Have you ever tried to get home after a late vote or a happy hour on the Hill? Did you stand on Pennsylvania Avenue and try to hail a cab? Or did you whip out your smartphone and hail Uber? On your last vacation, did you find a place to crash using Airbnb? Consumers haven’t always had these options, and some vocal interests including some local regulators, hotels, and taxi companies hope to restrict them in the future.
Companies like Uber, Lyft, and Airbnb are high profile examples of the so-called sharing economy, in which ordinary people use online platforms to rent (rather than sell) products and services to each other. Also known as collaborative consumption, or peer to peer commerce, this new way of doing business uses the Internet to connect individual sellers and consumers, and is changing the economy in many ways.
Despite the successes of sharing economy pioneers, there is a growing backlash about circumvention of regulations and community standards, and displacement of workers – such as taxi drivers – in established industries. These debates are important because we might only be in the early stages of the sharing economy. In the future, a large number of industries could be disrupted by these new business models.
What exactly is the sharing economy? Could regulators stop the sharing economy in its tracks? What are the public policy and societal implications? Is sharing the key to sustainability? If someone rents your apartment over the Internet, can we make it easy to track them down when they trash it? Who should be liable? Can anyone participate in the sharing economy? Should we welcome these developments or are critics right to be concerned?
- Arun Sundararajan, Professor, New York University Stern School of Business (Bio)
- Adam Thierer, Senior Research Fellow, Mercatus Research Center at George Mason University (Bio)
- Alex Howard, Columnist, TechRepublic and Founder, E Pluribus Unum (Bio) moderator
- David Hantman, Head of Global Public Policy, Airbnb
- John Breyault, VP of Public Policy, Telecommunications, and Fraud, National Consumers League (Bio)
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