Sharing

by Dave Schuler on May 16, 2014

Catherine Rampell criticizes the debasement of the notion of sharing:

At its most benign, calling things “sharing” that are actually no different from traditional commerce is just empty marketing. It might also crowd out other activities that used to be done for altruistic purposes (like donating your old clothes to Goodwill rather than selling them on the Internet, or offering a friend a ride to the airport instead of charging for the service).

But more perniciously, this semantic sleight of hand has been used to justify tax evasion and other kinds of law-skirting. Of course you shouldn’t have to pay hotel taxes if you’re just “sharing” your home! And of course you shouldn’t have to submit to health-department restaurant inspections if you’re just “sharing” your kitchen with paying customers every night! Or get a taxi medallion or commercial insurance if you’re just “sharing” your car!

There’s nothing inherently unethical about monetizing skills or capital that are otherwise lying fallow, and no doubt many of these new “sharing economy” platforms are helping some 99-percenters make money in flexible, rewarding, creative ways. But to call these activities “sharing” is an insult to the intelligence of existing businesses, regulators and 5-year-olds everywhere.

Sharing your wealth is virtuous. Urging those with the means to share their wealth is virtuous, too. Compelling those with wealth to share it with the needy is expedient.

In the old commercial linked to above the brilliant Jack Gilford (in award-winning fashion) exemplifies the power of shame.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

... May 16, 2014 at 10:02 am

Not a fan of tax dodging.

But charging a friend for a ride to the airport? That’s bad etiquette. You offer the ride. Then they offer to pay for gas. This offer can only be accepted if the person offering the ride really needs the money because of poverty, otherwise it is refused. The person getting the ride takes the person offering the rid out for a meal later, perhaps with the addition of a gift from the trip thrown in.

What are they teaching kids these days?

James Joyner May 19, 2014 at 5:27 am

@…

I think “friend” here is a euphemism. Rather, it’s targeted at a growing business in which people rent out their cars to other or serve as impromptu taxi drivers for strangers via various Internet-based programs.

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