Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Shell game economy

Here's a good quick article about the rise of the so-called "sharing economy" where, we are told, technology has made it possible for us to monetize our private time and space faster and for a more accessible customer base. 

The bulk of the press on this phenomenon tells us that people are "taking advantage" of the opporutunity to breathe the fresh thrills of personal entrepreneurship.  But it only takes a few moments' serious reflection to understand that this isn't necessarily a sign of a healthy economy. 
A huge precondition for the sharing economy has been a depressed labor market, in which lots of people are trying to fill holes in their income by monetizing their stuff and their labor in creative ways. In many cases, people join the sharing economy because they've recently lost a full-time job and are piecing together income from several part-time gigs to replace it. In a few cases, it's because the pricing structure of the sharing economy made their old jobs less profitable. (Like full-time taxi drivers who have switched to Lyft or Uber.) In almost every case, what compels people to open up their homes and cars to complete strangers is money, not trust.
What the emergence of the "sharing economy" really tells us is that a lot of people are struggling enough to need a second job.  In the case of Airbnb, people are in fact taking in boarders to make ends meet.  For some reason, these developments meet mostly praise in the press. 


mominem said...

New Orleans has always had a large grey market economy where people work off the books or for cash or simply don't tell the government what they are up to. Calling it something new is just another hipster fad.

hopitoulas said...

This is different by magnitudes of order from any previous period post WW II. Sad and an indication of grave social sickness.