Sharing economy would undoubtedly live on. After all the benefits and billions of dollar profits, it is absurd to think that sharing economies would simply whither away. What remains to be seen however, is whether sharing economies would remain the way it is – bringing one and one together in an honest bid of sharing commodities, or will it evolve and change under the pressure of modernism and capitalism. As I’ve mentioned in the previous posts, unless sharing economies tweak itself to become more sustainable, it would inevitably self-combust under the pressures of unions and the invisible hand.
The last point I would want to talk about is on solving antagonisms. As no one has really written on such a view before, I struggle to isolate any meaningful research done in this area.
The first antagonism is between consumer and the government. I brought forth the point that a wedge would be driven in between consumers and the state as consumers would constantly strive to avoid regulatory actions by the government (by circumventing taxes due to definition, etc), while the state would constantly move towards the clamping down of these grey markets that sharing economies create.
The only way out of this would be to officially place a regulation on the nature of one’s behaviour. Rather than have a legal underwriting dictating taxes and tariffs on transactions, “donations” or “allowance”, the government can make it very clear by placing a regulation on the types of behaviour one commits. By placing an overarching header, sharing economies can no longer skim around the lack of regulatory definition. An example of which would be an accommodation tax on anyone living together with you. Hence, regardless of whether the accommodation sharing was done on Airbnb, actual hotels or friendly visits, a tax is still levied because it targets the very nature of the behaviour – additional people living in the city has to contribute to taxes.
Of course, a caveat would be that this is extremely hard to enforce. But if the state takes the bottom-up perspective of tracking each person entering the city, it would be easier for the regulatory body.
The next antagonism would be between consumer and producer. I argued that producers would be increasingly wary of consumers as every product they sell might show up on the sharing economy platform, becoming another one of their rivals.
This, again, can be done with regulation that seeks the mean between the two extremes. Legal laws can be placed such that a newly bought good cannot be shared for a period of a year. This way, arbitrage is avoided and companies can be ensured that those products on the sharing economy would not be their direct business rivals.
Lastly, there may be antagonism between the sharing economy platform and consumers. This occurs when a sharing economy embark on anti-competitive measures in order to secure larger shares of the market. Unlike traditional economies where price would be the main weapon in such competitive wars, anti-competitive measures of sharing economies would come in the form of a restriction of peer to peer reviews. Reviews are solely “owned” by the sharing platform and it plays a major role in consumer decision making. The sharing platform might choose to restrict these reviews only to “premium” users or to prevent their competitors from acquiring such knowledge through the privatisation of these online reviews. This creates unnecessary inconvenience and cost to consumers, akin to exploitation.
It would be wise, hence, to ensure that this public information resource remains accessible to public to prevent profits at the expense of antagonism.
In conclusion, I think that sharing economies are a fantastic idea. At the rate that it’s going, it is heading towards it’s imminent demise, not that it would totally disappear, but rather, it would be integrated into traditional systems that we are familiar with today. However, in doing so, we lose many of the benefits that sharing economy brings in its purest form – solidarity, nation building, etc. I strongly recommend governments, academia and the civil society to consider investing substantial time and money to understanding this behemoth made available to us in the 21st century. A multitude of benefit is waiting to be reaped and it would be the biggest pity of modernity if we let this slip our grasp.