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San Francisco Bans Free Market Solutions

Written By Geoffrey Pike

Posted July 17, 2014

sfmp 600x450The city of San Francisco is known for its left-wing politics, so one of the latest stories out of the city should not surprise us too much.

There is an iPhone app called MonkeyParking and it was designed to allow people to essentially auction off a parking space before leaving. If your car is in a parking spot and you are ready to leave, you can set the location of your spot on the app. Then people will bid on your spot and the highest bidder will get your parking spot, and you will get the money.

Of course, this is the free market in action, with voluntary individuals coming together for a mutually beneficial agreement. Therefore, city officials can’t allow this to go on.

The city attorney, Dennis Herrera, has shut down MonkeyParking’s operations in San Francisco by threatening a lawsuit if it continues. He cited a provision in the police code that prohibits buying, selling, or leasing public on-street parking.

It is interesting that the free market is always trying to solve problems, especially created by the government in the first place. San Francisco has strict zoning laws and it should not be surprising that the government is not operating efficiently when it comes to managing the streets and the parking on the streets.

Supply and Demand

As with so much in life, this comes down to supply and demand. When there is a lack of supply and a heavy demand, such as the parking situation in San Francisco, then the only way to fix this is by having higher prices. It doesn’t matter if it involves houses, water, labor, or parking spaces. In order for the market to clear, prices need to go up.

MonkeyParking was an innovation that helped solve this problem. It was a free market solution to a government problem. But now the government is exacerbating the problem by banning the use of the app.

This app allowed people who really wanted or needed a parking spot to get it. They just had to pay a higher price. But it was obviously worth it to these people. Maybe someone had a business meeting he had to get to. Maybe someone had an appointment at the doctor. Maybe someone was late for a date.

So who is the city attorney protecting here? I suppose it is the people who don’t want to pay as much for parking, even though they have trouble finding a spot anyway. This is an app that was beneficial for people who desperately needed parking. It was also beneficial for someone leaving his parking spot to get a few extra bucks.

This app was an attempt to help solve the supply and demand problem of parking spaces. It was serving to more efficiently allocate a resource in short supply. Unfortunately, some people, particularly San Francisco politicians, don’t want to hear about economics. They think it is insensitive. They want you to see the human side. But the human side is that there are a lot of people driving around, wasting time, looking for a place to park their car.

San Francisco may be a beautiful city to some, but the politicians there, along with the people electing them, could use a lesson in Economics 101.