Join 3,494 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


"That's not sharing, that's selling."
June 9, 2014 7:12 AM   Subscribe

The Case Against Sharing: "The sharing economy’s success is inextricably tied to the economic recession, making new American poverty palatable. It’s disaster capitalism. 'Sharing' companies are not embarrassed by this — it appears to be a point of pride."

Across the U.S., high costs of living are driving more of the employed toward “side hustles,” i.e. unprotected freelance work, the kind fostered by the sharing economy. Where workers don’t have the start-up investments necessary to participate — the cars, homes, kitchens to rent — then they can just rent those too. Lyft’s new luxury service is aimed at encouraging non-car owners to drive for the company, giving them a lease option on impractical “custom” “premium” Ford Explorers . . .

Our society is not returning to a past utopia of collective social confidence and equality because this utopia never existed. The sharing economy doesn’t build trust — it trades on cultural homogeneity and established social networks both online and in real life. Where it builds new connections, it often replicates old patterns of privileged access for some, and denial for others.

The Nib's Susie Cagle on racism, contradictions, and just plain BS in the sharing economy.
posted by ryanshepard (132 comments total) 56 users marked this as a favorite

 
They are calling it "sharing" but it's more like what gets called the "informal economy" elsewhere -- people seem to be drifting outside of the formal economy and piecing things together as best they can.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:18 AM on June 9 [19 favorites]


Interesting piece. Sharing seems more like a reaction to economic conditions, and I take the point that some of this sharing is going to disrupt the lives and jobs of, say, taxi drivers - that sharing may be very helpful to those who can't afford another way and a way to generate extra money for others, but that it actually contributes to the erosion of good jobs. It "solves" the crisis, in part, by making it worse.
posted by kgasmart at 7:20 AM on June 9 [9 favorites]


Sharing still means someone is an owner.

And the reduction of the workforce to freelancer/independent contractor status is definitely a race to the bottom (cf Amazon warehouse workers, amazon "same day delivery" drivers, wall-mart's janitors, washio's actual clothes washers, etc).
posted by k5.user at 7:26 AM on June 9 [8 favorites]


Umm, her free piece on Medium (run by folks who started the sharing system uber alles, Twitter) undermines journalists/writers who use to be able to work on these kinds of items for pay.
posted by learnsome at 7:29 AM on June 9 [32 favorites]


Sharing still means someone is an owner.

But some of the "sharing" exists because even this is becoming untenable.

How often is "I can afford my place if I rent out the sofa" just the step in between "I can afford my place" and "I'm out on the street"?
posted by Benny Andajetz at 7:31 AM on June 9 [13 favorites]


people seem to be drifting outside of the formal economy and piecing things together as best they can.

Except it's Lyft and AirBnB doing the piecing together of things, and taking real money for it.
posted by oinopaponton at 7:31 AM on June 9 [12 favorites]


Quite interesting, as are her other pieces.
posted by Going To Maine at 7:32 AM on June 9


Never fucking ever trust what someone says about a thing when they are getting rich off of that thing.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 7:39 AM on June 9 [39 favorites]


Umm, her free piece on Medium (run by folks who started the sharing system uber alles, Twitter) undermines journalists/writers who use to be able to work on these kinds of items for pay.

None of which means that her central argument is wrong, or not worth engaging with as an argument.

You're trying to draw an analogy between IP/content production and more direct service jobs that are the subject of the "sharing" economy the article discusses, but I think it takes more work to get that analogy going than a quick, somewhat dubious statement of equivalence.

Providing free content because you can isn't very much at all like selling informal use-shares of your rental property or your car because that's the condition under which you can afford your apartment or your car. Ride-shares and monetized sofa-surfing are the definition of piecework as the hidden supplement of precarious labor; the other is the definition of secure, elite labor.

The same socioeconomic are behind both by default since both occur in the same economic system, but they are certainly not equivalent or even loosely analogous labor conditions within the context of that system.
posted by kewb at 7:43 AM on June 9 [12 favorites]


Shift to independent labor signals 'flex' economy
posted by stbalbach at 7:46 AM on June 9


The normalization of poverty techniques and increasing middleman monetization of informal networks is really .... Distrubing? Like I don't remember seeing so many ads for "Hey Middle Class White person! You can use a pawn shop too! But we don't call it a pawn shop! It's a asset loan! Really!" before.
posted by The Whelk at 7:51 AM on June 9 [30 favorites]


I can't help but go back to some of the quotes in the article from the Let's, Like, Demolish Laundry thread -

“The laundry and dry-­cleaning industry, it’s all, like, old people. They’re not tech savvy, and they still put up those really ugly stickers with that ’90s clip art.” ... "We decided to go a different route, where we can have premium people doing ­premium work.” ... “It’s really good,” says Nadler as we are driving back from a visit to the vast building where Washio gets its laundry done, largely by immigrants who are not invited to the open bars or barbecues. “It’s a bonding event for Washio-as-­culture."

- and note that a lot of these 'informal services,' done formal, are based on developing an economy that's not about what you're getting but who you're getting it from. People like you! Pretty, young, tech-savvy people with spare couches and cars and the need to schlep laundry to make ends meet!

There's the sleazy cultural only-buy-from-people-like-me part, the part that relies on precarious economies, the part that shifts risk onto "independent contractors" ... a lot of these services, in a bubble, seem nice, but when looked at in the context of a big shift of money being put into these services, and the trends that play out across them [I'm disappointed but not surprised to learn that "the best performers on AirBNB are white women and the worst performers are black men"] - you get something pretty disappointing from the tech sector.

The tech sector has big goals for improving the world through the power of the internet but it just reads as crappy profiteering off of nonsense.
posted by entropone at 7:52 AM on June 9 [24 favorites]


I'm going to remember that line from the researcher in the future.

Why is this necessary? Why are we having to do this? Why is this the solution being peddled?
posted by Slackermagee at 7:53 AM on June 9 [3 favorites]


I know why, I think its just useful to ask again and again until the tide turns back and we get meaningful reforms on wages and employment.
posted by Slackermagee at 7:54 AM on June 9 [5 favorites]


We are currently in a "jobless recovery" where corporate profits are at all time highs but the employment-population ratio is at its lowest since 1983 (see chart). There are multiple reasons for this but one of the biggest is "a sharp increase in productivity, part of it being better processes and managerial decisions, but mainly technological progress. Automation, computing power, robotics, machine learning, data analysis, smart algorithms—you name it." Get ready, robots are going to steal your job. The "flex economy", or sharing economy, is naturally what happens when workers are being displaced by technology. You either embrace the robots to find work, or the robots replace you.
posted by stbalbach at 7:56 AM on June 9 [2 favorites]


It's not sharing. This isn't kindergarten. Why are we calling an exchange of money for goods or services "sharing"? Why are we allowing it to be framed that way?
posted by rtha at 8:00 AM on June 9 [61 favorites]


And as more people make an extra buck by renting out their spare rooms or driving cabs in their spare time, they compete for resources with everybody else and increase prices, and eventually the side hustle becomes not a nice little extra but rather a necessity to keep one's head above water.
posted by acb at 8:01 AM on June 9 [11 favorites]


I understand the skim of Uber and Airbnb is 20%. Seems like a large house 'take'. As these companies play up a 'network effect', it makes competition more difficult. The sky-high stock valuations reinforce this view. Is 'sharing' supposed to be winner-takes-all and monopolistic? At least informal economy players I think of, do not play these games. We need a new word for this, and 'Side Hustle' is good, but does not have the centralized pimp aspect.
posted by brewsterkahle at 8:02 AM on June 9 [4 favorites]


Eventually the side hustle becomes all you have.
posted by kgasmart at 8:02 AM on June 9 [11 favorites]


It's not sharing. This isn't kindergarten. Why are we calling an exchange of money for goods or services "sharing"? Why are we allowing it to be framed that way?

Because the story of the Internet is the story of vicious hucksters hijacking an idealistically quasi-Utopian network, taking over the language used by the people who built that network, and then pretending that:
  1. They, the hucksters, are the ones who built everything, and that,
  2. There is no difference between the network they've stolen and the ripoff they're selling.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 8:05 AM on June 9 [64 favorites]


It's not sharing. This isn't kindergarten. Why are we calling an exchange of money for goods or services "sharing"? Why are we allowing it to be framed that way?

indeed. it seems nothing is called what it is anymore.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 8:05 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]


"What happened to the American Dream?"
""What happened to the American Dream?' It came true! You're lookin' at it."
posted by entropicamericana at 8:06 AM on June 9 [5 favorites]


They are calling it "sharing" but it's more like what gets called the "informal economy" elsewhere -- people seem to be drifting outside of the formal economy and piecing things together as best they can.

This is a really interesting point. One of the most surprising takeaways I had from Poor Economics (previously on the blue) was just how much of the population in extremely-impoverished parts of the world is involved in the informal economy, either as a supplement to (often unreliably available) manual labor or as a sole source of income. In parts of India and Saharan Africa, half the population is relying on impromptu produce stands or day labor driving a rickshaw bicycle. Folks spend huge amounts of time trying to drum up business, but it's only intermittently available because everyone's so poor that they can't afford the services being provided.

If you want the see the logical end of the "sharing economy," it's right there in the poorest parts of the third world. Now take 25% off the top to give to rent-seekers for commoditizing the services.
posted by Mayor West at 8:11 AM on June 9 [19 favorites]


It's not sharing. This isn't kindergarten. Why are we calling an exchange of money for goods or services "sharing"? Why are we allowing it to be framed that way?

That's something I ask myself every time I walk past one of Toronto's "Bike Share" stations, where you insert a credit card and get a bike for a few hours in exchange for money. That sounds like bike rental to me.
posted by Crane Shot at 8:20 AM on June 9 [30 favorites]


increasing middleman monetization of informal networks

if you are old enough to remember the 90's, the internet was sold as something that was going 'disrupt' middlemen and put consumers directly in contact with producers. the efficiencies to be gained from this were part of what made it a "new economy" (with of course a new stock market valuation.)

LOL.
posted by ennui.bz at 8:21 AM on June 9 [7 favorites]


Is 'sharing' supposed to be winner-takes-all and monopolistic?

The only time capitalism is not winner-takes-all and monopolistic is when regulation forces it to not be.

Don't hold your breath.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 8:25 AM on June 9 [17 favorites]


It's not sharing. This isn't kindergarten. Why are we calling an exchange of money for goods or services "sharing"? Why are we allowing it to be framed that way?

Because it's sharing as defined by the "share" in sharecropping. The plantation owners entrepreneurs skim off all the cream, while everyone else subsists on Blue John.
posted by Pudhoho at 8:26 AM on June 9 [26 favorites]


Oh please, with your "plantation owners". I know more than one person who Airbnb's one of the bedrooms in their apartment and are paying their entire mortgage that way.
posted by the jam at 8:32 AM on June 9 [6 favorites]


I was just reading a similar article in Wired: How Airbnb and Lyft Finally Got Americans to Trust Each Other

and the whole time I thought: man they're living in a rich tech bubble and missing the point. People are sharing because wages haven't increased proportionately to costs, we're making the same amount that we made in the 90s, the middle class is shrinking and we're getting creative about how to monetize what we already do have.

Not that the community side effect it isn't a good thing; I like relying on a community and building those roots, but let's not pretend that it isn't rooted it economic necessity.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:35 AM on June 9 [18 favorites]


> Oh please, with your "plantation owners". I know more than one person who Airbnb's one of the bedrooms in their apartment and are paying their entire mortgage that way.

Sounds like a good time. Until tax season. Or you get subpeoned.
posted by playertobenamedlater at 8:35 AM on June 9 [6 favorites]


There are two issues being conflated here (and to a certain extent in the article).

One is the "sharing" economy, which even in its early utopian phase elides things like the replication of privilege and the reliance on un- or under-paid women's labor.

The other is the rent seeking by middlemen (and they are mostly men), which builds on people's precariousness and an asymmetry of information.

They are both problematic, but they are also separate and you could have either without the other.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:35 AM on June 9 [4 favorites]


I understand the skim of Uber and Airbnb is 20%. Seems like a large house 'take'.

Taxi drivers have to rent their car every shift and that rent has to be paid regardless of the money driver makes. The few Uber drivers that I've talked were ex-cabbies, who had switched to Uber to make more/ drive around their own schedules. Of course they have the investment of getting their own car.

I'd think that conditions for average Uber driver are better than average cab driver. Scale of Uber is bigger than even biggest cab companies, but I don't see that scale should make it worse for the drivers.

I guess I view Uber as platform for running your own business like Ebay.
posted by zeikka at 8:36 AM on June 9 [9 favorites]


That's right, folks. Sharin' is complicated business, best left to the experts: slumlords, hotel chains, and taxi companies. Egalitarians to the last of them, and nary a racist.
posted by pwnguin at 8:47 AM on June 9 [11 favorites]


> I'd think that conditions for average Uber driver are better than average cab driver.

I'm not sure how it works with Uber, but isn't Uber X just shifting the insurance and upkeep responsibility onto the driver in addition to the 20% cut? It could be different with Uber, but Uber X sounds like a really bad version of the churn-and-burn bike messenger couriers.
posted by playertobenamedlater at 8:47 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]


once you start talking about "economies" you have to take a bigger perspective. regardless of whether you think uber (mensch?) or airbnb evil, do they create anything new or do they just redistribute the production (of taxi rides or hotel rooms) that was already there. i wouldn't be surprised if uber is slightly more efficient than a conventional taxi company, but only slightly. the valuation of the company is based on taking business from taxi companies not creating new/better products or services. if this is true, then from the perspective of economics all of the capital invested in Uber et al has been wasted.

feel free to extrapolate this to the rest of the economy. Google is a double example of this. It's sucked advertising dollars from a dozen other media outlets and it's an advertising company. so, those dollars were more or less wasted in the first place because advertising arguably adds nothing to the economy ('branding' is about getting consumers to purchase a product or service not based on it's merits but on... )
posted by ennui.bz at 8:47 AM on June 9 [2 favorites]


That's something I ask myself every time I walk past one of Toronto's "Bike Share" stations, where you insert a credit card and get a bike for a few hours in exchange for money. That sounds like bike rental to me.

ok I'm embarrassed to admit that I didn't think of it that way at all... we're sharing the same bike, see? And paying a collective fee to upkeep the bikes! It's a bike cooperative... I'm saving the environment!!

hook line and sinker.... oh my... thanks for that wakeup call
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:48 AM on June 9 [13 favorites]


so basically airbnb, uber, lift etc. are just insurance agents in case our trust is misfounded and our car or apartment gets trashed, and for that insurance we pay 20% adder.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:50 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]


I've thought about becoming an Uber driver, but all those unresolved insurance claims give me pause.
posted by girlmightlive at 8:51 AM on June 9 [2 favorites]


I know more than one person who Airbnb's one of the bedrooms in their apartment and are paying their entire mortgage that way.

Excellent! I paid off my entire mortgage in less than 90 days leveraging anecdotal evidence on the internet.

You can too! Click here to subscribe to my newsletter! Do it now!
posted by Pudhoho at 8:53 AM on June 9 [28 favorites]


The insurance issues are one of the "I thought this was supposed to be a thing the government would have regulated" items.

I imagine the land is having the same response to the situation as Bill Murray on day two of his forty year quest.
posted by Slackermagee at 9:02 AM on June 9


Don't worry looks like De Blasio is gonna make a solid attempt to put down NYC bike share, at least.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 9:02 AM on June 9


The "sharing economy" mostly seems like a way for a bunch of people who grew up middle class to pretend that they still are for a little while longer.
posted by tavella at 9:10 AM on June 9 [22 favorites]


The weird thing about network referral companies like Uber/Lyft, TaskRabbit, AirBnb, etc is that they (the companies) can't rely on any repeat business.

If you have a repeating TaskRabbit task or need transportation on a predictable schedule, why wouldn't you exchange contact details when you found a good tasker/driver and cut out the middleman from future jobs? Maybe less so with AirBnb, unless it was a repeating guest who wanted to book stays for an annual convention or music festival or something.

So by their very nature these services are only for matching ad-hoc demand against irregular supply. I'll be surprised if they don't flare out and go under once they exhaust that first wave of initial customers/providers. All the good providers/customers will drop out if they get a full client roster or have their regular needs filled, and you're just left with "seekers" in the system.

Then again, dating agencies seem to be able to stay in business, so what do I know.
posted by ceribus peribus at 9:12 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]


Umm, her free piece on Medium (run by folks who started the sharing system uber alles, Twitter) undermines journalists/writers who use to be able to work on these kinds of items for pay.

By the same token, maybe she used to be one of those Paid Writer people, and has been forced to join this non-economy herself. (Just a thought experiment…)
posted by wenestvedt at 9:12 AM on June 9 [3 favorites]


So by their very nature these services are only for matching ad-hoc demand against irregular supply.

Which is great. Lyft and Uber have apps that can show me exactly where their cars are, and whether any of them are available. I can press one button and summon the nearest one and watch it as it drives to my location. That's the main draw for me. It doesn't feel like sharing, it feels like I just paid some guy with a car to take me across town.
posted by BungaDunga at 9:25 AM on June 9 [5 favorites]


ok I'm embarrassed to admit that I didn't think of it that way at all... we're sharing the same bike, see? And paying a collective fee to upkeep the bikes!

I wonder if bike sharing programs ever result in non-cyclists becoming regular cyclists with their own bikes and everything. I've been told that a fairly high number of government workers in Dallas use bike sharing programs to get around downtown rather than driving, which seems good to me. I'd be happier if I knew that the program was run by the city, therefore returning profit to the communal coffers, but I don't know one way or the other.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:28 AM on June 9


It "solves" the crisis, in part, by making it worse.

And allows people to spin away the troubles and try to buy time as they deny the obvious and retreat as they try to regroup, but it never works...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 9:30 AM on June 9


I'm disappointed but not surprised to learn that "the best performers on AirBNB are white women and the worst performers are black men"

At least some of that, though, is probably that if you are a lady, it is much less scary to rent from another lady, even if strange, than it is to rent and share an apartment from a strange man.
posted by corb at 9:32 AM on June 9 [4 favorites]


so basically airbnb, uber, lift etc. are just insurance agents in case our trust is misfounded and our car or apartment gets trashed, and for that insurance we pay 20% adder.

The difference between driving for uber and driving for a cab company is that you can skip the medallion program and local cab regulations (such as sinage, meters, etc.) in exchange for putting wear and tear on your own car.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:32 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]


It's not sharing. This isn't kindergarten. Why are we calling an exchange of money for goods or services "sharing"? Why are we allowing it to be framed that way?

It would be neat if someone setup a Zipcar-like service as a mutual. That would arguably be closer to true sharing rather than rental.

That's something I ask myself every time I walk past one of Toronto's "Bike Share" stations, where you insert a credit card and get a bike for a few hours in exchange for money. That sounds like bike rental to me.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't bike shares usually run by the public transit system and not as for profit enterprises?
posted by cosmic.osmo at 9:34 AM on June 9 [2 favorites]


So, he said naively, what I would love to use is a taxi service run on a co-op model, where the drivers and the app-writers and the app-writer-managers each have an equal share of the profits.

Why is it (and I'm not asking this as a rhetorical question; I'm actually curious) that we have Uber rather than a co-op taxi system? What are the structural constraints baked into our society that make wealth-distributing co-ops rare and difficult and technolibertarian schemes common?
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 9:38 AM on June 9 [12 favorites]


Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't bike shares usually run by the public transit system and not as for profit enterprises?

The major ones in the US are "owned" by the municipalities, but all operations are contracted out to Alta Bicycle Share, a private company.
posted by ryanshepard at 9:41 AM on June 9 [2 favorites]


So, he said naively, what I would love to use is a taxi service run on a co-op model

When I was following links from the Demolish Laundry thread, I did see an article about a taxi co-op in Pittsburgh. I didn't read it at the time, though, and now googling isn't leading me to it. I'll look again this afternoon and report back if I find it.

Which is great. Lyft and Uber have apps that can show me exactly where their cars are, and whether any of them are available.

This came up in the Demolish Laundry thread too, that being able to use an app was the reason for using Uber and these laundry companies. Is that all it would take to keep people using existing, regulated taxis, etc.? A good app?
posted by tofu_crouton at 9:46 AM on June 9 [4 favorites]


What is sharing?

Well, it's at least two different things.

It's rental of stuff that previously wasn't rentable: The current buzz about the "sharing economy" mostly is just talking about a fuller utilization of capital, mostly capital that previously only contributed a fraction of its potential value because it was privately owned primarily for personal use, and the coordination and information costs to renting it out were too high. But now with smartphones and some other new networked technologies we have the rise of centralized coordination services that allow us wring more value out of our capital. In some cases the new shared capital is rented by owners, in other cases it's rented by companies (airBnB vs Zipcar).

Sharing can also mean a total or partial renunciation of market-based coordination of exchange. I.e. you might share to establish trust, or because trust has been established and sharing is useful and markets would get in the way. People share answers on AskMe because they want people to answer their own questions later, or at least because we've internalized this kind of reciprocity enough in our society that helping people in such a way feels good.

I did enjoy the article and there were some good ideas in it. But I felt like it could have attempted to answer its central question a bit better.
posted by ropeladder at 9:54 AM on June 9 [12 favorites]


I understand the skim of Uber and Airbnb is 20%

"Airbnb charges hosts a 3% host service fee" and "Airbnb charges guests a 6-12% service fee". Nine to fifteen percent includes the "finder's fee" of using the network, as well as the service of taking payment ahead of time and holding it in escrow, the host guarantee that may or may not require a lamb sacrifice to redeem, and the trust factor of being able to see and leave reviews.

That said, I prefer staying with friends or friends of friends, and the commercial airbnbs (the ones where it's just an unregulated hotel) weird me out.
posted by daveliepmann at 9:55 AM on June 9 [4 favorites]


sharing

Crowdsploitation.

No need for the hand-wringing about what to call it. We have a word.

Crowdsploitation.

Use it!
posted by univac at 10:10 AM on June 9 [33 favorites]


man, I would use that word even if you weren't named after one of my favorite computers. Thank you!
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 10:12 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]


univac That should be KickStarter's new branding catchphrase.
posted by Windopaene at 10:20 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]


This article read to me like a lot of empty concern trolling backed up by no data. Yes all these things could happen but are they? What is the likelihood of this outcome vs other outcomes? Can government policy affect the outcome?
posted by humanfont at 10:23 AM on June 9 [4 favorites]


AirBnB allows you to make some cash on the side and as a bonus piss off all your neighbours who now have to live near an unlicensed hotel!
posted by PenDevil at 10:26 AM on June 9 [12 favorites]


Also, it drives up your rents as landlords begin to assume that all their tenants are making money on the side through illegal short-term sublets. The higher rents then tend to drive more tenants to start subletting their apartments in order to make rent.

In this way, the crowdsploitation economy provides new options for making money... and then makes those options mandatory.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 10:30 AM on June 9 [16 favorites]


Is that all it would take to keep people using existing, regulated taxis, etc.? A good app?

I'm guessing you haven't tried to catch a cab in Chicago. When you call you can wait half an hour or more and the cab may not even show up.

The real problem with cabs was that the medallion system setup an artificial scarcity of just 7000 cabs that made the system extremely unreliable.
posted by srboisvert at 10:37 AM on June 9 [13 favorites]


It would be neat if someone setup a Zipcar-like service as a mutual. That would arguably be closer to true sharing rather than rental.

I really hope this is sarcastic, because carshare cooperatives are very much a thing and have been for decades. Zipcar is a more recent for-profit version of the same concept.

Bike and car share, co-op or otherwise, are fundamentally different than something like AirBnB or Uber. The former are about multiple people using a resource that none of them owns (or that they own cooperatively), while the latter are about people who own something renting it out (plus their labour) to others.
posted by ssg at 10:39 AM on June 9 [3 favorites]


I'm guessing you haven't tried to catch a cab in Chicago. When you call you can wait half an hour or more and the cab may not even show up.

Also Chicago is pretty sprawling in comparison to SF or NYC, so there are areas where there is very little transit and also not a ton of traffic. Also for me, I have had some seriously bad experiences with taxi drivers not taking credit cards and insisting on either driving me to an ATM or calling the cops when I didn't have cash. My impression is the regulations are not for consumers as much as they are for creating a kind of guild with that artificial scarcity, which is why these people are so threatened by Uber and Lyft.

I cannot drive and I would be devastated if I lost the ability to use these services– they've really helped me expand where I can go.

I also provide some services in the sharing economy through mealsharing. I don't do it because I can't afford food, I do it because I like meeting new people this way and picking up some extra cash on the side. Plus it's a way to test recipes and see if I like doing this.
posted by melissam at 10:43 AM on June 9 [5 favorites]


FTA:

But this economy is still young and discovering itself. So far it looks, at worst, like neoliberal solutionism — and at best, a little confused.



I've never heard this term before - what is neoliberal solutionism and why is it so bad? Is this a phrase that economists use or something?
posted by ben242 at 10:44 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]


> Crowdsploitation

That is an excellent term.

I am surprised I haven't heard it before. It appears to have been coined by Daren C. Brabham in his 2013 book on Crowdsourcing.
posted by beerbajay at 10:45 AM on June 9 [2 favorites]


The difference between bike share and bike rental is that bike share is intended for shorter, transportation-based trips. For example, typically you have an annual membership or purchase a day or weekend pass... but within that time frame (year or day or weekend) you still have a maximum time that you can have a bike undocked before you get charged extra fees - usually 30 to 45 minutes. You don't rent the bike to ride around the park and leave it parked on the grass throughout the time of your pass; you check it out to ride to the restaurant the next neighborhood over and dock it there. Someone else may then use it while you are eating. Then you take a new bike from the dock when you're done so you can ride back home. They re-balance the docks to make sure that they don't fill or empty up with bikes (although that does happen).
posted by misskaz at 10:48 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]


I understand the skim of Uber and Airbnb is 20%. Seems like a large house 'take'.

Really? I think it's phenomenally reasonable. In exchange for 1/5 of your fare you get (assuming this is the extent of the costs) for no monthly commitment:

Centralized dispatching, with all that entails
*Someone advertising the service
*Someone being a face for the service for contact & contracting
Lead generation
*Customers contact a generic face that connects them with you
*Online presence
Money handling
*Taking credit cards
Ancillary stuff
*iPhone app, etc
*Distance/fare calculation

Much of the above involves specialized skills and ongoing upkeep, and may be replacing other technology. You could be your own car service without Uber, but you'd have to handle credit cards somehow (which would cost you around 2% of any charge anyway) and find gigs and book them. There's be some uncertainty (what will you charge me to take me to the airport?) and other hassles.

But all that, to me, pales compared to the value of getting a customer to you. I am sure my opinion on this is colored by having run my own businesses - full time and side-gig - and never finding anything as hard as simply connecting with the right person to sell to.

There's a lot of problem with the "sharing" system and the article is spot-on for a lot of them. But I think dismissing 20% as high for what an Uber driver pays as a percentage is misguided.
posted by phearlez at 10:52 AM on June 9 [10 favorites]


The 'Sharing Economy' is endorsed whole-heartedly by Tom Friedman.

In fact, now that I think about it, anybody who's rich enough to not have to participate in it seems to endorse it whole-heartedly.
posted by Wandering_Dude at 11:17 AM on June 9 [6 favorites]


Heh, and of course, I'm just listening to some Grandmaster Flash and this track comes on: We don't work for free...
posted by symbioid at 11:18 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]


I think this may be an appropriate time to post this important documentary about the perils of Airbnb.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:22 AM on June 9 [2 favorites]


I've used VRBO/Homeaway a couple of dozen times for long and short stays all over the country, and they've proven invaluable (I know they have a different model, but not fundamentally so). These services gave me something that hotels could not provide, in places where there are no hotels, and provides income to people who needed it while making use of an otherwise underutilized asset. No more problems than I've had staying in hotels, which aren't completely problem-free.

Before the internet, I would have picked up a newspaper in town and dialed some numbers on a pay phone and met with the renter. I may have given a check, or paid cash, or signed a contract, or maybe it would be verbal. There wouldn't have been a centralized corporation nudging the renter ever so slightly to flount local laws, but they may have anyway.

What I am saying is I think the real problem is that San Francisco is full. (FWIW, never rented there)
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 11:35 AM on June 9


By the same token, maybe she used to be one of those Paid Writer people, and has been forced to join this non-economy herself. (Just a thought experiment…)

Her father is Daryl Cagle, one of the top editorial cartoonists in the US. (I've been a fan of Susie Cagle's work for a while and sometime in the past she mentioned her dad in a tweet or something, at which point I googled "Susie Cagle's dad" to find out who he was. I don't typically know random facts about internet personalities' families.)

I suspect she is keenly aware of how thoroughly her dad's career path is not open to her or any of her contemporaries. No matter how strong, insightful, visually arresting etc her work may be, the degree of stability her dad achieved in the same line of work is surpassing hard to come by for creative types of any stripe these days. Not that it was ever easy, but I think we can file it under "impossible" now. So...I don't think she's ever been a Paid Writer person (I think she's pretty young...under 30 or just over) but she knows exactly what sort of lifestyle her generation of Unpaid-Writer contemporaries might have had if they'd had the good fortune to be born in the 50s and not the 80s.
posted by town of cats at 11:47 AM on June 9 [9 favorites]


Umm, her free piece on Medium (run by folks who started the sharing system uber alles, Twitter) undermines journalists/writers who use to be able to work on these kinds of items for pay.

I'm not sure it really affects your argument, but Medium pays some of its contributors, and I think Susan Cagle is one of them.
posted by ntk at 11:49 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]


It's rental of stuff that previously wasn't rentable: The current buzz about the "sharing economy" mostly is just talking about a fuller utilization of capital, mostly capital that previously only contributed a fraction of its potential value because it was privately owned primarily for personal use, and the coordination and information costs to renting it out were too high. But now with smartphones and some other new networked technologies we have the rise of centralized coordination services that allow us wring more value out of our capital. In some cases the new shared capital is rented by owners, in other cases it's rented by companies (airBnB vs Zipcar).

Sharing can also mean a total or partial renunciation of market-based coordination of exchange. I.e. you might share to establish trust, or because trust has been established and sharing is useful and markets would get in the way. People share answers on AskMe because they want people to answer their own questions later, or at least because we've internalized this kind of reciprocity enough in our society that helping people in such a way feels good. - ropeladder
I think the point is that the first definition above - that used by the so-called sharing economy - is not a commonly accepted or historical definition of the term sharing, and in fact directly contradicts the original definition. Sharing, in Graber's terminology from Debt, is in the category of communistic relations between people. Anything involving paying money for something is in the category of exchange relations. The two are very different types of relationship, serving different social purposes.

Sometimes there's overlap. Eg. it does make me feel somewhat warm and fuzzy to go hang out at my local farmer's market (which is a very good one), buy my food from local farmers, and get to see and talk to all the folks who can afford to shop at the farmer's market or who are involved in producing stuff for sale there. Around the central raison d'etre of exchange relations, my farmer's market has built some other (formal and informal) rituals and relations that are not simply about exchange.

However, a community is not just a group of people you see regularly, but a group of people who are interdependent, and who are each others' safety nets. To really build community, you have to be willing to freely give to people when they are in need, and you have to have reason to trust that others will be there for you if you are in need. One can twist that around to express it as an exchange relation in a very broad, long-term, karmic sense, but freely giving something that someone else needs (or wants to play with, in the kindergarten version) without expectation of reciprocation or reward is fundamentally a different type of interaction than making a trade or implicit or explicit exchange of value. The former being what sharing really is, the later being what this so-called sharing economy is.
posted by eviemath at 12:01 PM on June 9 [5 favorites]


Re: bike shares, and whether things called by that name are accurately described - perhaps bicycle libraries (eg. Iowa City, Fort Collins, Minneapolis, UC Santa Cruz, Arcata) are more consistent with the meaning of "sharing"?
posted by eviemath at 12:06 PM on June 9 [2 favorites]


While we're at it, has anyone noticed how home printers put professional typists out of business? And websites on the internet have allowed many businessmen to book their own flights and hotels, thus firing secretaries.

I even heard that the carriage and horse business is going under due to the new 'automobile economy.' Used to be a great career existed for kids who grew up on farms, learned how to ride horses, and then moved into the city. Sure we have cars now, but this is going to absolutely ruin all the hard-working carriage drivers.

The world just keeps going downhill. At this rate there will be zero jobs and everyone will be in poverty. How much longer must we suffer mutually beneficial transactions riding on top of new innovative ideas?! Don't they understand that it's actually bad for them, they just aren't smart enough to realize why, and I have platitudes about inequality to prove it!
posted by jjmoney at 12:24 PM on June 9 [8 favorites]


Wow, I'm surprised at all the negative comments. If a car or house sits empty, it helps no-one. If it is rented out when the owner doesn't use it, society has just gained a resource and becomes richer. Sure, some taxi drivers or hotel owners may not like it because it hurts their businesses. Just like the sun hurts candlemakers.
posted by Triplanetary at 12:33 PM on June 9 [2 favorites]


The "for society!" argument is a very dangerous one.
posted by NoxAeternum at 12:45 PM on June 9


The thing I love about ropeladder's comment above is that the second paragraph neatly summarizes the 1990s-Utopian ideal of the old Internet, while the first paragraph neatly demonstrates how the language used by 1990s Internet idealists was hijacked by the hucksters who've since taken over. I have tremendous respect for ropeladder for so clearly and concisely summing up how the scam works.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 12:49 PM on June 9 [1 favorite]


The "for society!" argument is a very dangerous one.

Or at the very least, it's a much better argument for the socialization of property than for this sort of capital extraction.
posted by kewb at 12:49 PM on June 9 [1 favorite]


I understand the skim of Uber and Airbnb is 20%. Seems like a large house 'take'.

Sounds like an opportunity for someone else to come along and undercut them on price.

What are the structural constraints baked into our society that make wealth-distributing co-ops rare and difficult and technolibertarian schemes common?

Because many people don't think the way you do, and would think it foolish to come up with a profitable business idea and then not profit from it?

Metafilter makes me feel like such a hardcore capitalist. It's like the opposite of Reddit and Facebook.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 12:53 PM on June 9 [5 favorites]


If it is rented out when the owner doesn't use it,

But that's not what happens with the vast majority of AirBnB things: those are apartments that are already occupied by renters, who then rent the space out (again) for short-term stays. We're not talking VRBO here. Which concept has been around for a while and never got called "sharing."

(Now, of course, it seems that some landlords are discovering how much more money they can make via AirBnB instead of pesky tenants, so they are evicting their tenants and turning the property into full-time AirBnB places.)

The car I drive to work is currently sitting idly in the parking lot here, waiting for me to drive it home, but renting it out to someone else to drive for Uber or Lyft is not how those work. My time - which is the thing that's available for "sharing" - is already booked by my employer, so that's a no-go as well.
posted by rtha at 12:56 PM on June 9 [3 favorites]


Umm, her free piece on Medium (run by folks who started the sharing system uber alles, Twitter) undermines journalists/writers who use to be able to work on these kinds of items for pay.

Susie is pretty transparent about who is paying her and what she, herself, posts for free. She's paid for her Medium pieces, but not nearly enough based on how many clicks her pieces get. If you follow her on Twitter or on her blog, she lays a lot of the economics of her work out for all to see.
posted by quince at 1:06 PM on June 9 [2 favorites]


"Oh please, with your "plantation owners". I know more than one person who Airbnb's one of the bedrooms in their apartment and are paying their entire mortgage that way."

…wait, your response is that a property owner is individually able to exploit this system, removing the costs of her capital? Like, god bless your friends, but that's the Piketty rentier economy right there, and it's corrosive writ large.
posted by klangklangston at 1:09 PM on June 9 [8 favorites]


"While we're at it, has anyone noticed how home printers put professional typists out of business? And websites on the internet have allowed many businessmen to book their own flights and hotels, thus firing secretaries. "

THANK GOD FOR THE SHARING ECONOMY

WE MIGHT HAVE HAD TO PAY FOR THIS "BUGGY WHIP" CAPITALIST JINGOISM
posted by klangklangston at 1:11 PM on June 9 [4 favorites]


>> What are the structural constraints baked into our society that make wealth-distributing co-ops rare and difficult and technolibertarian schemes common?

> Because many people don't think the way you do, and would think it foolish to come up with a profitable business idea and then not profit from it?
It's true, tovarishch, I'd have you all standing in line for hard black bread and dull razors given half the chance.1

That said, though, it strikes me that your answer can't be the answer, for the simple reason that most people aren't primarily motivated by the desire for massive profits, not even the Bay Area business-technophile types to whom the "be an entrepreneur and become fantastically rich" ideology is so heavily marketed. I know a statistically improbably number of those guys, and aside from, like, that one sociopath who lost a big pile of money in Mt. Gox2, most of them have much humbler motivations: to have just enough money to throw away on running a boutique coffee shop, to have just enough money to be left alone to watch professional-level Starcraft games all day, to have just enough money to quit his hacker job and run for municipal office, and so forth.

Moreover, the best part of the Internet's infrastructure (Wikipedia, Craigslist, Linux/*BSD/Free software in general) is created and maintained by people who've made a conscious decision to leave just a whopping amount of money on the table in order to achieve less... one-dimensional... goals.

Basically, there's sort of a lot of empirical evidence that desire is much more heterogenous than your superficially common-sense "uh people with bsns plans want make big money" idea would imply.

1: I'm not even kidding; I sincerely think we should be using queue-based systems for much of what we're using market-based systems for.
2: Insert Nelson Muntz laugh here.

posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 1:16 PM on June 9 [3 favorites]


No matter how strong, insightful, visually arresting etc her work may be, the degree of stability her dad achieved in the same line of work is surpassing hard to come by for creative types of any stripe these days.

I agree with this. as a freelancer I could not make ends meet. Now I work in another industry and write as a hobby. A few writers who have managed to write for a living do resent me, but some understand that no matter how much content I give away, it's not going to be at the level that someone who is a full-time reporter can do. I don't have as much time for interviews. I can't cover breaking news at all. My output is smaller because I'm constricted by time.

There is a small chance over time I might be able to get one of the maybe dozen full-time jobs in my niche of writing that are available across the country. The odds though are small. Am I supposed to shut up and not write in the meantime?

So yeah, I'm "giving away" content, but it's my hobby, and it's not the same content I'd be able to produce as a full-time writer. Also, I've worked higher paid jobs as a freelancer as well (as a web developer) and it's also extremely hard to make ends meet despite 100+ hourly wages. Our economy is structurally not very kind to freelancers. I can think of other countries that do it better or solutions like basic guaranteed income, but in the meantime I'm going to keep writing because I like it.

Also working in a different industry has given me some perspective into how poorly-managed many writing outlets like newspapers and magazines are.
posted by melissam at 1:27 PM on June 9 [4 favorites]


Also, it drives up your rents as landlords begin to assume that all their tenants are making money on the side through illegal short-term sublets. The higher rents then tend to drive more tenants to start subletting their apartments in order to make rent.

That's an interesting hypothesis, but it seems difficult to test. Rents in areas where AirBNB is heavily used are high and going up, but they were going up before AirBNB in most cases.

Check your moral panic.
posted by humanfont at 1:35 PM on June 9 [4 favorites]


I am going to start an employee sharing company wherein I give you people and you give me money. Everyone wins.
posted by Tacodog at 1:40 PM on June 9


so basically airbnb, uber, lift etc. are just insurance agents in case our trust is misfounded and our car or apartment gets trashed, and for that insurance we pay 20% adder.

That's impressive network of people one needs to know to be able to get a someone to pick you up and give a ride on few minutes notice in Seattle, NYC or San Francisco. And knowing people in Paris, Tokyo and Buenos Aires to get nice apartment for a weekend quickly.

With network like that one does indeed save 20%.

Similarly it's great to know the right people who want to rent and pay for the weekend that one's house is empty. Or need rides when car is available.

20% is not very high price for creating the marketplace compared to the old methods. Also if Uber can come from nowhere to disrupt the status quo, then someone else can do it to them.
posted by zeikka at 1:56 PM on June 9 [4 favorites]


Her father is Daryl Cagle, one of the top editorial cartoonists in the US... I suspect she is keenly aware of how thoroughly her dad's career path is not open to her or any of her contemporaries.

Daryl Cagle set up the first editorial cartoon 'collective website' and online cartoon licensing service. Kind of a 'pre-sharing-economy' coping mechanism for creatives...
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:00 PM on June 9 [1 favorite]


My impression is the regulations are not for consumers as much as they are for creating a kind of guild with that artificial scarcity, which is why these people are so threatened by Uber and Lyft.

Just be sure you know which people you are talking about. It is not the cabbies. It's the medallion owners. Very few cabbies own their own medallions and a lot of them use Uber and Lyft as well. The cabbies don't tend to benefit from the regulations or the medallions and are caught in a pretty crappy grind between the city and cab leasers.
posted by srboisvert at 2:10 PM on June 9 [5 favorites]


I am going to start an employee sharing company wherein I give you people and you give me money

Temp agencies have been around for a long, long time. They're like the archetype of the for-profit sharing model.
posted by goo at 2:22 PM on June 9 [1 favorite]


This article lacks any sort of coherent argument.
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:37 PM on June 9 [2 favorites]


rtha said above: The car I drive to work is currently sitting idly in the parking lot here, waiting for me to drive it home, but renting it out to someone else to drive for Uber or Lyft is not how those work.

That is correct. But you can rent out your car, without coming along, using GetAround or a similar service. I think it's better for everyone that resources are used (if their owners agree) than that they aren't. And I think it's fair that the facilitators get a cut of the value being created.
posted by Triplanetary at 3:23 PM on June 9 [2 favorites]


"List your car"

*click*

Login with Facebook: Getaround will receive the following info: your public profile, friend list, email address, education history, current city and likes.

Oh hell no. Nope. That's the sharing we're talking about, isn't it. Me sharing all that with this company so they can do....stuff with it. Sell me more things. Sell my friends things. Nopenopenope no thanks.
posted by rtha at 3:32 PM on June 9 [3 favorites]


Maybe RelayRides is more to your liking?
posted by Triplanetary at 3:57 PM on June 9


No.

I think it's better for everyone that resources are used (if their owners agree) than that they aren't.

There's this resource called "public transit" that I can take from a lot of airports in a lot of cities to where I need to go. Likewise, a resource called "cabs." Or "shared shuttles." I mean, if you want to rent your car out to people, that's between you and your insurance company, but don't make it sound like a virtue that you're engaging in out of the goodness of your heart and your concern for not having idle resources sitting around.
posted by rtha at 4:06 PM on June 9 [11 favorites]


It's not sharing. This isn't kindergarten. Why are we calling an exchange of money for goods or services "sharing"? Why are we allowing it to be framed that way?

It hadn't once occurred to me that sharing was being used in the sense of sharing your cupcakes with your kindergarten class on your birthday. It makes a lot more sense if you think of this new sharing as dividing an asset into shares and then divvying them up piecemeal. And before you ask- yes, I agree that this is marketing spin and something like 'third-party facilitated rental economy' would be more accurate though it is wholly unsuitable for the world outside of Metafilter.

I think it's sad that the objections to the sharing economy raised in the article amount to three things: It's not the responsibility of the sharing economy to fix some of society's deepest and most persistent problems (a reasonable expectation is not making them worse), and anyone who thinks that taxi companies going out of business is a bad thing is flat-out wrong.

There's interesting and valid criticisms of the sharing economy (like the unlicensed hotel in the next apartment over) and I'd much rather hear about those than simpering about unreasonable expectations not being fulfilled and lamentations for buggy whip manufacturers with friends in politics.
posted by elsp at 4:24 PM on June 9 [10 favorites]


From (1) the comments that I've been reading, (2) the article (but more clearly in the earlier work from an actual sociological researcher who collected and analyzed actual data about participation rates in the so-called sharing economy, that this article briefly cites), and (3) from my own analysis (and I'd agree that the FPP linked article isn't too clear on this point), there are a couple deeper objections to the so-called sharing economy.
  1. It's not necessarily that it, itself, is bad, but it is a symptom of some very bad feature or state of the broader economy.
  2. The informal economy will exacerbate existing inequalities, by further marginalizing groups already getting left out economically.
  3. The Orwellian double-speak in calling it the "sharing" economy is obnoxious as all get out; possibly indicative of how widespread and intense the commodification of everything has become, and definitely indicative of either malintent on the part of whoever coined the phrase or a disturbing level of cluelessness about what actually is involved in creating and maintaining social networks and communities.
posted by eviemath at 4:53 PM on June 9 [12 favorites]


There's this resource called "public transit" that I can take from a lot of airports in a lot of cities to where I need to go. Likewise, a resource called "cabs." Or "shared shuttles." I mean, if you want to rent your car out to people, that's between you and your insurance company, but don't make it sound like a virtue that you're engaging in out of the goodness of your heart and your concern for not having idle resources sitting around

But I am engaging in the practice out of the goodness of my heart and because I'm concerned about the environmental cost of redundancy in our current property model.
posted by humanfont at 5:20 PM on June 9 [1 favorite]


I'm a couchsurf host, so I can't speak to the financial aspect of 'sharing' as no money changes hands. There definitely does seem to be discrimination along racial lines, though. I pretty much accept anyone who writes to me on a first-come first-served basis, but it's also possible to use couchsurf.org to list people in your city who are looking for a place and contact them. From the way this list performs, if you are young, white, and female you will get multiple couch offers. If you are male and asian you are shit out of luck.
posted by um at 5:56 PM on June 9 [1 favorite]


tofu_crouton: Is that all it would take to keep people using existing, regulated taxis, etc.? A good app

For me and others i know and have discussed this with, no. The local taxi dispatch/companies rep is fucked, kinda forever. It's like, enron levels of bad where it needs to be burned down and started over from scratch. An app would be the equivalent of the mcdonalds "foodies welcome" billboard. They'd get laughed off the stage.

I've covered why several times previously. I'm aware that uber/uberx and possibly lyft don't have a perfect track record on that front, but at least you'll get a reaction being being ignored or total indifference when you call their corporate hotline.

daveliepmann:and the commercial airbnbs (the ones where it's just an unregulated hotel) weird me out.

Google is failing me after like 10 domain searches and just searching for the article that spawned the FPP... But maybe 6 months ago or so, there was an amazing post about a guy who was a former bike messenger and ended up working for this enormous airbnb scheme "hotel" that rented apartments all over the city. Usually multiples ones in the same building. They had all these "gophers" who would go around and deal with lost keys, etc who had to constantly lie to the landlords. It was actually a super fascinating read, even if the entire thing almost felt like a bad team rocket scheme. It just got more and more obtuse and ridiculous as it went on, including a TV stuffed with used condoms and other hilarity.

phearlez: Really? I think it's phenomenally reasonable. In exchange for 1/5 of your fare you get (assuming this is the extent of the costs) for no monthly commitment:

You missed that you also get insurance(on uberx too), in a gap insurance above your existing policy sort of way. That's also worth some money, especially when your personal insurance may say "go fuck yourself" if they find out you were using your car for lyft.

Has this been tested in practice? I'd love to read an account of someone who ended up having to use it.

But really, how would you even buy that sort of insurance for this use case? how much would it cost? i bet it would be a hell of a lot more than under 20% a trip, especially without some kind of special licensing you'd probably need to pick up which might even prevent them from giving it to you(or more importantly, be used as an excuse to deny your claim).

ntk: I'm not sure it really affects your argument, but Medium pays some of its contributors, and I think Susan Cagle is one of them.

Honestly the biggest problem with medium is that they don't distinguish between what is paid, and what isn't. the whole site is kind of a murky place because of that, full of cutely laid out abject bullshit right next to really powerful good stuff, and a whole lot inbetween.
posted by emptythought at 6:19 PM on June 9 [1 favorite]


"But I am engaging in the practice out of the goodness of my heart and because I'm concerned about the environmental cost of redundancy in our current property model."

Huh. Most of the "sharing" economy is not based on the goodness of one's heart, but rather on fees paid for a service. Are you sure you're thinking of the same thing?

(Couchsurfing is a lot more of an actual "sharing" economy than AirBnB or Lyft.)
posted by klangklangston at 6:38 PM on June 9 [2 favorites]


eviemath: " The Orwellian double-speak in calling it the "sharing" economy is obnoxious as all get out; possibly indicative of how widespread and intense the commodification of everything has become, and definitely indicative of either malintent on the part of whoever coined the phrase or a disturbing level of cluelessness about what actually is involved in creating and maintaining social networks and communities. "

I can imagine leftists being unsettled by a market transaction being called 'sharing.' But in this case, decades of politics hailing the Ownership Society, outright castigation of renters, and a history of rental firms abusing the generally poor financial means of their clients means the much more apt terms like 'rentification' have terrible connotations.

I firmly believe that the wealthier half of society would be better served by owning fewer physical assets and investing more, but everything from their family's expectations up to and including the tax pushes for owning. So the term 'sharing economy' is aimed mostly at these people; those who could rent, but have the option not to. Its purpose is convincing middle and upper class people to rely on Zipcar services instead of owning a car, in a world where 'Rent-to-own' is a euphemism for skirting usury laws. And convincing investors that such an enterprise is feasible. And I hope that their entrance would make the rental markets more competitively priced, and less about obscuring a business model of charging the poor high finance fees.

But frankly, let's just repeal the mortgage interest deduction and see how long Americans equate homeownership with citizenship.
posted by pwnguin at 6:40 PM on June 9 [2 favorites]


Honestly the biggest problem with medium is that they don't distinguish between what is paid, and what isn't. the whole site is kind of a murky place because of that, full of cutely laid out abject bullshit right next to really powerful good stuff, and a whole lot inbetween.

You could say it's neither rare nor done well. wokka wokka wokka
posted by entropicamericana at 6:49 PM on June 9 [4 favorites]


In my retirement acc't it says I have shares but I had to pay for them.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 8:20 PM on June 9


Metafilter: cutely laid out abject bullshit right next to really powerful good stuff, and a whole lot inbetween
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 9:11 PM on June 9 [3 favorites]


(Couchsurfing is a lot more of an actual "sharing" economy than AirBnB or Lyft.)

The cynical dickhead part of my brain, upon encountering couchsurfing and talking with a couple friends about it immediately went(after we had run through the basic "but how do you know it's not going to be really rapey if you're a lady traveling alone?" type stuff) "So do they make any money off this?" and upon the answer being no, my first thought was that someone very quickly was going to come along and make something with a hipper presentation, app, and marketing(the couchsurfing site looks nice now, but it's too little too late like the flickr revamp) charge for it somehow... and well, make a ton of money.

And then they did.

It's absolutely true that couchsurfing was conceptually more pure, but a lot of people had an aversion to it for a slightly intangible reason. It sort of radiated unsafe and the bad kind of burner hippie to everyone i discussed traveling with it too. And i don't blame some people for not wanting to essentially have to play a dating app cock-fluffing game of trying to charm people in to liking them instead of just paying a couple hundred bucks and not having to bother with the social peacock show(and some people expected a very silly amount of time investment on this or they'd just drop you). Not to mention that as discussed above, the system was sort of against you in a very dating site like fashion, as you worked your way down the totem pole from "cute young white woman".

Couchsurfing could be close to free, but it wasn't tap and go convienent or marketed as well as it could have been, and partially because it was run at least in part by marketing is evil fuck the system types.

The rentiers are going win every front on this battle, because even if they don't understand how to sell their "value add", they can afford to pay someone who does. Or, they'll be introduced to the right people because they're in SV anyways.
posted by emptythought at 9:52 PM on June 9 [2 favorites]


[...] don't make it sound like a virtue that you're engaging in out of the goodness of your heart and your concern for not having idle resources sitting around.

I'm sorry if that's how it came out. Let me try again. I am renting out a room in my house right this instant. I am doing it because it makes sense for me (wife and kids out of town). It makes sense for the renter (all decently priced hotels are full). No-one is particularly virtuous, but I make a few bucks and meet an interesting person, and my renter saves money. An underused resource (my house) is being used and we are all happier as a result. How can that be bad?
posted by Triplanetary at 10:31 PM on June 9 [2 favorites]


I don't want to turn this into a discussion about couchsurf hosting, given that it's a different model from AirBnB, so I'll add a couple of things I hope are relevant and then shut up - memail me if there's more you want to know.

People sometimes ask me why I host people for free when I could go on AirBnB and make some money from the spare room/bathroom. Well, a big part of it is that I don't need the money right now and I enjoy having people stay over sometimes. Taking money would ruin it for me. Of course if I was hard up I'm sure I'd be jettisoning these bourgeois sentiments without hesitation.

I don't know whether the frequency of creep encounters is higher, lower, or about the same for couchsurfers as for AirBnB'ers. My feeling is that a reasonable person might expect AirBnB to be slightly safer given that the relationship between the parties has been 'professionalized' by exchanging money. On the other hand, creeps aren't reasonable and if they feel entitled to creep then they will do so regardless of money. We're all amateurs here.

I'm not really involved in the wider couchsurfing community, and I've never had a bad experience with a surfer, but I've heard about some pretty gross stuff, to the extent that if I personally were to go a-surfing I would tend to stick with the people I've already met, and just stay in hotels when I couldn't.
posted by um at 11:24 PM on June 9 [1 favorite]


But frankly, let's just repeal the mortgage interest deduction and see how long Americans equate homeownership with citizenship.

Canada has a similar attitude to the US regarding homeownership, but no mortgage interest tax deduction.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 11:45 PM on June 9 [2 favorites]


"The cynical dickhead part of my brain, upon encountering couchsurfing and talking with a couple friends about it immediately went(after we had run through the basic "but how do you know it's not going to be really rapey if you're a lady traveling alone?" type stuff) "So do they make any money off this?" and upon the answer being no, my first thought was that someone very quickly was going to come along and make something with a hipper presentation, app, and marketing(the couchsurfing site looks nice now, but it's too little too late like the flickr revamp) charge for it somehow... and well, make a ton of money."

Yeah, Couchsurfing itself tried that too and pretty much failed hard by alienating a lot of their users by attempting to monetize clumsily.
posted by klangklangston at 8:10 AM on June 10


"An underused resource (my house) is being used and we are all happier as a result. How can that be bad?"

Is your property zoned for rentals? Are you paying the requisite taxes?

I don't want to come across like I'm totally opposed to AirBnB; I've used it before and will use it again pretty soon. But it's not an unalloyed good, and the neoliberal individualist framing that you've put forth there can disguise a lot of the broader issues, similar to a tragedy of the commons situation where everyone makes rational individual choices that leave all of them worse off.
posted by klangklangston at 8:14 AM on June 10 [2 favorites]


Is your property zoned for rentals? Are you paying the requisite taxes?

Why should it have to be zoned for rentals? And why should someone have to pay more taxes for renting part of their house than they would if said person was staying there as a friend and just coughing up a few bucks for groceries?
posted by corb at 8:30 AM on June 10 [2 favorites]


the neoliberal individualist framing that you've put forth there can disguise a lot of the broader issues,

Which are...?

similar to a tragedy of the commons situation where everyone makes rational individual choices that leave all of them worse off.

In this particular case, how so?

I mean, I do understand that part of the city of NY's objection to AirBnB was that it was an unregulated hotel, and therefore subject to abuse. But AirBnB's rating system seems much more effective at shutting down exploiters than NYC's understaffed housing authority, so this seems like a harm in theory that doesn't exist in practice.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:48 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]


"Why should it have to be zoned for rentals?"

Quality of life for neighbors is one good reason — rentals mean increased activity. Likewise, code issues like adequate exits that can be waived for grandfathered occupants, but are necessary when the occupants turn over.

And why should someone have to pay more taxes for renting part of their house than they would if said person was staying there as a friend and just coughing up a few bucks for groceries?

To support things like health and code inspections, so that people aren't staying in (or renting out) unsafe rooms. Likewise, to support the extra drain on infrastructure that having people cycling through a space causes.

"I mean, I do understand that part of the city of NY's objection to AirBnB was that it was an unregulated hotel, and therefore subject to abuse. But AirBnB's rating system seems much more effective at shutting down exploiters than NYC's understaffed housing authority, so this seems like a harm in theory that doesn't exist in practice."

But since the budget of that housing authority would come in part from those taxes, not paying those taxes would leave the housing authority worse off and less able to regulate other properties.
posted by klangklangston at 9:05 AM on June 10 [3 favorites]


Regulating airbnb like a hotel doesn't make sense. But not regulating airbnb at all doesn't make sense either. I want to see regulation of airbnb, but please, let's not just take the laws we wrote for hotels and say "airbnb is a hotel, so follow the same laws". They're not the same thing.

Just like with artisanal cheese, small-scale produce, and pastured cows, the regulations that make sense for the giant operations (Hilton hotels, Wal-Mart scale lettuce, Cargill beef) simply don't make sense for people running essentially personal operations (someone renting out their bucolic home to city slickers for a weekend away once a month, the organic farmer with twenty acres, the husband-and-wife ranching team who exclusively sells grass-fed beef a side at a time). We need a different set of regulations (close to a subset, but probably with some new rules, too) for these different things.
posted by daveliepmann at 9:41 AM on June 10 [3 favorites]


Someone asked if I pay taxes on my AirBnB income. I only started renting out this year so I haven't done it yet, but I will next tax season. It is also my understanding that AirBnB will send me a 1099 form and report my income to the IRS, as they should.
posted by Triplanetary at 10:35 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]


"Regulating airbnb like a hotel doesn't make sense. But not regulating airbnb at all doesn't make sense either. I want to see regulation of airbnb, but please, let's not just take the laws we wrote for hotels and say "airbnb is a hotel, so follow the same laws". They're not the same thing."

That's especially true because many of the hotel/rooming house laws were written over a century ago to crack down on urban slums, and generations of weird regulatory capture and lobbying by both hospitality industry and unions about current regulations. But as AirBnB becomes a full-time job for some folks, it gets closer and closer to some of the conditions that made the laws spring up in the first place.

"Someone asked if I pay taxes on my AirBnB income. I only started renting out this year so I haven't done it yet, but I will next tax season. It is also my understanding that AirBnB will send me a 1099 form and report my income to the IRS, as they should."

Hotel and occupancy taxes are also required in a lot of municipalities and states. AirBnB plans on collecting them for a handful of cities. But many AirBnB spots also violate (as noted in the article) laws against renting for less than 30 days, which are also there to protect renters from unscrupulous landlords (well, and along the way, plenty of weird racist legacies like breaking up Irish neighborhoods).
posted by klangklangston at 11:16 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]


Why should it have to be zoned for rentals? And why should someone have to pay more taxes for renting part of their house than they would if said person was staying there as a friend and just coughing up a few bucks for groceries?

Because they aren't, they are renting the place in order to make money. Where I live that is a taxable income and it is subject to special safety and sanitation regulations to protect the renter, landlord, and neighbors. Just as "for hire" vehicles have to follow specific regulations in order to become licensed.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:30 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]


I'm not saying the income shouldn't be taxed. (Though technically I think you're supposed to report even income you're given by friends, I don't think people do, but I'm not talking about that)

But why do people feel like renters will inherently make things shitty for the neighborhood, but extra friends staying are just fine? What is it about the exchange of money that magically makes people into a terrible burden on their neighbors?
posted by corb at 12:32 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


"Friends" implies an informal and temporary arangement for fun or to help someone out, while "renter" implies a business situation wherein the primary purpose of the stay is to make money. If it's business rather than pleasure, there need to be protections for all the stakeholders to avoid exploitation.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:48 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]


Cab companies are basically the worst, worst example to use when bemoaning these kinds of things. From drivers sexually assaulting passengers, to cabs that are falling apart, to wide swaths of cities that are never serviced at all, to exploitative management practices, to racist pickup practices--the taxicab industry has it all.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:57 PM on June 10 [4 favorites]


AirBnB allows you to make some cash on the side and as a bonus piss off all your neighbours who now have to live near an unlicensed hotel!

Apartment owners sting short-term renting tenants
Bill Dawson found the keys — in an envelope between the screen door and the front door — and let himself into the Airbnb unit he’d rented.

Inside was a welcome letter and list of recommended restaurants, just like a hotel, he thought.

A note from the host said he should call if he had any problems. Dawson did have a problem, so he called.

“I’m your landlord,” he said when the host picked up. “I’m the one who signed your lease agreement.”

He waited.
posted by Room 641-A at 6:24 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


“I’m kind of using that as the hammer,” Dawson said. “If you don’t cooperate I’m going to turn you in.”

How unfortunate that he's not. They're subverting the entire purpose of rent-controlled property. They're doing so in a way that amounts up to a direct illegal cash transfer from the ownership to themselves, effectively stealing from a social support system. They should just be straight-up booted out and someone else allowed in.
posted by phearlez at 8:10 AM on June 11 [3 favorites]


Susie being interviewed about this piece on KCRW (Interview begins approx 40:00)
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:50 AM on June 12


The Sharing Economy - "sharing economy" 1)deregulation by technology, evading the political process
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:41 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


The Sharing Economy is Great – Don't Listen to the Naysayers
posted by kliuless at 11:42 AM on June 15


Even more data about Airbnb’s impact in San Francisco

In another post, Slee looked at listings in 18 cities worldwide to see if Airbnb’s business is based on “regular people” who occasionally share a spare room, as the company frequently asserts. His findings were quite similar to The Chronicle’s report on San Francisco. “It turns out there is an element of wishful thinking in the (self) portraits of Airbnb,” he wrote.

Like The Chronicle, he found that the majority of Airbnb’s business comes from rentals of entire homes or apartments, and a big percentage of listings are offered by people who control multiple properties, raising concerns that some landlords run illegal hotels.

posted by rtha at 10:38 AM on June 17 [4 favorites]


“Sharing” Economy and Self-Exploitation
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:52 PM on June 20 [1 favorite]


« Older Envisioning the American Dream...  |  Stick Family Feud:... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments