In my column for CNN, I ask why Paris won't allow more people to drive cabs and create jobs:
The taxi rocked to the pounding sounds of French rap music.
My wife turned to our hostess. "Can you ask him to turn it down?"
The hostess waved her hands nervously. "No, it will only offend him." She explained: The massive Paris taxi shortage had transformed the city's cab drivers into so many motorized Soup Nazis: "My cab, my music; if you don't like it—walk."
Back in 1937, Paris capped the number of taxi permits at 14,000. Now, 75 years later, a bigger and vastly richer Paris receives some 27 million tourist visits per year—and the number of cabs has edged up less than 14%, to 15,900. Result: In wind and rain and baking sun, Parisians must stand in long lines at taxi stands for cabs that never come.
In 2007, the new government of Nicolas Sarkozy proposed to supplement the existing fleet. It would license 6,500 new cars in Paris, 23,500 in the rest of France. The proposal triggered a strike that shut down the city for a day -- and frightened Sarkozy into surrender.
Five years later, it's as difficult to find a cab in Paris as ever. (Paris has about 2,000 more cab licenses than New York, which has a much bigger population, but New York has a vast fleet of cars for hire to supplement medallion cabs—and except for the luxury market, car services are illegal in Paris.)
On the list of world problems, the difficulties of Paris taxi riders may seem to rank low.
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