Is the Sharing Economy Sharing More Than We Bargained For?

The New York Hoteliers released an attack ad against AirBnB.

Share BetterAirbnb: Who’s In Your Building? – Jul 31, 2017

“Airbnb allows illegal listings on its site, and refuses to hand over the addresses to law enforcement,” the ad reads. “Are you at risk?”

The answer to this question, HANYC suggests, is yes.

Mic.com

This was AirBnB’s response,

Your ad is misleading, plays to xenophobic fears, and is beneath the dignity of the hospitality industry. It is an affront to the victims of terrorism, and its shock and abhorrent xenophobia is only equaled by the irony of it being paid for by hotels, where, as the New York Post recently noted while covering your ad, “lots of terrorists have stayed.” Given that you are supporting an ad about terrorism in lodging, do your hotels have a perfect record on this?

Mic.com

Generally, I couldn’t give two shits what corporate conglomerates and their advocacy organizations have to say about pretty much anything. But reporting on this ad campaign and the full-throated rejection that AirBnB levels at the ad misses a few points which are worth enumerating so that everyone understands what is actually going on here.

Any rental property stands the chance of being rented for nefarious reasons. It is the nature of property ownership and leasing that this can happen to anyone who owns and rents property. Pointing at any one facet of an industry like hospitality and claiming “you promote terrorism” is wrong on its face. All use of property by anyone other than the owner incurs this risk to the property owner, which most of them are quite aware of if they are in the the hospitality business.

Therein lies the heart of the problem. Airbnb, like Uber does for car ownership, profits from the risk of property owners without being exposed to any risk themselves. AirBnB (or any other property renting app) breaks rules imposed on hospitality organizations for valid reasons of safety, security and sanitation, and they get away with these violations by claiming that they aren’t renting property, the owner of the property is. This legal sleight of hand may keep them from losing court battles, but it doesn’t excuse them from the fact that they are taking advantage of a need to pay bills by people who own property but can’t afford to keep it without leasing rooms via a handshake agreement.

If anything happens on the owners property while someone else is renting it, that owner pays for the damages to the renter as well as for the damages to the property. Slip and fall. Cuts and lacerations from broken glass. Illness from improperly maintained bathrooms and bedrooms. Heaven forbid there is a pool on the premises and alcohol to go with it. Most people don’t think about these potential liabilities. They just want to keep their property and they have to occasionally rent it out in order to do that. They are, most of them, one accident away from financial ruin and they don’t even realize it.

I’m not crying for hotel chain owners or tenement landlords who blatantly profit off the backs of the unsuspecting and the poor any more than I’m going to shed tears for taxi services that get rules put in place to limit their competition so that they can charge more for their service. What I am saying though is that the “sharing economy” doesn’t seem to be doing much in the way of sharing the profits from these new-found ways of getting around onerous rules, and they aren’t sharing much of the risk, either. Seems like the property owners should probably ask for more than just the rental cost from AirBnB. They should have some kind of financial assurance that they won’t be driven out of their homes if the unthinkable happens.

This was reblogged on my now-deleted TUMBLR account and shared to Facebook. the-future-now: “ Airbnb responds to “fear-mongering” ad suggesting short-term rentals aid terrorism that account still exists but has no content on it any longer. Tumblr has definitely fallen on hard times. The article on Mic.com was the basis for the post.

Driver-less Cars Need Not Equate to Starving Drivers

…which is why the need for [Universal Basic Income] for all of us to legitimately claim that we have the right to not be left to starve in the streets, is so important.

This kind of anti-progress agitating is something that just sounds ignorant. Technology will not stop. Driverless cars will happen. Shovels made fewer diggers necessary, but that doesn’t mean we should hire an army of diggers equipped with spoons. It means that maybe no one likes to dig and we’d like to have a machine do it for us. But that also doesn’t mean that people who used to dig should simply roll over and die.

Uber is just one ride-sharing app. There are several. I think writing laws to combat how Uber does business is essentially wasting time, because there really isn’t any functional way to stop people from ride-sharing. It’s going to happen, and some of those people will exchange cash for the ride.  I really don’t care about what Uber says they are doing, when faced with a full-court press against them. I didn’t care what the music-sharing software companies said back when they were under attack. When that was the case, I observed that I didn’t think making music sharing illegal was going to stop music sharing. It didn’t. There is a serious vein of Luddite running along this anti-Uber rant I keep hearing. Which is why I pointed out that shovels put people out of work too. There needs to be a reality check involved when people start screaming about loosing their jobs. Loom workers and carriage makers lost their jobs too. Shall we de-automate that process? Go back to using horses? Seems silly to me.

Uber is flouting public transport regulations, I can grant that as a premise with no qualms in hindsight. All of the new internet services disrupt the previous social structures in some significant ways. Music sharing sites destroyed corporate music systems as they existed previously. There is big money behind taxi medallion holders in NYC. I think that’s the only reason Uber is in the news at all. File sharing and corporate music was a similar situation, and the last thing we want is another DMCA that addresses cabbies. Crying for the poor taxi drivers is a front; because that’s not what it’s about. It is about gatekeepers and control, just like the music industry. There is far more music now, and better music, than there ever was when corporate gatekeepers had the lock on music. There are plenty of people (I’m one of them) who pay for things even though they don’t have to, because I know that rewarding effort is how you get more of the things you like. Robert Reich in this instance is fighting against the tide of history. It’s not been shown to be effective in any real way.

One final word. You might be able to take down Uber because they are for-profit. You cannot and will not take down the next app because it will be a grinder-like app that allows people simply to offer and accept open seats in vehicles going where they are going. That is where the demand is, and where the supply is wasted. That trade will continue in the absence of Uber and other profit-making companies.

…which is and was the point I’ve been trying to make.

Facebook status and resulting argument summarized and backdated for the blog. UBI replaces “dole” in the original post. UBI is what I meant at the time but hadn’t stumbled across that concept then, or hadn’t applied that label to the concept.