Wherein The Internet Once Again Fails its Economics Course

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This shit needs to stop. For my health if no other reason. Learning about economics has thus far served me about like learning about kerning. My education is merely serving to render me acutely sensitive to a new and shockingly pervasive kind of ignorance.

It's somewhat my fault this time, since nothing but morbid curiosity could keep you going past the first few sentences. "What is the difference between selling and sharing?" the article offers up. I think it's playing devil's advocate or something, but the stage has been set: we're debating a pile of crunchy-granola distinctions between some nebulously-distinct forms of exchange.

Let's take it bit by bit:

For the past few years, the “sharing economy” has characterized itself
as a revolution.

Yes it has, and, to get right to what's being begged: no, it isn't. Social media has increased information exchange. More information means better-informed purchases, which reduces arbitrage, and faster, finer resource allocation, which may increase arbitrage if someone is in the right place to add a bit of friction.

But we're being set up for the big reveal, so try to act surprised.

While other cities fight back, California has attempted to codify new
“sharing” business models with new regulations. While San Francisco has
recently cracked down on some particularly high-volume Airbnb
renter-hosts, Chiu and other “sharing” advocates are trying to pass
legislation to make the practice legal.

So the entrenched business models have been less-than-successful in regulatory capture? Am I supposed to be upset? Still waiting for that big reveal...

Across the U.S., high costs of living are driving more of the employed
toward “side hustles,” i.e. unprotected freelance work, the kind
fostered by the sharing economy. Where workers don’t have the start-up
investments necessary to participate — the cars, homes, kitchens to
rent — then they can just rent those too.

So in a tough U.S economy, a system has arisen where people strapped for cash can find more work than they otherwise would, and have access to housing, vehicles, et cetera?

Still looking for a punch line...

But sharing businesses aren’t just creating new income streams from
nothing. In “disrupting” even troubled markets — the taxi industry has
had this coming for a long time — the glory of the peer economy comes
at the expense of other workers’ livelihoods.

Oh the humanity! New business models compete with old business models! And it's all because those mean venture capitalists are giving them money. Of course the west coast startup scene devours far more companies than survive, but we can't possibly take that as a sign that this change of guard represents a meaningful improvement in the market.

And besides, these new workers are unprotected! Clearly we can't let a new business model disrupt our sacred right to buy and sell labor under contracts structured exactly the way our fathers' and mothers' were. A cab company can change its business model, but that we the labor provider should also be required to update our business model? Scandalous! Surely the purpose of a market is to ensure the livelihood of its sellers, not to efficiently reallocate the resource exchanged upon it. The market is a tool to ensure social welfare, and if it isn't, I don't like it and it should go away!

But our society is not returning to a past utopia of collective social
confidence and equality because this utopia never existed. The sharing
economy doesn’t build trust — it trades on cultural homogeneity and
established social networks both online and in real life. Where it
builds new connections, it often replicates old patterns of privileged
access for some, and denial for others.

It's as if the author has never heard the words "efficient exchange." What do the poor have to gain by us preventing them from engaging in these new economic opportunities? You want the poor fed, and someone has offered them a means to get fed. Lives are getting better. Where's your complaint?

Interestingly we've made them rentiers over their few blessings; their income is now arbitrage based just like the very rich. I'd not be surprised if there was an equalizing effect to that, though I'm out of my depth now.

The best performers in Airbnb are white women, and the worst performers
are black men.

Awesome. Let's let corporations vote for us too! Then there will be no racism in the economy or the government!

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