We've been told that the "Sharing Economy" is the way of the future. But a new book by Tom Slee questions that proposition. Tom Walkom writes:
But as Tom Slee writes in his authoritative new book What’s Yours is Mine, the original idea, however laudable, has turned into something far darker.
Or as he puts it: “The sharing economy is extending a harsh and deregulated free market into previously protected areas of our lives. The leading companies are now corporate juggernauts themselves.”
Slee holds a PhD in theoretical chemistry and works for a Waterloo software company. He knows something about innovation. But he believes that companies like Uber and Airbnb are innovations which do more harm than good:
Uber enthusiasts, he writes, attribute its success to technology. But the real reason Uber thrives is that it avoids paying many of the costs borne by regulated taxi services, including insurance and mechanical fitness tests.More important, and again unlike regulated taxi firms, it is not required to provide services to everyone, such as those using wheelchairs.
When Uber enters a city, Slee writes, it usually offers bonuses to its drivers and discounts to its customers.
Over time, as it captures more of the market, these incentives are scaled back. In the end, Uber ends up raking in as much revenue as regulated taxi fleet owners, yet faces lower costs.
Airbnb also thrives because it doesn't have to play by the rules that govern other property owners:
Accommodation sharing, too, is not always what it purports to be. Airbnb claims to connect those needing hotel space with ordinary people willing to rent out an apartment or extra room.The reality is that in some cities almost half of Airbnb’s hosts have multiple listings — that is, they are in the landlord business.Yet unlike regular bed-and-breakfast operations, Airbnb landlords are not required to adhere to government health and safety rules.
Nor, to the dismay of some neighbours, are they subject to zoning bylaws.
It's more of the same -- from the same folks who brought you Neo-liberalism.