Why Is the ‘Sharing Economy’ Starting So Many Arguments?

By Rob Walker : yahoo – excerpt

In London, Paris, and other European cities, widespread taxi strikes against the startup Uber have been gridlocking traffic. In New York, renting out spare living space to short-term visitors via Airbnb has become a heated regulatory issue. In San Francisco, the city attorney has just ordered Monkey Parking, a service built around auctioning off public parking spaces, to knock it off.

The uniting source of all this controversy is a concept that sounds like a friendly idea but that’s sparking some startlingly unfriendly responses: “the sharing economy.”

If you’ve bumped into these controversies, you may be confused about how this “sharing economy” thing can sound so virtuous — it’s sharing! — yet spark such vociferous opposition.

Here, then, is what you need to know about the sharing economy and its discontents…

In short, it’s a system that uses technology to link supply and demand in previously impossible ways. For instance, lots of people own extra space — from a spare room to a vacation home that sits unoccupied most of the year. And lots of people need somewhere to stay while traveling — and end up anywhere from a friend’s couch to a hotel…

The recent parking space kerfuffle in San Francisco is a case in point: “We will not abide businesses that hold hostage on-street public parking spots for their own private profit,” San Francisco’s city attorney said… 

Unless the city can make a buck on it the way they are doing with “SFMTA-sponsored private companies.”

This is where things are getting dicey.


Finally: In practice, it’s a system that privileges the privileged. To those who observe that a service like TaskRabbit has been “a godsend to people with more money than time

In other words, the “sharing economy” is only for folks who can afford to pay for the “privilege of sharing,” which makes it discriminates against the less privileged, and is being widely blamed for the rapid displacement of the less privileged San Francisco residents.


That’s as it should be. If you want to be a disruptor, you should be ready to be disrupted…  (more)