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Why the Sharing Economy Is About Desperation, Not Trust 331

Posted by Soulskill
from the share-and-share-alike-but-pay-me dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Wired recently ran a cover story about the sharing economy — shorthand for the rise of peer-to-peer rental services like Lyft and Airbnb — which they call a cultural and economic breakthrough. They say it has ushered in a 'new era of Internet-enabled intimacy.' An article at New York Magazine has another theory: that it arose because of the weakness in the real economy. Quoting: '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.'"
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Why the Sharing Economy Is About Desperation, Not Trust

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  • tl;dr (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 27, 2014 @05:17AM (#46851861)

    tl;dr Marx was right that an over-production would leave the majority in poverty, and the only economically sustainable solution is sharing. It's not "desperation", but an inevitable and rational necessity.

    • Re:tl;dr (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Beck_Neard (3612467) on Sunday April 27, 2014 @05:31AM (#46851897)

      Marx talked of productivity increases, but what Marx didn't live to see was how dramatically productivity would actually increase over the twentieth century, to the point where so many paid workers would simply be laid off. About the wealth gap, he turned out to be more right than he could have ever foreseen.

      • by monkease (726622) on Sunday April 27, 2014 @05:58AM (#46851965) Homepage
        ...but I don't think that the only necessities are economic (...as both dyed-thru Marxists and Neocons seem to? I get that this is not you). While it's true the trigger for my involvement with "sharing"--from free-as-in-beer file-sharing to using Airbnb to potlucks to etc. etc.--may sometimes be economic, "because I can't afford to otherwise" doesn't actually make it in the top three of my reasons, now very much engaged with "sharing," for continuing in it.

        The New Intimacy is new not because humans are different, but because more are more available than ever before. #internet

        Economic "realists" are the children who built the world variously self-destructing.
        • by udippel (562132) on Sunday April 27, 2014 @07:55AM (#46852163)

          ...but I don't think that the only necessities are economic (...as both dyed-thru Marxists and Neocons seem to? I get that this is not you). While it's true the trigger for my involvement with "sharing"--from free-as-in-beer file-sharing to using Airbnb to potlucks to etc. etc.--may sometimes be economic, "because I can't afford to otherwise" doesn't actually make it in the top three of my reasons, now very much engaged with "sharing," for continuing in it.

          The New Intimacy is new not because humans are different, but because more are more available than ever before.
           

          Perceive yourself being modded up 'Insightful'.

          It is a new economic paradigm that currently evolves. Until recently, economics was based on the distribution of scare resources. And Marx didn't live to see this new aspect. Therefore, despite of his usefulness of his work in our days, his insights need to be accompanied by the only-evolving paradigm of managing an oversupply.
          Combine this with the concept of the necessity of growth, and we all run into troubled times. Because the necessity of growth is by mathematical definition not linear but exponential. Compound interest, in case you don't understand the pure term.
          Overall, an exponential growth is needed [so teach us the prevailing economic theories], while on the other hand an oversupply with decreasing prices [due to great leaps in productivity] kind of drowns us in mountains of consumables.

          • by Immerman (2627577) on Sunday April 27, 2014 @11:06AM (#46852809)

            Why is an growth necessary? To sustain our current economic models perhaps, but they are themselves a very recent anomaly dating back to somewhere around the beginning of the industrial revolution and the liberation of productivity from the number of laborers available. As you point out, all sustained growth is exponential, and that is unsustainable in a finite environment. And we're already bumping up against the limits of our global ecosystem so it must end relatively soon.

            No matter what the economists want to believe, sustainable growth is an oxymoron and we're going to be forced to return to an economic model which presumes the entirety of production remains relatively stable. Individual businesses may still grow, but only at the expense of other businesses (competitors and/or those rendered obsolete) But there's no particular reason they need to grow at all. Even today there are plenty of small businesses that don't subscribe to the "grow or die" philosophy, and have instead simply grown until they reach a comfortable, sustainable size and then remain there indefinitely. And that's absolutely normal. In days gone past a master blacksmith could only grow his business to the limits of his own productivity - he might take on an apprentice or two to help out with the easier stuff, but it was his own skill at the forge that drove business.

            • by mlts (1038732) on Sunday April 27, 2014 @12:51PM (#46853313)

              The modern shareholder item where a company must grow no matter what... and if a company is well established, but not gaining new market, it is considered a hot potato and has to be dropped... This is a self-destructive philosophy seems to be fairly recent.

              I think part of the reason why Dell went private is exactly this. The desktop/server/workstation market is not growing by leaps and bounds. Is it still lucrative? By far. Companies amortize their computers every 3-5 years on taxes, Moore's law allows more functionality in the same server and workstation space, and new real estate to expand server rooms is a lot more expensive than replacing existing servers for more bang/cubic centimeter. However, is it growing by leaps and bounds? Not really.

              Another big issue is that companies that are stable end up getting bought out by others that have the "growth focus". This means that a product made by a firm for 20 years and is tried and true gets replaced by something cheap and shoddy because there is no stake in that one little niche anymore, so the larger firm can cut corners there without risking the stock value all around.

              I've seen this happen fairly often in the RV industry. A small firm that has some useful widget gets bought out by a larger, "growing" company, and next thing you know, the well-made, made in USA item that was made to last a lifetime now is made overseas [1] out of a cheaper metal and manufacturing process... or is turned to craptastic plastic fresh out of an injection mold. Of course, the price doesn't go down. Yes, the larger company expanded and seized a narrow market. However, other than that one company, nobody else is benefiting from this.

              As described above, exponential growth isn't sustainable. What does a firm do when they reach market saturation? Get bought up by a bigger firm that is "growing"? The result of this are a few companies owning a lot of market niches.

              Finally, when a recession hits, the focus on growth can turn so-so times into a death spiral. A company may not be expanding in a sour economy... but it can be holding its own. However, with the growth mentality, no new market additions can push stock values down, causing that company to collapse. The car industry comes to mind here, because the first thing that happens in a recession is that people stop buying new cars, so automakers get hit hard in the stock market when this happens.

              [1]: I don't want to bash China on this one. Generally, they try to make stuff to spec, and if a company specs "cheap junk", they will deliver "cheap junk". If a company specs high quality and foots the bill for the better materials/fit/finish/manufacturing processes, it will come off the ship that way.

            • by citizenr (871508) on Sunday April 27, 2014 @01:04PM (#46853375) Homepage

              Why is an growth necessary?

              Because it is essential to making money out of NOTHING. Growth is the mechanism letting people "work with their money", people that never work, just invest and reap the benefits.
                Of course most of same people that rely on growth will be as pleased with recession. They can speculate with their money as long as there is instability, there is always opportunity to extract money from the working class.

              If you work with your hands/brain you dont need growth to sustain your lifestyle, you need stability. They (startup valley types) even call it a Lifestyle Business http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L... [wikipedia.org] and treat it like something lesser/to be ashamed of.

      • Re:tl;dr (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Kjella (173770) on Sunday April 27, 2014 @06:43AM (#46852011) Homepage

        Oh please, the Industrial Revolution was "the" killer for skilled artisans and craftsmen who were often replaced by unskilled labor operating machinery which incorporated the skill. Being self-employed and providing services directly became much harder, you had to be a worker at a factory because they owned the machinery and reaped the profits. Probably the worst time to be a worker was in the late 1800s and early 1900s when Taylorism was at its peak and it was all about how many seconds operation X took at the assembly line and it was all about dumb replaceable workers you could drag in from the street at subsistence wages.

        It never really changed until Ford doubled the worker's wages in 1914 and from there was the golden age of the "skilled" worker, concepts like Kanban/Lean Manufacturing in the 1950s also focused on small cells of skilled workers providing much higher flexibility and lower defect rates than the big, long assembly lines. Then started a new cycle where the skill those workers had were incorporated into robotics, again forcing us to develop a new set of meta-skills because it can crank out parts with near perfect precision 24x7 and it was back to huge production lines. We still needed a lot of monitoring and repair though, because the first robots were rather dumb and did things rather mindlessly. Now those skills are being incorporated into electronics, and we're again looking for new meta skills. It all comes full circle again and again.

        • Oh please, Indeed. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 27, 2014 @07:13AM (#46852071)

          Then started a new cycle where the skill those workers had were incorporated into robotics, again forcing us to develop a new set of meta-skills because it can crank out parts with near perfect precision 24x7 and it was back to huge production lines.

          That plant the laid off its workers only needs a handful of folks to maintain the robots. It's NOT a one to one transition. It's at least a 10 to 1 DOWNSIZING.

          Now those skills are being incorporated into electronics, and we're again looking for new meta skills. It all comes full circle again and again.

          Everytime the "circle" goes around LESS labor is needed.

          Just where are those workers going to go because other industries are not absorbing them - the employment numbers proves it.

          Look at today's big comanies - like Amazon. They have about 30,000 employees.

          A couple of decades ago, a company that size would have had a million people of ALL skill levels working there. But automation has made things much more efficient. Cheaper for the rest of us, sure. But what to do with all the displaced workers? Retrain? For what?

          All the new big companies only need a fraction of employees needed before.

          EVERY industry is doing this. There is no indsutry that is increasing their workforce - none. Even medical is becoming more efficient and (ever so slowly) automating on the lower levels. And there's other changes too.

          And that is what get's me about the fetish of policy makers who want manufacturing to come back to the US: it'll be done by robots.

          In the 19th century, Western society went from on labor intensive economy (Agriculture) to another (Manufacturing). So, there was opportunity for transistion.

          But today, new industries are going straight to automation (or off-shoring), old industries are doing the same, and there's a ever decreasing pool of jobs for people - and as a result, wages are declining in real terms.

          Just making straight comparisons with the past and today and strugging off social and economic changes that is hurting the average guy is the wrong analysis and the numbers prove it.

          • by zippthorne (748122) on Sunday April 27, 2014 @09:42AM (#46852481) Journal

            It's not zero sum. After the layoff, the 9 other workers are freed to make something else. At the founding of the nation, something like 80% of the workforce worked in agriculture. Over time, mechanization and improved techniques have lead to the present day fraction of something like 2%. The 78% of the workforce didn't starve to death, they went and did other, more interesting things, and now we have airplanes, computers, movies...

            • by DrLang21 (900992) on Sunday April 27, 2014 @10:50AM (#46852753)
              The other 78% moved into another high labor demand field, manufacturing. When this happen, there was a real strain on the agriculture industry because of the labor shortage it created. Much of the mechanization in agriculture was out of neccessity, not just for profit. There is no labor shortage in manufacturing driving the mechanization. Labor is being pushed out rather than pulled out by something else.

              We are reaching a state in our society where there simply is not enough work for everyone to maintain a middle class livelihood. Maintaining the status of the middle class will require a radical shift where the value of jobs currently seen as low value (such as a store clerk) goes up. You need to be able to make a real career at anything. Different examples of this can be seen throughout the world (such as the skilled fastfood workers in Japan), but they have not all come together under one society yet. Huge leaps in the minimum wage would be a good start, but the problem is a lot more complex than that. Changes in how education is accessed, single payer healthcare, and fundamental changes in the world's monetary systems are inevitably needed. There is no longer the scarcity of resources that once existed, and much of the current scarcity is artificial to keep profitability. This is stupid. People right here in the United States go hungry, but we have more than enough food to make everyone fat.
              • by russotto (537200) on Sunday April 27, 2014 @11:52AM (#46853039) Journal

                We are reaching a state in our society where there simply is not enough work for everyone to maintain a middle class livelihood. Maintaining the status of the middle class will require a radical shift where the value of jobs currently seen as low value (such as a store clerk) goes up.

                The iron law of economics -- supply and demand -- says that ain't going to happen. You can push and prod and legislate but supply and demand will always bite you in the ass one way or another.

                • by DrLang21 (900992) on Sunday April 27, 2014 @12:57PM (#46853341)
                  Ahh yes. The Neoclassical model presently being used to oppose minimum wage increases. There has been a lot of academic criticism of this model without good answer. Academics aside, it fails to account for the fact that supply and demand is driven by resource scarcity, which has largely been eliminated for basic human needs. The main scarcity still driving these factors is money. Housing, food, water, and even modern utilities are all available in abundance within the developed world. They are simply being wasted in the interest of money.
            • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 27, 2014 @10:55AM (#46852777)

              It's not zero sum. After the layoff, the 9 other workers are freed to make something else.

              Free? Free to be unemployed, desperately searching for anything that pays any sort of wage at all while half the politicians in the country call them leeches? There is no freedom in a layoff.

              Oh and don't forget that year after year fewer people are recoded as being part of the working population. That number was once frighteningly near near 100% (the days of child labor), now it is below 60%. Add in the unemployed numbers and barely half of the population has a way to support themselves. Little does the other half know that they are 'free to make something else'.

              Saying that people who are laid off can just go do something else is so out of touch to be morally disgusting and intellectually inept.

            • by Immerman (2627577) on Sunday April 27, 2014 @11:35AM (#46852953)

              So where should all these people displaced by automation work instead? Where's the new labor markets?

              The problem is we're in the midst of laying off 90% of the workforce thanks to automation, and we have no new industries for those unskilled laborers to move into. Yes, they've been freed to do other things, but there's no other things for them to do. Most people simply are not suited to becoming a robotics maintenance technician, movie producer, or banker. And even if they were there still wouldn't be enough jobs available. We only need so much manufacturing potential to supply all our desires, and if one person can maintain the robots needed to produce everything wanted by 100 people then you've got 99 people in a hundred that can't be involved in manufacturing. Ditto in fast food production, warehouse workers, barbers, etc, etc,etc. which are all beginning to be automated. Even in movie production CG characters are beginning to become more commonplace, which will eventually put most actors out on the street. And banking, where expert systems can outperform all but the most skilled, and at a far faster pace.

              If 10% of the population can provide for everything wanted by everyone, then our current economic model has a major problem, because everyone else needs a way to acquire the funds to purchase the things. And it the 10% are the only ones making an income from widely desired goods, then they are the only source of income for the rest, and you've got 9 people trying to supply enough bonus luxury goods to each productive member to keep food in their own bellies/ We could increase leisure hours to reduce the problem, but even if the average work week were only ten hours you've still only increased the employment rolls to 40%. The problem doesn't even go away with population reduction. Let the 60% starve to death, and all you've succeeded in doing is reducing demand by 60%, and thus reduced the size of the production lines and need for maintenance technicians, etc. by 60%, and you're right back where you started with 60% unemployment.

              Now, take the survival issue away through some sort of social safety net / social dividend and you may foster an explosion in creativity, but there's a reason for the starving artist stereotype - creative work is rarely appreciated in it's own time, and most artists and inventors have always needed to have some other kind of work to pay the bills. If there is no other work, then they need to be given at least enough to survive comfortably to free them to be creative.

          • by denzacar (181829) on Sunday April 27, 2014 @11:00AM (#46852793) Journal

            Both the AC parent and its parent are arguing tangential points as if they are opposite.

            Now those skills are being incorporated into electronics, and we're again looking for new meta skills. It all comes full circle again and again.

            Everytime the "circle" goes around LESS labor is needed.
            Just where are those workers going to go because other industries are not absorbing them - the employment numbers proves it.
            Look at today's big comanies - like Amazon. They have about 30,000 employees.

            AC's parent is not arguing that less labor is NOT needed.
            AC's parent is arguing that what the OP said about Marx not foreseeing the productivity increases in the 20th century is... well... pointless.
            Because the ACTUAL increase in productivity which caused "so many paid workers would simply be laid off" actually already happened in the 18th and the 19th century - which served Marx as both spark and the fuel for his ideas.

            As for the parents question "Just where are those workers going to go " - he answers the part of that unwittingly.

            Look at today's big comanies - like Amazon. They have about 30,000 employees.

            A couple of decades ago, a company that size would have had a million people of ALL skill levels working there. But automation has made things much more efficient. Cheaper for the rest of us, sure. But what to do with all the displaced workers? Retrain? For what?

            A couple of decades ago, a company like Amazon would not have existed. I.e. New industries are created.

            Then, there's that cyclic push that AC's parent mentions.
            Right now we are at the stage where people are being pushed into learning new meta skills as he/she puts it.

            Now those skills are being incorporated into electronics, and we're again looking for new meta skills.

            Only we're already beyond electronics now. It's software that's running things at this point.
            Anyone notice all those efforts to make everyone a coder? Or at least every child?
            You think that's done because coding is fun?

            Then, there is all that service industry growth. Personal this, private that...

            Still... All that does not answer the question "what to do with ALL the displaced workers".
            That answers the question what is being done.
            Note how none if it is being done by "the invisible hand" but by actual government and industry backed efforts.
            Also, how most of the industry exists only because at some point in the past the government needed machines that can count and calculate really fast.

            The real question is how big is the sum of the unemployed workforce which the society can absorb and bare before it starts caving in on itself.
            Oh... and reducing the number of people in a society is not the solution to any of the problems.

            Particularly in the case where a big part of the reason WHY that may SEEM as a solution is because of conditions created through export of labor to societies which outnumber your society 3-5 to 1, whose biggest problem for growth both in size and in living standards was the lack of labor.

            What happens when it turns out all your workers are either a tiny group of calculators (mostly in banking, then in engineering) and the rest are in some service industry or the other and all your stuff is made by someone else?
            Hint: Most of your workers are servants. And your thinkers' next logical step is to replace them ALL with robots.

            Unless you decide on taking up SOME socialism along the way, cutting the profit margin in order to maintain jobs for skilled workers and local industries, that's a recipe for a takeover by those other societies with far more workers to keep busy and THEIR robots which YOU paid THEM to make for YOU.

        • by taiwanjohn (103839) on Sunday April 27, 2014 @09:40AM (#46852471)

          As Richard Wolff [rdwolff.com] often points out in his lectures, [youtube.com] the USA had a constant labor shortage from the 1820s up to the 1970s. The shortage ended in part due to automation, and also because of women's liberation bringing millions more people into the workforce. For that entire period, American workers enjoyed steadily rising wages, but wages have flatlined ever since, despite continually rising productivity.

      • by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Sunday April 27, 2014 @07:17AM (#46852089)

        America's trade deficit is over $40 billion per month. That is the excess of what we consume over what we produce. In light of that, it is pretty silly to be talking about "over-production".

      • by plopez (54068) on Sunday April 27, 2014 @10:15AM (#46852623) Journal

        Workers often are not laid off due to actual increase in productivity. They are laid off because a system is rigged to shift to cheaper jobs elsewhere. Take Mexico as an example. Before Mexico was allowed to sign NAFTA they had to institute "land reform" which resulted in 1/3 of rural agricultural workers being made jobless. This surplus labor then ended up in the border towns working for worse wages in horrible environmental conditions and the factories in this region. Since the laor was so cheap this started the process of destroying the American industrial heartland. In addition this desperate poverty leads to the drugs wars and their huge body count, illegal immigration in the US, and huge environmental problems such as heavy metal pollution in the Rio Grande. The situation was artificially produced.

    • Re:tl;dr (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Opportunist (166417) on Sunday April 27, 2014 @06:40AM (#46852007)

      The problem is not over-production, it is that for some odd reason we see production as the goal of economy. Problem is, the goal is not production, it's selling.

      The goal is cheaper, cheaper, CHEAPER! We have to produce cheaper. Cheaper than the competitor, and even if there is no competitor, we have to produce cheaper. Not to sell it cheaper, as the market theory would demand, but to increase the profit margin. But hell, even if we WERE selling it cheaper, it would not make a difference. Because whether you sell something for 100 or 50 does not matter if the prospective buyer has NOTHING.

      And that's the problem of our economy today. We're not lacking production. Far from it. There is by no means a shortage of anything. Anything but money on the consumer side, that is. We cannot SELL. Because there simply is nobody to BUY. Not that people wouldn't want our crap, if this whole sharing "culture" shows us anything then that there is a damn lot of want. But to turn want into need, money is needed.

      The reason for the economic growth from after WW2 to the 80s was simply that people earned pretty well. Even and especially "unskilled" labor was relatively well paid and people could afford to spend. People even continued to spend after they could not really afford it anymore 'cause their wages didn't keep up with inflation. They borrowed, refinanced, maxed out credit cards... the economy only noticed that things go wrong after that, too, hit the limit.

      And now we're in the shit creek we're in, because even if we started to pay people handsomely, it would take years to even notice since they now first of all would have to pay back their debt. You'd have to recover two decades of overspending, most likely with at least two decades of overearning. And it's very, very unlikely that anyone would want to make that "investment" just to get something as unimportant as the economy back on track.

      • Re:tl;dr (Score:3, Interesting)

        by aix tom (902140) on Sunday April 27, 2014 @08:21AM (#46852209)

        The debt in "real money" can also fuel the sharing economy. When you have a negative amount of "government credit units", but can get into a sharing community that issues it's own "sharing credit units" so you can start of with a clean slate there. And perhaps even get more return value out of it than with the "official economy" Which might be the only way left to influence the economical direction.

        Since elections don't seem to work any more to change the political direction, the only working answer to "we don't want you to participate as labour in our system because you are to expensive" is a "then we don't want to participate as consumers in your system any longer neither."

    • by tomhath (637240) on Sunday April 27, 2014 @07:05AM (#46852053)
      The only economically sustainable solution is to have a labor force that matches labor requirements. What Marx didn't foresee was the tremendous medical advances the world has seen in the past 100 years, allowing unsustainable population growth while the need to unskilled labor declines. No amount of sharing, unionization, or wealth transfer will help when there are billions of people with no demand for their labor.
      • Re:tl;dr (Score:5, Insightful)

        by orasio (188021) on Sunday April 27, 2014 @09:12AM (#46852363) Homepage

        The only economically sustainable solution is to have a labor force that matches labor requirements. What Marx didn't foresee was the tremendous medical advances the world has seen in the past 100 years, allowing unsustainable population growth while the need to unskilled labor declines. No amount of sharing, unionization, or wealth transfer will help when there are billions of people with no demand for their labor.

        Don't let ideology blind you. People don't need jobs.
        People need food, shelter, medical care, and several other things. Jobs is one of the ways you can get those.
        If there _are_ enough resources for everybody, probably we can come up with way to distribute them effectively, even one that doesn't need busywork. It's not an easy problem, but seems solvable.

    • Re:tl;dr (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Applehu Akbar (2968043) on Sunday April 27, 2014 @08:37AM (#46852255)

      And Smith was right in that there is no such thing as "overproduction." Produce more of a valued good, and the market reacts by lowering the price, opening up more uses for the good. It's a story not just as old as human trade, but as old as life in Earth. When early plants feasted on the carbon dioxide that filled our atmosphere and produced oxygen, a "market" came into being for species that could consume oxygen.

      • by dryeo (100693) on Sunday April 27, 2014 @02:54PM (#46853877)

        When early plants feasted on CO2 and produced oxygen it caused the biggest mass extinction the world ever experienced. Sure once all the species that were poisoned by oxygen died out it left openings for new species but from the viewpoint of the wiped out it wasn't exactly an improvement.

    • Re:tl;dr (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Karmashock (2415832) on Sunday April 27, 2014 @08:56AM (#46852317)

      over production?

      Over production of what? I swear, people say things without actually engaging their brains. They just repeat things like walking tape recorders or human/parrot hybrids.

      The economic downturn was largely a result of corruption in our banking and political system that lead to the rapid issuing of credit for things people couldn't really afford especially to people that really shouldn't be in the market. This lead to a price inflation which caused people that normally wouldn't have a hard time affording things to go into greater debt simply to keep up. And when the whole thing collapsed, the value of all the homes went down but the debt stayed right where it was... this caused a contraction of spending... etc etc etc.

      Nothing what so ever to do with over production unless you mean an over production of morons and corrupt assholes.

      Marx doubtless said a lot of things that made sense... but economics is more complicated then any one man and the scope of human history is not going to be summed up by das capital.

  • by Beck_Neard (3612467) on Sunday April 27, 2014 @05:21AM (#46851867)

    In many countries in the world it's quite common for people to share stuff like taxi services and rooms and has been for decades. In many of these places the crime rate is far higher than in the United States. The huge contrast between the amount of distrust people seem to have for each other in America and the actual rate of crime (which is quite low and has been decreasing for decades) is pretty astounding.

    • by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Sunday April 27, 2014 @05:35AM (#46851909)
      It's the entropy-conscious behavior. The one thing you wouldn't be able to replace with money even if you had unlimited amounts of money.
    • by guises (2423402) on Sunday April 27, 2014 @05:48AM (#46851939)
      You seem to be lending credence to the hypothesis in the article: the less affluent you are, the more chances you're forced to take in order to get by.

      Anecdotally, I've had a number of friends who had to go this route with AirBNB. All of them love the money, none of them love the strangers in their apartments. (Though it isn't all bad - they're generally nice people.)
    • by prefec2 (875483) on Sunday April 27, 2014 @07:41AM (#46852135)

      Sharing is and even more was also very common in the West (from a European point of view). However, that deteriorated over the past decades (starting in the 1970ies). Now we at an all time low. And as wealth is generally decreasing,sharing start to become interesting again. Furthermore, capitalism is no longer that popular.

      • by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Sunday April 27, 2014 @08:10AM (#46852187)

        sharing start to become interesting again. Furthermore, capitalism is no longer that popular.

        Interesting, in that "sharing" your apartment (for instance) for a weekend for a fee IS capitalism - your capital (that apartment/house/whatever) making you money.

  • Maybe it is neither (Score:2, Interesting)

    by siddesu (698447) on Sunday April 27, 2014 @05:39AM (#46851919)

    It may well be that 'sharing economy' is just a manifestation of a deeper problem, the inability of the drivers of development in the past century -- capitalism and democracy -- to cope with the problems the modern world is facing.

    The world needs a new political and economic systems that can tackle the problems we're facing, and tackle them efficiently and in a way that makes sense both locally and globally. It is most likely that these will evolve out of what we already have with the experience and frustrations we gain from trial-and-error experiments like the sharing economy, free online education and whatnot.

    • by ElBeano (570883) on Sunday April 27, 2014 @05:53AM (#46851949)

      It may well be that 'sharing economy' is just a manifestation of a deeper problem, the inability of the drivers of development in the past century -- capitalism and democracy -- to cope with the problems the modern world is facing.

      They're coping just fine, they're just not sharing. They'd rather put it in offshore taxshelters.

      • by Cenan (1892902) on Sunday April 27, 2014 @07:22AM (#46852095)

        What we're witness to in the present is not coping, it is a transition. Productivity has increased massively, to the point where employers can lay off huge chunks of their work force and still churn out the same amount of widgets. This works while other employers have still not done so, thereby ensuring that a majority of the work force is still employed.

        But what happens when all of industry arrives at the ~100% automation point, the point where all the employees left are the ones with a CxO title? Laying off workers is the sound economic decision in the short term, but if everyone is doing it, and your customers are basically other companies' employees, what then? You can hide all your ill gotten gains in tax shelters all you want it won't matter.

        I think OP is right, we do need a new system from the ground up, and I think it will come about either through foresightedness or through necessity (violence perhaps, I hope not), because the current economic and political models aren't near good enough. And smart .01%'ers will realize this before its too late, because their fortunes will most likely be worth exactly jack shit when a new society emerges to deal with the problems their caste has created.

    • I agree. (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 27, 2014 @06:56AM (#46852039)

      Things are going to have to get very bad for change though. The forces for the status quo are way too strong and powerful.

      Even I, a peon getting screwed over by the system, is a bit scared of it - eliminate democracy? Whoah!

      Anyway, when things change too radically, extrememly bad things happen - like Hitler, Stalin, Castro, ...

      Capitalism works fine within the norrow confines of economic activity and with plenty government checks. Nineteenth century USA business history is a great example of Laissez-Faire capitalism and what a disaster it was environmentally, economically, politically and socially. Even the US Right's patron saint, Adam Smith, warned about the dangers Capitalism - something that's been forgotten or ignored.

      But as the World becomes ever more populated and natural resources become even more stretchly thinned, something is gonna break.

      The Free Markets are thrown around as a pancea for the World's woes, but tell a couple of billion cold, starving, thirsty people that they just need to cough the money and work harder and they too can have what they need. I don't know, I just think Roman Empire and barbarians invading.

      But like I said above, unless there is a catastrophy we won't change. The status quo - the economic bullies - have got theirs and they are not going to let it go. Their primitive and shallow desires are dragging us all down. Their desire to leave legacies to their offspring has them getting their bitches in legisaltures to allow for generational accumulation of wealth - aristocracies - and we all know what happens with that: revolution and mass death.

      My fellow peons who stick up for the economic bullies will stand behind them - out of aspiration, fear of change or because of human nature to identify with one's abuser (I think that's why so many Right Wingers stand up for the Koch's and other businessmen who harm their economic interests.)

  • by retroworks (652802) on Sunday April 27, 2014 @05:50AM (#46851941) Homepage Journal

    Sure, there is obviously a supply and demand effect when the economy no longer supports six figure college loan repayments. But to say that is the "cause" ignores that it was impossible to do 20 years ago. Advertising was at one point a huge barrier to entry for bed and breakfast type industries, people had to be aware of your product and had to trust someone with no brand awareness. Now it's simply easy to advertise your couch, ability, etc., and easy to set up a rating system.

    As evidence, look at the growth of ebay when the economy was incredibly strong. The reasoning in the article is that "the economy is weak, therefore people sell used items on ebay." May or may not be true but does not explain growth of peer to peer economies.

  • by bayankaran (446245) on Sunday April 27, 2014 @05:57AM (#46851963) Homepage
    True, its about desperation, not necessarily an extra layer of 'internet trust'.
    The US is unique in developed economies - luxuries are cheap...big screen TV, a car and so on. But necessities are expensive...healthcare, decent education, and to an extent housing.
    • by jellomizer (103300) on Sunday April 27, 2014 @08:49AM (#46852297)

      In short it is a problem of eroding middle class.
      If you are poor, then you can get government assistance for food, heat, healthcare, and even housing support.

      If you are rich, you convince the government not to tax you on many of the things used to create your wealth.

      Which leaves the middle class who is shrinking to take on the burden.
      We make too much get subsidies, but we also not make enough to really take advantage of the breaks.

      So lets take a average family house hold of 90k a year for 3 people. That sounds like a solid middle class number, in some locations it would be upper middle class.

      So after taxes per month they get about 4.5k.
      2k goes to their home mortgage.
      1k will go towards grocery/cleaning supplies (food has gotten expensive)
      0.5k will go towards fuel for 2 cars.
      0.5k goes to power/telephone/internet/TV

      This leaves roughly $500 per month. Now if they have to make care payments and/or school loans they add up too. Meaning this middle class family is just getting by. Sure there are areas where they can cut. but with a family of three, it will be difficult as every person tends to have different ideas where to cut.

      A lot of the Luxury stuff. TV, Video Games, Computers... You save up and buy. However the problem today that is really affecting the middle class are the cost of living. Now once the mortgage is payed off then you can start having an advantage. But before that you are struggling. This is also the time in your life where you have the energy and need to bring up a family.

      As far as a solution I see the government needs to do the following.
      1. Insure Food/Fuel prices remain low. This will mean we need to adjust for global warming, Encourage growth to the new more fertile lands and away from the new dangerous risky places (Sorry California). Invest into alternative energy to make it price competitive with fossil fuels. The extra competition will reduce demand for fuel thus bring down prices further, so those who need the fossil fuels can have it at a better rate, as well those who don't need it will have cheap greener alternatives. There is also a need to encourage the populations tastes, towards healthy foods, that are more sustainable and cheaper to produce. Poultry vs. Red Meet, Native to North America/that can grow in the wild without much help Fruits and Vegetables. If we can convince a good part of the population to vote Tea Party even if it is against their own interests, why is it so hard to get people to eat food that it is towards their own self interest.

      2. Mixed Class Neighborhoods. Right now people are stuck on the value of their homes and make communities where the rich live one place, and poor live somewhere else. This is what keeps housing from being affordable. As new housing developments will try to attract "Better People" as to raise the areas property values. Thus making low income housing in decaying areas of the communities. When they build a new housing developments they need to be required to properly house the general population. A few low income homes, a few High End homes, and a bulk of middle class, and have them mixed. The problem we have today. The Rich do not understand or have emotionally forgotten what it is like to be poor. The Poor doesn't understand or have any roll models on how to advance up. The middle class is stuck with attributes of both. Mixed communities overall will be much more positive. Yes these poor people will lower the property values... But that means people will be getting nicer homes for less, and I expect with the poor people living in nicer neighborhoods, they will not bring it down that much, as they will work to keep their area presentable just to not look like the local poor person.

      3. Reduce taxes and government spending and regulations. Well lets refine this, we need to do this in the right areas. There are a lot of laws towards individual safety vs. Public safety. We are able to successfully sue people and companies for a range of stuff.

  • by MikeRT (947531) on Sunday April 27, 2014 @06:50AM (#46852021) Homepage

    Can be seen in those who defend the taxi system on the grounds of "consumer protection." People might get overcharged? Not a justifiction for a system so blatantly anti-consumer as the taxi regulations across the country that turned what should be a low barrier to entry job with modest pay into a very lucrative position that blatantly uses the power of the state to shaft customers out of competition. I mean FFS, the car has an odometer. All you need is a law requiring the driver to provide the start and end mileage to the customer and to have them agree verbally to a rate per mile.

  • by purnima (243606) on Sunday April 27, 2014 @07:06AM (#46852057)

    has been the domain of the rich. This is because sharing was moderated by expensive middle men. If you own a castle in Britain, you are likely to regularly share some of the rooms (short-term renting them out through an expensive agency). But it wasn't easy to rent out that extra room or your basement in your three bedroom suburban house, because there was no affordable way to efficiently access that market (the market structure was very thin for short term renting).

    Now the rest of us can partake in the sharing economy, agency costs have dropped dramatically for the stuff that the rest of us own.

  • by burni2 (1643061) on Sunday April 27, 2014 @07:15AM (#46852079)

    The Shares choose capitalism.

    Land of the free home of the brave. God Bless the USA.

  • by tomhath (637240) on Sunday April 27, 2014 @07:16AM (#46852083)
    The Wired article gives a few anecdotes but no facts. The New York Magazine article has some pretty graphs showing unemployment rates. But neither provides any insight into the scope of the "sharing economy". It appears to me more like a couple of internet start-ups hyping themselves so they'll be the next acquisitions by Facebook.
  • Market theory (Score:4, Interesting)

    by drolli (522659) on Sunday April 27, 2014 @07:26AM (#46852103) Journal

    A market works best if all sides have the same access to knowledge. Prior to the Internet there was no big market for "i have a room which is dont use" because exchanging information was too expensive.

    However, it was not at all unusual on the countryside to just put up a sign if you had a room to rent. I remember bicycle trips where we just stopped at some farm and asked and got a room there.

    What is new is that you can plan this.

  • by prefec2 (875483) on Sunday April 27, 2014 @07:37AM (#46852127)

    In previous decades people shared stuff a lot. They shared tools, e.g., when they build houses. They shared land. They shared knowledge. Farmers, share their equipment for a long time, as it was expensive all the time. For example, harvesters are shared even today through farmers cooperatives. The "new" share economy is, therefore, not new. The only new thing is that the sharing platform is now a company and not a joint organisation making profit out of sharing. Furthermore, consumers are now able to share their goods with people over a larger area. And true, people would have led their car in the past only to people they know of. Now they share it with people who pay for it.

    In the past sharing was a social act. Now it is a business. However, traditional sharing is also increasing. And traditional sharing requires people to like each other. Therefore, they have to build working relationships, which is definitively a step in the right direction.

    • by swb (14022) on Sunday April 27, 2014 @08:04AM (#46852173)

      Maybe I've just seen too many movies, but wasn't taking in boarders common at one point in the not-that-distant past? Maybe the adult male of a middle class household living in a larger house died and the family consolidated their use of rooms and let out rooms and maybe provided a meal, known now as "room and board"? Perhaps if there wasn't much left of the family it was nearly all a boarding house?

    • by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Sunday April 27, 2014 @08:22AM (#46852211)

      Reminds me of the historically-inaccurate forwarded email that blames the Jamestown famine on communal labor and property, then explains how a switch to private ownership and market capitalism saved them all.

    • by Yosho (135835) on Sunday April 27, 2014 @10:39AM (#46852701) Homepage

      They shared tools, e.g., when they build houses. They shared land. They shared knowledge. Farmers, share their equipment for a long time, as it was expensive all the time.

      Except that most of those things are not personal. A hammer's just a hammer; if you loan that to somebody who loses it, you're just out whatever it costs you to buy another hammer. And knowledge? Sharing that doesn't cost you anything. Letting somebody stay in your home, though, especially when you're not there, is very personal, and most people are very hesitant about giving somebody else unfettered access to everything they have.

      And... land? Are we looking at the same history? I'd wager that more wars have been fought over who owns what land than anything else. Land is absolutely not something that people have historically been willing to share with somebody they didn't trust intimately.

  • by plopez (54068) on Sunday April 27, 2014 @10:17AM (#46852635) Journal

    When the game is rigged against the individual in favor of corporations, the wealthy, and banks the only sane and sensible solution is not to play.

  • by briancox2 (2417470) on Sunday April 27, 2014 @11:25AM (#46852905) Homepage Journal
    "what compels people to open up their homes and cars to complete strangers is money, not trust."

    That's interesting. Could the exact same thing be said about the banking industry? And the insurance industry? And stock brokerages? ... and ...

    The fact that New York magazine smears the sharing economy with the word "desperation" just speaks of editoralizing that tries to use controversial words to grab attention. Without the prestige of slick magazine paper, we would just call that activity "trolling".
    • by frank_adrian314159 (469671) on Sunday April 27, 2014 @02:36PM (#46853793) Homepage

      The fact that New York magazine smears the sharing economy with the word "desperation" just speaks of editoralizing...

      Really? Are you sure they're editorializing here rather than simply giving a truthful description of the people who actually use this service to rent their facilities?

      I would guess that people are using sites like AirBnB to rent their rooms or cars out of either a need or desire for money rather than as an altruistic gesture to give weary travelers discounted rates on their travels. You're probably correct that this service allows people with extra rooms to monetize them and that, if the person doing this does not need the extra money, then this activity is not desperation-based. But I would also assume that this is a relatively small percentage of the group using these services. Lyft, Uber, other vehicle rental services, and the lower-end of internet temp-housing rental services are driven by a real need for money in most cases - and, when you don't have it, money is a desperate need in this country.

  • Trust can never be the primary motivator; there is no intrinsic value to trust. Trust reduces the perceived risk; decisions influence by trust can result in better or worse outcome--depending on who we trust.

    The inhibitor is emotionally fear, or rationally an expectation that doing something gives another person an opportunity to take action against me. Emotionaly, trust removes that inhibitor--or, again in a rational sense I know another person (or community, or machine) well enough that I can predict the behavior--and predict the person/people/machine or whatever will NOT take some action which will hurt me.

    In order to replace a sensor I need to climb inside of a machine which can easily crush me. Where do I hang my lock? Do I trust that mechanical blocking device? Do I trust that software-based safety lockout system? The fact that I have a heavy steel blocking device that very reliably protects me from injury doesn't motivate me to go inside the machine.
    I have very high trust I will not be injured if I go in the machine, but if I don't need to replace the sensor (or have some other business in there); I'm not going to do it.

    The bleak tone of the headline suggests that not finding trust as a primary motivator implies that trust isn't present in the commons. If you look for trust as a primary motive, you wont' find it because that's not where trust lives. The conclusion that trust is not present or not important is an artifact of the observer's method--not a property of the commons.

The unfacts, did we have them, are too imprecisely few to warrant our certitude.

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