A current pet peeve: the “sharing economy”. It seems to me that two quite different things are being lumped together under this label, and it muddies the debate.
The first group is stuff like the Toronto Tool Library1 and car sharing services like AutoShare or Zipcar. They offer a solution to situations where individual ownership isn’t practical, whether for economic reasons or just the space constraints of city living.
The second is black market operations that are profitable because they flout existing regulations—UberX, Airbnb. These services are incredibly popular because, compared to cabs and hotels, they are cheap and ubiquitous. But the reason they are cheap and ubiquitous in the first place is that nobody is paying for municipal licenses, insurance, or employee wages and benefits.
Slick words like “app”, “sharing economy”, “disruptive”, “innovation”, etc., obscure what’s really at stake. This isn’t about stuffy “conventional” industries failing to adapt to a new era. It’s about the growing number of (whiter, tech-savvy, middle-class) people relying on precarious and illegal side work. Are these really the best jobs our economy can create? Are we just going to give up on job security and worker protections? Before we toss away those cumbersome regulations, it’s worth remembering why we implemented them in the first place.
I suspect we’re going to go through this:
the best part about bitcoins is that you get to watch libertarians slowly discover why financial regulations exist to begin with
— SKELETON PRESIDENT (@porn_horse) February 18, 2014
But, you know, for everything.
Anyway. Please stop calling unlicensed, uninsured cabs/restaurants/apartment rentals/daycare/dog-walking/etc. the “sharing economy”. You’re not sharing shit.
Adapted from Twitter.
- Full disclosure: I have a membership. I totally borrowed some garden tools the other day. ↩