The People’s Uber: Why The Sharing Economy Must Share Ownership
Workers are often taken advantage of by the on-demand economy. What if they ran it instead?
Mayor Bill de Blasio recently discovered, during his short-lived campaign against Uber, that saying no to a popular, convenient new technology doesn’t tend to win many friends—or win much at all. In just a few years, New York City’s regulated yellow-taxi fleet has been outnumbered by a distant company with uncertain intentions. There are benefits to this, as well as mounting costs. But critics like Mr. De Blasio won’t get very far until they have something to say yes to.
Uber’s ascent came in the midst of an idealistic surge of companies that dubbed themselves as being part of the “sharing economy.” Through them, many of us have found new ways to share cars, apartments, toys, and time. For all the things that companies like Airbnb and TaskRabbit allow us to share with each other, however, ownership and governance are not on offer. This is what the democratic promise of the Internet has come to: a democracy of access, of “collaborative consumption,” but not of control, real accountability, or ownership.