May 15 Open Thread: The "sharing economy"
It's Day 135 of the Year 2019 CE (Gregorian), meaning that it's May 15, 2019 (Gregorian), or 126.96.36.199.16 by the long count
The subject of the sharing economy keeps popping up in various places. As has been said of Western Civilization, it would be a very good idea. Nonetheless, it too seems more fiction than fact. There is also a question of whether, given the modern view of "economy" it might even be oxymoronic. More on all of that later, first a video. This You Tube on "What is being "shared" in the sharing economy?" was posted by
I do believe that the narrator cuts the entire idea of a sharing economy far too much slack. It is pretty much straight up BS in my opinion. In a different open thread, one of mine, on April 3, I stated in a comment to eyo, in part, that:
The key to a sharing economy is sharing and not economy nor the economy. It should be an activity separate, distinct, unrelated to an subversive of the economy. It is not money nor greed that is the source of all evil, but competition.
To expand on that, if you'll tolerate a bit of geezer mode here, back when I was a kid, the children of the peons, peasants, working class and general hoi polloi were "taught to share". Kids being "taught to share" was part of the everyday lexicon, culture and weltanschauung. The educated viewed and extolled this as part of the "socialization process", but everybody else knew that it was just "learning to share", a necessary part of proper behavior. You were obliged to share with your siblings, neighbors, schoolmates, visiting relatives, etc. It was simple, you took turns using or doing something, if you had a number or essentially fungible objects, you divvied them up, if you had a cookie you broke it into the requisite number of pieces and passed then around. It did not involve exchanges, that was something else, it was commerce, a prize shooter was perhaps worth an ordinary slingshot that was otherwise worth an entire bag of marbles, or maybe a half a bag of clearies or cat's eyes. You bargained and dickered and everybody knew that that was not sharing. Sharing also wasn't giving presents or gifts, but did partake of that character in that no quid-pro-quo was expected. Geezer mode off.
Sadly, the current definition strictly means merely joint or alternating possession or use. The wiki, for example comes up with: Sharing is the joint use of a resource or space. It is also the process of dividing and distributing. In its narrow sense, it refers to joint or alternating use of inherently finite goods, such as a common pasture or a shared residence. In this sorry sense, however, it is not at all noteworthy behavior, not at all interesting and pretty much a useless term. The sharing economy, from this perspective is simply the economy. I have a truck I've driven 100,000 miles and I then sell it to you, who thereafter drive it for another 5 years. We have thus shared the truck and who really gives a shit. I rent my garage to you and we thus share my house. This definition doesn't even require that both of us use it for its intended purpose. I buy a garment at wholesale for the purpose of re-selling it, and, in the ordinary course of business, sell it to you who then wear it. We have, it seems, shared this garment. If we wish sharing and a sharing economy to be anything other than business as usual, we have to reject this definition and formulate one that captures the essence and spirit of what sharing meant to those non-wealthy kids from the fifties and sixties who "learned to share" as described above. We must reject any inclusion of commerce or even barter if we wish something beyond the same old rentierism, wage slavery, and mutual exploitation.
My neighborhood is somewhat rife with sharing, real old fashioned non-commercial, non barter based sharing. People share what they feel like sharing simply out of whatever their personal motives re. For us it is mostly fruit from our fruit trees and some of the herbs we grow. It is largely because we have more than we really need or want, don't want it to go to waste and know that our neighbors will enjoy and use it. Others have different fruits or great success with vegetable gardens, and still others will materialize at the door with some sort of comestible that they baked a bunch of or that their company was selling to employees at an outrageous discount. For most it is, when expressed or stated, a sort of "share the wealth" motivation, and there is that word, again not meaning bater or sales, but true sharing where there is no expectation of reciprocity or quid pro quo. None of us, of course shares everything, and I suspect that most of us would not be fully ready for such a situation, though I personally did do some hippie time back in the days of yore.
An added kicker, for me, is that this particular pattern of sharing has something of the character of "from each according to their ability (or surplus and/or desire) and to each according to their needs (or wants or desire)". A familiar old principle applied within limited parameters, but which was, also in days of yore, not that uncommon among the laboring classes and other hoi polloi. It is, in fact, mildly revolutionary behavior and a mild form of resistance. Whatever I share with my neighbors, or donate to places that distribute or severely discount used goods, is something that the recipients need not purchase from bourgeoise oligopoly retailers, and vice versa. This is actually, though of miniscule impact, something of a compound felony. There is a reduction in aggregate demand, and while this is on a tiny scale, broadly implemented across the culture, by lots of people, it would create a downward pressure on prices. It also minimally reduces the flow of goods and services upward through the oligarchs and middlemen, which, if done on a sufficiently broad base, is again a levelling influence. If implemented broadly enough, frequently enough, across enough types of goods and services, it would reduce the aggregate need and demand for money, and that is the real threat.
The oligarchs want the maximum possible number of people to experience the maximum possible need for money, which keeps wages and piecework labor rates down, makes it difficult for labor to organize or strike, and renders those with some pittance or another available for saving willing to accept almost any positive rate of return. This is probably the most important aspect of sharing that isn't simply ethics or "morality" based, and the reason that we mustn't think of "sharing" as including any barter, sales or rents, or other quid pro quo. When, for some among the workerment, 2 could and did live on the earnings of one, the elites and oligarchs suffered. Any activity by any part of the populace that renders a return to such a situation for any material fraction of the populace will again hurt the elites and oligarchs, which is why they have always gone after groups like the Provos, Diggers, Food not Bombs, and the like. They want slaves, but will settle for serfs, and cringe at the idea that somebody somewhere may get a "free ride", which is why they work so hard to stigmatize such a thing. (Aside: This stigmatization is somewhat easy because of some societal tendency towards jealousy, whereby people take offence if somebody has it easier than they did, or gets a better deal on something, things which, all things being equal, they should celebrate. If my neighbor, to any extent, beats the system, I should be pleased, the system is my foe, not my neighbor. But I digress) The oligarchs and elites have seen Satan, and he is some minimally consuming willfully unemployed "free rider". We need to do what we can to create as many as we can, or at least to help make some few of them feasible. That can only be done by sharing, real honest sharing, not Uber, nor VRBO, nor anything of that ilk.
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Its an open thread so have at it. The floor is yours
I won't be around when this posts.