When he came to office in 1981, President Reagan tried to cancel the Federal Trade Commission as a duplicative, meddlesome agency. Even though the Justice Department also has an Antitrust Division, Congress resisted, and the FTC survived.
Now the FTC is interfering in the burgeoning "sharing economy," in which smartphone apps connect people for services. In the cross-hairs are such popular services as Uber, the ride-hailing company, and Airbnb, which matches visitors with home rentals.
In an Oct. 1 speech at Fordham University, FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez came out for greater federal involvement. "We must allow competition and innovation in the form of these new peer-to-peer business models to flourish," she said. Then she immediately urged, "At the same time, where necessary, targeted regulatory measures may be needed to ensure that these new business models have appropriate consumer protections; but they should be no greater than necessary to address those concerns."
When has any government regulator stopped at "no greater than necessary" involvement in our lives?
States already are dealing with problems. California has enacted reasonable regulations on safety for passengers and renters. Orange County generally has welcomed Uber, including at John Wayne Airport. Traditional taxi companies have had to adapt.
Unfortunattely, some cities, such as Santa Ana, Irvine and Anaheim, have been trying to heavily regulate Airbnb, or even shut it out. We have opposed such meddling, but at least the impetus is on issues like noise and street parking.
By contrast, there is no reason regulators 2,630 miles away in Washington, D.C., should get involved. We hope this topic comes up at the next presidential debates, Tuesday for Democrats and Oct. 28 for Republicans. A good tone was set this week by GOP candidate Sen. Marco Rubio, who called for fewer, not more, regulations on the shairng economy. "Uber didn't even exist when our current president was sworn in," he said. "Today it's worth $51 billion."
Ideally, some of the candidates will call for finishing Reagan's job and getting rid of the FTC.
REPRINTED FROM THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER