‘Sharing’ the American Dream
From Grassroot Institute, December 8, 2016
One of the many blessings of technology has been the growth of something that has always been with us, but is only now showing its real potential. I'm speaking of the shared economy.
The term "shared economy" tends to bring to mind app-based services like Uber, Lyft, or Airbnb. But that's only one facet of it.
As communication grows and technology makes it easier to connect, people are finding new ways to profit from an expanding market. It's no longer just writers or artists who do freelance work - now people can contract to do administrative tasks, sales, and just about any other marketable skill. The proof of this boom in independent contracting can be seen in the rapid growth of income earned and reported on 1099 forms.
Of course, as the shared economy grows, so does the desire to regulate it. Some of this impetus comes from competitors who want to keep these new contractors out of the market. They often claim it's an issue of public safety or a level playing field.
But instead of rushing to regulate the shared economy and potentially stifling this entrepreneurial spirit, we should take the opportunity to reconsider our regulatory schemes. Those who participate in the shared economy are usually taking advantage of their talents, their property, or both. Our basic principles of liberty should defend the ability to do so unless there is a strong public policy reason to regulate. If it's a question of a fair playing field, we should be asking if existing businesses are regulated too much before we impose more rules on the newcomers.
The fascinating thing about the shared economy is that it brings people of all ideologies and walks of life together. Despite stereotypes to the contrary, the shared economy belongs just as much to retired seniors as to millennials - and both benefit from letting it grow. In a sense, it is proof that the American dream is still alive and well. We should do what we can to nurture it.
E hana kakou (Let's work together!),
Keli'i Akina, Ph.D.