Hirst: I, Connecticut Limo

I am Connecticut Limo — the incompetent taxi service familiar to all Nutmeggers and Yalies who travel. Transporting people is my vocation; it’s all I am asked to do and yet I fail miserably. You may wonder why I should maneuver into an opinion column. Well, to begin with, my story is interesting. And, next, I am a mystery — more so than Google or Walmart or even Goldman Sachs. But, sadly, I take for granted those who use me, as if they were a rare traveler and without standards. This supercilious attitude relegates me to the level of the dregs. This is a species of the grievous error in which mankind cannot too long persist without peril. For, as the wise Tupac Shakur observed, “I gotta get paid, Well hey, that’s the way it is.”

I, Connecticut Limo, though I appear to be inept, merit your wonder and awe, a claim I shall attempt to prove. In fact, if you can understand me — no, that’s too much to ask of anyone — if you can become aware of the failures of monopoly that I symbolize, you can help save the freedom mankind is so unhappily losing.

I have a profound lesson to teach. And I can teach this lesson better than a pencil or airplane or dishwasher because, well, because I am so useless.

Useless? Yet, not a single person on the face of this earth knows truly how useless. This sounds fantastic, doesn’t it? Well consider that there are hundreds of thousands of Yalies who have used me, each with a different tale of woe.

Hop in and look me over. What do you see? Not much meets the eye — there’s an employee or two squabbling and a passenger who forgot to pay in advance.

And that’s for the ones who get in. Mostly you spend your time waiting at the airport, calling a closed office.

The most astounding thing about me is this: The absence of a mastermind, or even Google Maps dictating or forcibly directing the countable actions which bring me to and from my destination. No trace of such a person can be found. Instead, we find ourselves lost on the back roads of Connecticut. This is the mystery to which I referred earlier.

I, Connecticut Limo, am a complex combination of mistakes: a mean, spacey, bad driver and so on. But to these mistakes that manifest themselves on the road, an even more extraordinary mistake has been added: a lack of direction from the middle-managers on duty — tens of drivers needing direction, hundreds of customers needing transportation and all in the absence of any human masterminding.

Since only God can make a van, I insist that only God could make me. An unjust, vengeful God.

For, if one is aware that these infelicities will unnaturally, yes, manually, arrange themselves into uncreative and inefficient patters in response to human necessity and demand — then one will possess an absolutely essential ingredient for freedom: a renewed emphasis on the need of educating all. Competition is power.

Once a private business has a monopoly over a creative activity such as, for instance, the delivery of the mail, most individuals may argue that the mail could not be efficiently delivered without it. And here is the reason: each one acknowledges that he himself doesn’t know how to do all the things needed for mail delivery. He also recognizes that no other individual could do it. These assumptions are correct. No individual possesses enough know-how to perform a nation’s mail delivery any more than any individual possesses enough know-how to run a taxi service.

Now, in the absence of faith in free people — in the unawareness that millions of tiny know-hows would naturally and miraculously form and cooperate to satisfy this necessity — the individual cannot help but reach the erroneous conclusion that mail can be delivered only by governmental “masterminding.” Even when we wait at the post office for hours.

If I, Connecticut Limo, were the only item that could offer testimony on what men and women fail to do when not incentivized to succeed or competing with others, then those with little faith would have a fair case.

However, there is testimony galore; it’s all around us and on every hand. Driving a car is exceedingly simple when compared, for instance, to the making of a pencil or a calculating machine or a grain combine or a milling machine or to thousands of other things. Transportation? Why, in this area where men have been left free to try, they transport the human voice around the world in less than one second; they transport an event visually and in motion to any person’s home seemingly before it happens; they transport 500 passengers from Newark to Tel Aviv in fewer than 12 hours; they fly people from LaGuardia to Orlando for less money than I charge for transporting you from LaGuardia to Phelps Gate.

The lesson I have to teach is this: don’t allow monopolies, especially incompetent ones. Merely organize society to act in harmony with this lesson. Support new companies driving faster and with more direction. Have faith that other men and women will do so to. This faith will be confirmed.

I, Connecticut Limo, seemingly simple though I am, offer the mistake of my existence as testimony that a practical faith, as practical as Yale’s excellence, Harvard’s classes on Monday and Princeton’s irrelevance.

Adam Lior Hirst is a senior in Branford College.

Comments

  • yale 08

    Well done!

  • and let us say

    Amen.

  • yale10

    I like this, but sadly, CT Limo is not a monopoly. PrimeTime Shuttle (now Go Shuttle) is a much better option.

  • Boola

    Umm, if CT Limo is indeed a monopoly, doesn’t that prove that the private sector can create monopolies all by itself? There’s no governmental “masterminding” behind CT Limo’s dominance, but said masterminding has been used pretty effectively in the past to break up private-sector monopolies…

    And while I agree that monopolies are bad, mmmk, the postal service gets a bad rap. For one thing, the infrastructure requirements necessary for that kind of service are so massive that having a multitude of profitable companies in that space is impossible (similar to why local cable-company monopolies often develop). Second, I don’t know about anyone else, but personally have no problem with a service that takes my letter from me in Connecticut on Tuesday, gives it to my brother in California on Thursday, and charges me 44 cents.

  • Yale 08

    @Boola,

    Here’s some knowledge:

    CT Limo receives a large amount of state subisidies, as well as favorable licensing & operational treatment by the state which give it an unfair advantage over other transporters.

    The Post Office receives tax breaks and cheaper access to capital due to the gov’t backstop. It also receives a government enforced monopoly rights over the delivery of letters- FedEx & UPS are banned from delivering letters to PO Boxes and Mailboxes.

    Amtrak is pathetic. It has the busiest section of commuter rail space in the USA and it always runs a deficit.

    Other capital intensive companies manage to thrive without monopoly protection. Warren Buffet just bought Burlington Northern, railroads can be profitable. Wal-Mart has a highly developed infrastructure & supply chain built privately. Etc.

  • Boola

    @Yale 08,

    I’ll drop the argument about CT Limo since I’m not intimately familiar with its financing/operations, though it would be great to see some evidence. If what you say is correct, then maybe I would agree with you that the state should cut back its support.

    But the Post Office thing is still ridiculous. The postal service is set up to deliver to everyone and to do it affordably. Yes, like any other government entity it gets tax advantages and cheaper access to capital, but that’s just an advantage of having something run by government. So long as it’s run reasonably well, I think most people don’t mind the fact that they pay a little less because investors will lend the government money at a lower interest rate than they will to private companies (and I don’t see why they should).

    And monopoly protection is the only way the postal service can guarantee continued affordability, because unlike private companies they are mandated to deliver to everyone. If that protection were lifted, private letter-carriers would deliver only to the most profitable customers (i.e. people who live in big cities and are easily reachable) and the government would be left servicing mainly the expensive rural customers, which would force rates up astronomically, which would cause the postal service to run huge deficits and would contribute to the isolation of poor rural areas from the rest of the country.

  • Y’09

    CT Limo is not a monopoly. After a miserable experience with CT Limo back in freshman year I found Red Dot Limo. They’re certainly not perfect but they are still faster, cheaper and friendlier than the Hell that is CT Limo. They gave me a free upgrade to a stretch limo once–and I was all by myself!

  • Yale 08

    @Boola,

    Why should MY tax dollars pay for Joe Smith in Montana to receive his mail cheaply?

    Shouldn’t Joe Smith pay for that privilege himself?

  • The Count

    Adam, I LOVE this! Finally, the REAL Connecticut Limo is revealed! Maybe flying out of Tweed isn’t such a bad deal after all, eh?

  • Pablo Loco

    I guess it would never occour to anyone with brains to ask President Levin to lobby for improved airline service out of New Haven. One phone call from him or Bruce Alexander who sits on the Tweed Board of Directors might get the ball rolling. See Below a list of the Board of Directors at Tweed New Haven.

    Board of Directors:
    Bruce Alexander: VP and Director, New Haven and State Affairs, Yale University

    Salvatore R. Catardi: Selectman, Town of Guilford

    Hon. Arlene DePino: Alderman, City of New Haven

    Marcia J. Munro: Town of East Haven Representative

    Kelly Murphy: Economic Development Administrator, City of New Haven

    Vin Petrini: Sr. V.P. of Public Affairs, Yale-New Haven Hospital

    Michael Piscitelli: Director of Transportation, City of New Haven

    Pedro Romero: President, MASAS, Inc.

    Thomas S. Scarpati: Thomas S. Scarpati, P.E., Consultant

    Diane L. Wishnafski: Executive Vice President, NewAlliance Bank

  • Boola

    @ Yale 08,

    Hmm, should he pay to receive something cheaply – that doesn’t make a lot of sense. I think what you mean is, since you (presumably) live in a dense metropolitan area and could be paying a few cents less for stamps under a private company, why should you forgo those extra pennies to ensure that Joe Smith and other poor rural residents of Montana can continue to afford mail service at all?

    To pose such a question at all implies a stunning level of focus on self-interest, so I’ll play along with the idea that I could convince you in this argument by appealing to that. Basically, I think you should fork over those few extra dollars a year (if that) because you live in a community, aka a nation, and in that community we all have an interest in making sure that everyone has a shot at prosperity. If Joe Smith goes out and applies for a job, it’s in everybody’s interest that he be able to receive mail from his prospective employer. If his kid beats the odds and gets into Yale, it’s in everybody’s interest that he be able to receive mail from the university.

    Now, I’m not arguing that you should pay for Joe’s TV or his couch or to make sure he has a nice house, but there’s a basic standard of living that society owes its citizens in order to make sure that economic opportunity and social mobility isn’t restricted only to the fortunate – and the ability to receive mail is fundamental enough to qualify in that category. In other words, it’s not a privilege, it’s a RIGHT – and considering that the cost to provide it is pretty small, and the entity that runs it is typically pretty efficient, it’s a great deal too.

  • Yale 08

    You MIGHT have an argument, IF the government wasn’t running a huge deficit.

    The Constitution establishes a monopoly on letter service for taxation and government communication purposes.

    Everything else should be privatized.

    Profit/loss will regulate the mail better than the expensive Post Office (in terms of ABSOLUTE COST, not just marginal cost to individual users).

    For every dollar the US gov’t spends on the Post Office, that is one dollar that could not be spent in other much more beneficial ways.

    FedEx is superior in every way. End the USPS monopoly on letter carrying.

  • Yale 09

    Bravo Boola!

  • Ciarrai

    It will not make anyone feel better, but I recall a time when Ct. Limo was a heckuva lot more favorable option. I have used them off and on since 1973 and they used to not be this worst case carrier. Even in recent years I have had pleasant, accommodating drivers for the most part. However, when arriving back from Europe it has become nearly impossible to summon up the courage to come from JFK via Ct. Limo. The more costly, but vastly more comfortable private car has taken over. Sheer desperation and annoyance have been exchanged for the bliss of privacy and ease.

  • Yale 08

    @Boola,

    Your argument for a basic standard of living inclusive of postal service for the poor is wrong.

    Why>?

    Because the cost to mail letters is not born by the impoverished recipient of the letter, but rather the MAILER/SENDER.

    If I pay to have a letter delivered to Calcutta, India, FEDEX will ensure that it gets there with incredible speed and at minimal cost. It doesn’t matter that the recipient is starving in a ghetto.

    FEDEX does it without the massive tax breaks and illgotten gov’t benefits.