Friday, February 20, 2015

"Sharing Economy"? Thanks, But No Thanks!

To paraphrase Robert Reich from a recent article on the "sharing economy" at
"What's wrong with a country where robots do everything that can be predictably programmed in advance, and almost all profits go to the robots’ owners?
Meanwhile, human beings do the work that’s unpredictable – odd jobs, on-call projects, fetching and fixing, driving and delivering, tiny tasks needed at any and all hours – and patch together barely enough to live on."

Well, this is the world of "on demand" - Johnny on the spot workers, where you get paid by the hour and have to be ready to go do your thing at a moment's notice. Formerly, temping was the precarious downside of corporate office work, and adjunct teaching the bargain basement for many college profs. Now, work on demand is the new normal for even more workers. They include Uber drivers, Instacart shoppers, and Airbnb hosts.

Also:  Taskrabbit jobbers, Upcounsel’s on-demand attorneys, and Healthtap’s on-line doctors.

There are also  Mechanical Turks.
As Reich puts it:
"The euphemism is the “share” economy. A more accurate term would be the “share-the-scraps” economy."
At its heart, as Reich observes,  are  "new software technologies embedded in assorted apps that allow almost any job to be divided up into discrete tasks that can be parceled out to workers when they’re needed, with pay determined by demand for that particular job at that particular moment".Customers and workers are matched online. Workers are rated on quality and reliability
Everyone seems to be raving about this  "sharing economy" but I suspect it's mostly bloviation and PR since  the big money goes to the corporations that own the software while only scraps go to the on-demand slaves......errrr,  workers.

SO pardon me if I want no part of it. Take Airbnb, started in 2008. Now why in the hell would I let out my home to strangers I don't know from Adam, just to make a few bucks? It's asinine and nonsense. Why the hell would I leave my house to strangers to pick and snoop over - as well as possibly damage or steal assorted goods? It's totally a downside. The only people I'd remotely consider doing such house renting with might be nieces, or other family members (assuming they are on the right side of me)

Then there's 'Yertle" where you supposedly offer assorted items you no longer want for sale or trade with others. Again, why would I want to trade my stuff for theirs? I took many years to accumulate a certain aggregate of collectibles for which I still place value, such as vintage sports cards, as well as old stamps and books and even some World War II memorabilia (and old coins)  left by my dad.. I would not trade these for the simple reason there's nothing others have that would entice me to part with any item.

 Yertle thus offers no benefit to me so there's no reason to use it, to "share'.

The same goes for all the other manifestations of the sharing economy such as 'TaskRabbit' where people auction off their services or ', where people are paid $5 each to write jingles or write press releases for some Neoliberal rag or other. I am not interested because there's no amount of money I can think of (say less than ten grand) that would entice me to trade my time for such fleeting labor.

One of the worst aspects of the on demand job world is how it destroys workers' ability to plan, whether for simple budgeting, taking holidays, or a simple thing like day care for a child. As one woman noted on CBS Early Show yesterday, what if she gets a job but it only lasts for an hour or two. She still has to call a babysitter to mind her kid, but then if the job ends after an hour (or less) she's already at home and didn't need the day care.

Those who aspire to become little "task rabbits" at the end of assorted app tethers to jump through hoops to do some little task or other for a "fiver" or trade for junk, are of course welcome to do so. Whatever floats your boat. Just count me out!

And if you do partake of the "share economy" bear in mind how you are helping to prop up a system for serfs - which the grandees at Davos (recent confab) want to expand!

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