In his opinion piece titled “An opportunity the poor can’t afford to miss,” Michael A. MacDowell points out the benefits of the “sharing” or gig economy, and how it potentially makes everyone a capitalist.
I was left wondering when was the last time I wanted to drive in a “poor” person’s car, or sleep in the spare room of a “poor” person’s home? My experience has been that my Airbnb host is a middle-class, working individual trying to make ends meet and that the driver of the Uber late model Toyota is a guy who just lost his job and is struggling to not lose his house. The best-case scenario is that these entrepreneurs are middle-class folks who simply want more stuff.
The gig economy is not, as portrayed in MacDowell’s piece, a panacea for capitalist growth; it’s a way for capitalists to disrupt the old-fashioned need for owning capital and exploit the little capital owned by working people. I cannot imagine a better business model than having comparatively little investment, while leveraging that investment to be worth billions: no brick and mortar, no employees, no health benefits, no benefits at all!
This new sharing economy, of course, needs regulation. The opportunity to exploit the needs of working people is limitless, as is the ability to spin the benefits of sharing my spare bedroom with a stranger. When I participate in the gig economy for some reason I’m not feeling like a Zuckerberg (CEO of Facebook) or a Kalanick (CEO of Uber). I guess I’m just thinking about my health insurance and wondering if I will ever be able to afford my retirement without having to host a stranger from out of town.