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sharing economy

The Sharing Economy Will Benefit All, But Only If We Let It

The House Energy and Commerce Committee is holding a hearing this week on “How the Sharing Economy Creates Jobs, Benefits Consumers and Raises Policy Questions.” These new Internet marketplace platforms are raising many new policy questions about U.S. labor law and competition.

A large part of the problem is that U.S. labor law remains guided by the National Labor Relations Act of 1935. A lot has changed since then. In 1935 the United States faced little international competition. The economy was dominated by large, stable companies that hired a lot of people. Many workers anticipated staying with their current employer for decades. Coincidentally, these traits also favor unionization.

Today’s global economy is characterized by international competition that we are losing in some respects. Companies are slashing fixed costs to avoid the very real threat of bankruptcy or acquisition. They can no longer make long-term commitments to their workers, who, in any case, anticipate working for many companies during their career. Labor law has strained to accommodate this.

Into this mix comes the rise of the Internet platforms that make up the sharing economy. Platforms such as Uber and

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PWC Report Confuses the “Stealing Economy” With the “Sharing Economy”

PricewaterhouseCoopers recently released a report that attempts to provide a “holistic view” of the so-called sharing economy, including how it is unfolding “across both business and consumer landscapes.” While an exact definition of the “sharing economy” can be hard to pin down, it generally refers to the concept of using information technology to allow consumers to rent or borrow goods, especially those that are underutilized, rather than buy and own them. Undoubtedly, the sharing economy is an important and innovative approach to commerce, especially having given rise to wildly popular services such as Airbnb and Lyft. More broadly, the sharing economy can boost economic welfare by allowing the economy to more efficiently utilize goods and services.

Given all this, we certainly need thorough analysis of the sharing economy to fully grasp its potential. Yet PwC’s report errs badly in at least one important respect: It conflates unlawful sharing of digital media with legitimate peer-to-peer activities.

With regards to the challenges of the sharing economy in digital media, PwC writes:

“The ambiguity of the sharing economy is particularly evident in entertainment and media, where consumers are open to ‘sharing’

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