retroactive legitimization of regulation

This NYT article caught my eye: New York’s Cabbies Like Credit Cards? Go Figure

New York’s cabbies howled when the city began forcing them to take credit cards. Some even went on strike, calling the requirements a kowtow to tourists and a burden on drivers.

But two years later, the back-of-the-cab swipe has emerged as an unlikely savior for New York’s taxi industry, even as other cities’ fleets struggle to find fares in a deep recession.

Overall ridership and revenue have increased. More and more fares are being paid with credit cards, even for shorter rides. And tips for drivers, usually an early casualty of tough times, are up sharply, double over the pre-plastic days.

Even cabbies are conceding that credit cards are good for business. “It’s better,” said Naveed Shah, 35, a driver for five years, as he gassed up his Ford Crown Victoria recently. “If there was no credit card, people aren’t going to take taxicabs.”

The tone of this article concerns me. The author and the cab drivers themselves seem to have the attitude that the regulations were, on balance, a good thing. That’s because at least some of the taxi drivers admit that they were wrong to resist the regulations, that they boosted business, and that the government really did know best. But that is really besides the point. It is a business owner’s right and responsibility to make business decisions, such as whether to install credit card processing equipment and on what terms. Sometimes business owners make these decisions well, and other times they don’t. The refusal of some cabs to accept payment via credit card violated no one’s right and posed no threat to public health or safety. Thus, no regulation was justified. The cab drivers’ ultimate endorsement of the credit card readers is neither here nor there. It does not retroactively legitimize the regulation.

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