Sharing Economy: The New Capitalism for Major Cities?
I have always believed in the sharing economy providing accessibility over private ownership, and free consumption over surplus and waste. But is the sharing economy defining a new way of business? Or is it just a fad constructed from of a bad economy that helps people during financial hardship?
The beautiful thing about the sharing economy is freedom. Almost anyone with a house, car, bike, or free time can lend something to another. But is that entirely true yet? Well, no… for example I live in a high-rise in San Francisco and we were prohibited from using AirBnB to help us with our high-priced apartments while we are out of town.
After rulings, legal battles, and social critique affecting companies like Uber, Airbnb, and Lyft, I question whether or not these setbacks will impact the future of the sharing economy as a whole. Surely these new companies that are entering the market will be willing to face these criticisms, but perhaps it’s time to redefine our capitalist society into something that includes the sharing economy. I’m not suggesting that companies like Uber and Airbnb should be able to bypass local taxes and healthcare costs, but I do think we need to accept that our society is changing and we should adapt to, not prevent new business models.
While over time, some individuals have begun to make the sharing economy their full-time jobs, I don’t think this is what the sharing economy is all about. Perhaps it is just my glass half full way of looking at technology but I believe that the sharing economy only benefits consumers, and isn’t that the driving force for any innovation? That along with profit of course, and these businesses in the sharing economy industry sure have a lot of that.
No, I am not naïve and think that this new business model will bring all of us closer, giving big cities a hometown feel, just because you let me borrow your SUV to go to the grocery store through an app. I understand the driving force for the sharing economy is more money in your pocket because you would have let your car sit in the garage anyway. But the fact is, 51% of the world’s population lives in an urban, overcrowded, and over polluted city and that percentage is expected to dramatically increase in the next 20 years. Why should I pay hundreds a month on car parking, payments, and insurance when I mostly rely on public transportation but need a car once a week to visit my grandmother 2 cities away? The sharing economy (if done right) can lead to more efficiency and increased access to resources. Most important of all, it can reduce financial and product waste throughout communities which can be put back into local economies.
This is the exact opposite of capitalism in every way, and we should be okay with it. While I do agree that people have a right to be concerned about regulation (or lack there of) with this new model, as long as we can embrace the sharing economy for its advantages and help shape and change it for its disadvantages, then I think that we are just beginning to see the positive change it will bring.
What do you think about the sharing economy? Here to stay, or just a trend? Share with us in the comments.