, there is even this type bureaucratic agency) has few people working for them. And their work isn’t stellar. Our colleague, a DC old-timer says that if you call a cab, and they say they will pick you up, the probability of that happening is around 10%.


Once the conversation moves to “Uber” however, you can feel some natural human bias. If government regulates the business in a way that is bad for my business – that’s silly and stupid. If government regulates it in a way that hurts my competitors, maybe it’s not all that bad. “You can’t just have everyone driving around and giving rides to people without insurance or regulation”. Finally after a prolonged discussion we all come to the agreement that the root cause of the problem is the artificially capped number of taxis in DC.

The “Uber” phenomenon shows that discussions in Lithuania are lagging behind. Give it a year and the main discussion will be not whether a government-owned taxi company should be entitled to subsidies, but what to do with “Uber”. Or what to do with Airbnb, if it really takes off. Won’t we have a situation where hotels and taxi companies will lobby for government to impose “some sort of order”? These questions are difficult. But if the main rationale of the government is to make life easier for people, then the answers are simple.