If Uber were a Cooperative: A Democratically Biased Analysis of Platform Economy
This article proposes the delineation of platform economies into three types, with reference to the case study of various ride-sharing options in Austin, Texas. It first describes how, when Uber and Lyft left Austin rather than comply with local transportation and safety regulations, local projects such as RideAustin (a non-profit) and ATX (a taxicab drivers’ cooperative) emerged as viable alternatives. Second, it summarizes the case for economic democracy, followed by the development and variety of platform economies. Third, it proposes classifying platform economies into Online Capitalism, Sharing Economy, and Platform Cooperativism, based on who owns, profits from, and makes decisions about them. Fourth, it argues that this classification is needed for the development of legislation and public policy that favors only those platform economies that genuinely promote the public interest, and applies this classification to the Austin case study. Finally, in response to the subversion of political democracy by large corporations, it encourages reclaiming the sharing economy for its original purpose of promoting economic democracy and thereby genuine democracy at large.