Thursday, February 28, 2008

Government Crackdown on Good Samaritans

INDIANA, PA -- Denise George never thought she was breaking the law. Living on the outskirts of Dayton, she didn't think twice about helping her Amish neighbors — whose religion prevents them from owning vehicles — make a trip or two into town during the week for supplies and other reasons.

That is, until she got a cease-and-desist letter from the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission informing her that her actions were illegal.

HT: Reason

17 Comments:

At 2/28/2008 9:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

By this reasoning, carpooling is by definition illegal despite its obvious benefits to alleviate traffic congestion and reduce pollution.

Does this mean that a neighbour should not give a lift to a senior citizen for fear of receiving a jar of jam? Does this mean that one should let home grown zucchini and tomatoes rot rather than share them with your neighbours?

This policy seems to be racially discriminatory since one can think of many examples where the logic does not hold.

 
At 2/28/2008 10:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

http://www.puc.state.pa.us/

You can contact the Pennsylvannia Utility Commission with the above link. Click on "Contact Us" to send a message.

 
At 2/28/2008 10:24 AM, Blogger Walt G. said...

I wouldn’t worry about carpooling or taking a neighbor somewhere for a couple reasons. A complaint would have to be filed against you by someone. And, an examination of the facts would take place following established procedures and guidelines with an appeal process for those who are unhappy with the findings of fact. No governmental authority can legitimately deny you due process.

There’s a good chance if you are reported as a possible law violator, an investigation upholds that allegation, and you exhaust your appeal process, you are doing something illegal. There is nothing inherently wrong with that logic.

The Amish need to be protected from unsafe vehicles and unscrupulous operators whether they agree with that notion or not. All regulations are not necessarily bad policy.

 
At 2/28/2008 12:23 PM, Blogger happyjuggler0 said...

walt g,

The Amish need to be protected from unsafe vehicles and unscrupulous operators whether they agree with that notion or not

How does getting a license give you scruples? How does it make you a safe driver?

All regulations are not necessarily bad policy

I agree. Murder, rape, assault, theft, and all their cousins (such as fraud) should have regulations prohibiting them.

But this is a bad regulation, it prevents adults from making their own risk/reward decisions and gives that power to a bunch of fools who never even met them and have no real idea what tradeoffs they face.

If the woman who is helping the Amish wants to continue helping them, she has to pay a hefty sum of money to the government to get a piece of paper allowing her to help them. It doesn't make her safer or more honest to get that piece of paper, but it does mean that she really will have to start charging them real money. How does that make her passengers better off?

Adults are perfectly capable of making their own choices, certainly more capable than strangers who know nothing about them. As if issueing pieces of paper to drivers makes the Amish better off.

 
At 2/28/2008 12:54 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

You can’t assume that unlicensed businesses are following practices that are in your best interest. When is the last time you asked a friend to see that they had insurance before getting in his or her car? If you are paying for the ride, you should expect to be protected.

Let’s quit pretending here. We are talking about someone whom is operating a business for profit that is undercutting legitimate business operators by operating illegally. A case of a friend transporting an old lady to the doctor for a jar of jelly would never see the inside of a court room.

 
At 2/28/2008 2:18 PM, Blogger happyjuggler0 said...

Let’s quit pretending here. We are talking about someone whom is operating a business for profit that is undercutting legitimate business operators by operating illegally

walt g,

Let's quit pretending. What government is doing is cutting down on legitimate supply by creating an illegitimate impediment to helping people.

Reduce supply and prices go up for the Amish. Which is why the guy who is charging high prices wants to use government coercion to stop the nice lady from helping people. He wants to be able to take her "customers" and charge them his high rates. He's not the victim here, the Amish are.

 
At 2/28/2008 2:59 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Tne "nice lady" is running a business.

 
At 2/28/2008 8:32 PM, Blogger juandos said...

walt g says: "Tne "nice lady" is running a business"...

Hmmm, interesting business if the newspaper is to be believed: About twice a week since, George has transported Amish to doctor visits, the hospital emergency room, weddings or grocery shopping in Punxsutawney, Indiana and Kittanning. For her services, she receives gas money and sometimes handmade Amish goods and crafts...

Now we are talking some serious money, eh walt g?...:-)

Actually PUC is part and parcel of the following: Complying with government regulations consumes $1.4 Trillion
($1,028 billion federal mandates, $343 billion state & local government mandates)
- 14.9% of the economy - $4,680 per man, woman and child -

 
At 2/29/2008 7:10 AM, Blogger Walt G. said...

It's difficult to have a regulation that only allows a nice lady exemption.

Regulations don't seem necessary until some pedophile in an old van with bad brakes gets in an accident and kills fourteen paying Amish passengers. When something like that happens, and it has or will, everyone will be screaming “Why isn’t there a law against that?”

The lady charged for over 100 trips in a two-year period (2 times a week for two years). She IS in business. Being in business is like being pregnant; there’s no such thing as a “little bit.”

If she is altruistic, she can always donate her time. As far as gas money goes, she should have the Amish passenger pump the gas and pay the gas station on their way to town. She would have a plausible defense that she was not accepting compensation for transporting passengers that would be very difficult to disprove. No proof, no fine.

 
At 2/29/2008 9:44 AM, Blogger juandos said...

Hey walt g...

Your comment: "When something like that happens, and it has or will, everyone will be screaming “Why isn’t there a law against that?”"

Hmmm, sounds like someone from the trial lawyers' association but I take your valid point...

Your next comment: "The lady charged for over 100 trips in a two-year period"...

She charged or was offered? That part of the article I wasn't clear on... I thought it meant that Denise George was, 'offered'...

Am I splitting hairs here?

walt g if you consider it a business then I have to imagine that state tax officials might also think along the same lines...

I'm wondering if Denise George may end up getting contacted and asked about 8 quarterly tax returns?

The last one by you walt g: "As far as gas money goes, she should have the Amish passenger pump the gas and pay the gas station on their way to town"...

Well therein lies the problem with the Amish, they aren't suppose to use something that is considered modern technology...

I'm sure you've seen those really old gas pumps from back in the early 20th century where one had to physically pump gas into the reservoir at the top of the pump for a gravity feed down the hose and into the car's gas tank...

I'm sure then the Amish could easily deal with that and not have a religious conflict...

But hey walt g, I'm just guessing here...:-)

I've cycled through Armstrong county back in the eighties and the Amish were cool about bicycles but though they could admire a motorcycle from afar they wouldn't touch one...

 
At 2/29/2008 10:36 AM, Blogger Walt G. said...

juandos,

She was compensated for her services for more than 100 trips, and she has no plans of stopping what she is doing. We can leave it at that.

And, yes, she would owe taxes on profits when she reaches a predetermined amount. I pay taxes, so why shouldn’t she pay taxes?

Like I said before, this is not a case of a nice lady occasionally taking an Amish friend to the doctor for a jar of jelly.

 
At 2/29/2008 5:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Walt g,

What is the difference between a carpool transporting a co-worker 5 days a week with a passenger paying a share of the gas? I carpooled for 2 years with a co-worker and nobody had a problem with it. I would have thought my government insane if it had forced me to take 4 buses and up to 2 hours rather than a 45 minute car journey.

The distinction here seems to be between someone accepting ANY form of compensation for a service which is currently regulated by the government monopoly without regard to whether the fare constituted a profit or merely reimbursement of out of pocket expenses. The government has failed to demonstrate that Ms. George catered to multiple passengers which would support the idea of a "business".

To imagine that someone can earn a living by offering a mere 2 rides per week is ludicrous. My grandmother used to get the same service provided by a neighbour so that she could do her shopping. Do you think that at 93, it is safer for my grandmother to walk in a town that has no bus service or should someone living on less than $6,000 per year have to pay for a taxi to please some stupid bureaucrat?

Easy to see that you are unionized. Fair and free exchanges should be disallowed at all costs. To hell with the Amish or anyone else who dares to use any alternative to the public transit or taxi mafia.

 
At 2/29/2008 6:48 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

I came to appreciate regulations after having a knife pulled on me by a taxicab driver in Mexico City while a policeman watched and walked the other way. The driver wanted twice the quoted fare and I refused, so we had an altercation. I decided it was a good idea to pay to be able to walk away with all my body parts intact.

That's obviously an extreme example, but sometimes you can have more freedom with seemingly stupid laws than without them. We tend to take a lot of our protections in the U.S. for granted.

I’m not sure what the unionized part of your argument is all about, but yes I am. I’m also a law-abiding worker who pays taxes on all of my earnings and volunteers in my community. Our union membership built a Habitat for Humanity house last fall, and a children’s playscape at a school last summer. We also provided Christmas presents for over 300 children this year. We have a bowling tournament for disabled children next week. Do you and your co-workers support your community as well we do?

 
At 3/01/2008 9:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I work in a home office for my husband. I have been a community volunteer for 20 years and donate to charities including Sunnybrook Hospital, the Nature Conservancy, the Red Cross, and the Salvation Army.

I also live in a rural community where there is no public transit and where a taxi from the closest town to my hamlet would cost $20.00. If my car broke down, I know that my neighbour would give me a lift to town to buy my groceries. Alternatively, I would have to pay $20.00 each way and wait for 20-30 minutes for the taxi to arrive or pay the driver extra to wait while I did my shopping.

Illegal taxis and buses are an element of most of central and south America. They are not a fixture in the U.S. or Canada and for good reason.

Hernando de Soto studied why people pursue extra-legal activities in the area of transit, public markets, housing, etc. in a book called "The Other Path". When building a public market takes 12 years if one tries to conform with the myriad of authorities and regulations, people go outside the law. If one cannot obtain a taxi license legally, people end up paying a few bribes and working outside the law.

I agree that people should pay their taxes but I don't have a problem with 2 people sharing expenses such as driving together and sharing the cost of gas. If both parties are going to buy groceries, it makes sense to cooperate so that they share the advantage of having a car.

To make a case for a business, I think you have to demonstrate 2 things:

1. a material profit rather than just sharing expenses (paying for gas does not cover insurance costs, depreciation, licensing costs, driver salary and benefits, etc.)
2. a customer base beyond your next door neighbour

In Mexico, you described someone who serves many customers including many like yourself who don't know the driver.

With regard to the purpose of legislation to protect the public, one should also consider that risk is not removed by a taxi or bus license. Our local school board is being sued because the board contracted with a taxi company to transport children home from an after school program. One of the children was killed in an accident and the parents of the boy are now suing the school board. In this instance, there were no criminal charges laid against the driver. The parents are suing because they think the board did not adequately protect the children in their care by failing to provide a bus for 6 kids.

Legislation does not create a risk free society. The Ontario Lien Act for example, requires a notarized statutory declaration from all trades swearing that they have paid all suppliers and subtrades. While this is great news for lawyers everywhere, it does not prevent a subtrade from lying and it does not set aside any funds or bond to protect the homeowner from liens placed against the home by an unpaid sub-trade. In other words, it is legislation written by lawyers for the benefit of lawyers.

 
At 3/01/2008 11:13 AM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Risk is never removed, but it can be controlled somewhat.

I believe most people are good. However, the same rules that deter the nice lady from helping can stop an unlicensed pedophile without insurance from transporting paying customers in an unregistered and unsafe vehicle.

One bad apple can ruin the whole bunch and lead to seemingly stupid laws. If everybody treated one another the way they should, many, many laws would be unnecessary: It’s obviously not a perfect world we live in.

 
At 3/01/2008 5:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Walt g,

I have a friend who works at a bar in Toronto. Many of Toronto's taxi drivers are Pakistani muslims who will not stop for a woman at 1:30 in the morning believing that only "loose women" are out at that time of night.

She had one taxi driver take her to a secluded parking lot and demand sex in exchange for taking her to her destination. She refused and managed to persuade him not to rape her. After that experience, her boss now calls her a cab so that there is a record of the cab number and driver and she makes sure that the driver knows she is taking his name and registration number.

The other side of the coin is that each year there are taxi drivers who are murdered by passengers who prefer to kill someone rather than having to pay $30.00 for a fare. As a result, taxi drivers are generally immigrants with minimal English, poor driving skills and clapped out vehicles often lacking seatbelts. That's the reality in Toronto, & Mississauga.

 
At 5/12/2008 3:10 PM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

> When something like that happens, and it has or will, everyone will be screaming “Why isn’t there a law against that?”

Those people would be *idiots*. This does not change the fact that laws against this crap are NONE OF THE GOVERNMENT's BUSINESS.

Me? I'd be screaming, "Throw that bastard in jail!" -- for criminal negligence, not for "running an illegal taxi service".

As far as those Amish, well, they needed to make better choices as to whom they trusted with their lives. This is the way the world works. Make good choices, get rewards. Make bad choices, become tiger food.

.

More Tigers, Less Tiger Food.

.

 

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