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Is the Sharing Economy a New Form of Capitalism?

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Capitalism and sharing are two words that don’t seem to go together. When you think of sharing, what’s the first image that pops in to your head?

A woman lends a friend her favorite leather jacket; someone gives his neighbor a ride to work.

Capitalism, on the other hand, is defined as an economic and political system where individuals trade and do business in a free market for profit. It appears that the term “profit” is what separates these two systems.

When it comes to the sharing economy, however, sharing means more than just giving something away: it means tapping into the ideal of capitalism as economic microcosms filled with free individuals doing business. So where do these two worlds meet?

They likely meet in the driver’s seat of a Lyft or Uber car.

Many workers, from salesmen to engineers, have stepped onto the sharing bandwagon to supplement their income, or make a living. Harry, for instance, has been working as a part-time rideshare driver for these two companies for 10 months. He wanted to bring together his passion for people with his love of driving and can work as many or as few hours as he wants.

The collaborative economy makes it easy for people to make an extra income without succumbing to traditional part-time jobs, creating flexibility and opportunities for individual entrepreneurs.

In the past, someone with a great idea for a business faced many hurdles: money to get started, staff for each department, and someone to execute your marketing strategy. With the advent of social media, the barriers between strangers has been lifted, creating wider reach for entrepreneurs to get established. New technology connects people across state lines and globally. IT companies, such as Near Me, are making it even easier by handling the IT side to help businesses run smoothly and create community.

Critics of the sharing economy point to how it disrupts the traditional employee model, which includes benefits and security.

The sharing economy is not the cause of the economic collapse but an effect filled with profitable promise.

In the traditional economy, the most an employee could dream of was reaching the top of their field, so your future security depended on how good you were at your defined role. Today individuals are less dependent on this hierarchy and have more options for earning extra income or starting their own business.

I’m not here to sell you on capitalism, or to promote a completely unregulated economy.

I’m here to point out how the collaborative economy is closer to the traditional model of capitalism than many would have us believe. And who better to turn to than the queen of Capitalism herself, Ayn Rand.

We all have versions of what capitalism is, more or less based on the same principles of a free, laissez-faire market. Ayn Rand says “In a capitalist society, all human relationships are voluntary. Men are free to cooperate or not, to deal with one another or not, as to their own individual judgements, convictions, and interests dictate.”

In these new marketplaces, anyone can start a business. In the past, you needed a fair amount of liquidity to begin any kind of enterprise, but not so much today. For instance Robert Kalin, founder of Etsy, had this idea of selling used handmade or vintage items online. What began as a spark is now a $500 million dollar business and growing. Many barriers have been torn down thanks to the internet and social media, creating a rich landscape for entrepreneurs in all sorts of industries.

Today, all it takes is a marketable idea and the right business strategy to launch your own company. This reflects Rand’s vision: individuals are free to choose who, what, where, and when they do business. It also speaks to her philosophy of how business is a noble endeavor that highlights ingenuity and innovation. You really get a sense of this when you look at all the entrepreneurs putting their ideas into action.

Most people do not see the connection between capitalism and the sharing economy, but it seems quite clear. So while everyone is separating the phrase sharing economy and capitalist, I think they are part of the same puzzle.

This artcle was also published on MEDIUM.

Topics: Entrepreneur

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