Can you hear that new California sound? It’s the “sharing economy” marching relentlessly forward. You can’t stop it
By Andrew Leonard
Friday, Sep 20, 2013
On Thursday in San Francisco, the California Public Utilities Commission set a national precedent by voting unanimously in favor of new regulations legitimizing ride-sharing companies in the news. When the vote was announced “huge hipster applause” broke out, according to one tweet. ”I have never seen so many young people inside the CPUC auditorium,” reported another attendee.
Even though the city’s taxicab companies are already threatening to sue, the news was a big win for the so-called sharing economy — a phenomenon that seems increasingly propelled by smartphone-wielding millennials used to getting what they want when they want it. Yes, the rules do add a layer of bureaucracy that will make it more of a hassle for people to offer rides under the auspices of companies such as Lyft and Sidecar and Uber. A new class of businesses called “transportation network companies” must now carry commercial liability insurance, and their drivers must pass driver training programs and background checks and get their vehicles regularly inspected. But the rules also legitimize those companies at a critical moment: a point in their evolution when they have been coming under increasing attack from existing taxicab companies and other critics. And where California leads …
The vote was also the second big show of force in the last couple of weeks for Peers, a nonprofit sharing economy advocacy outfit that is rapidly proving it can mobilize the troops. Two weeks ago, in Silver Lake, an upscale hipster neighborhood in Los Angeles, Peers encouraged local residents to attend a neighborhood council meeting held to discuss a proposed ban forbidding residents from renting out their homes for periods of less then 30 days. Such a ban would be a disaster for another sharing economy standard bearer, the popular room-sharing service Airbnb. But Peers’ action alert proved potent. According to witnesses, supporters of Airbnb far outnumbered supporters of the ban.
Millennial people power for the sharing economy!
Or wait — make that people power in the service of flush-with-cash Silicon Valley start-ups that stand to profit immensely from new sharing-economy-friendly regulatory regimes. Lyft raised $60 million earlier this spring in a round led by Netscape founder Marc Andreessen. Airbnb, after a $150 million infusion spearheaded by early Facebook investor Peter Thiel, has been valued at upward of $2.5 billion. And after similarly huge influxes of capital from a private equity giant and Google, Uber is considered worth around $3.5 billion.
There is a distinctly quizzical aspect to the spectacle of profit-motivated Silicon Valley sharks draping themselves in the communitarian, post-hippie rhetoric of the sharing economy. Do the shareholders of Uber and Airbnb really share the same values as the young people who see Internet-enabled cooperation as a way to make the world a better place by reducing our overall consumption of resources and building stronger community ties? And are we really sure that the long-term impacts of the growth of the sharing economy will be positive for consumers, workers and the overall economy?
Continue reading at: http://www.salon.com/2013/09/20/millennials_will_not_be_regulated/