Alex Hearn’s a strange boy

In its purest sense, that is the sharing economy. But it very quickly ran into an issue: while some people act out of altruism, most don’t. My drill is mine. Why should I share it with you?

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Some sites, such as Freecycle, still focus on acting out of the goodness of one’s heart, but the success stories of the sharing economy solved the problem by looking to the old economy. And so “sharing” became “renting”. Even today, one report finds 20 companies in the sharing economy whose offering can be summed up as “you can borrow stuff you don’t want to buy”. Nine of them have a name beginning with “rent”.

Once money started changing hands in earnest, business really started booming.

So everyone does get richer by moving assets from lower valued uses (sitting on the shelf for that drill) to higher valued uses (drilling something) and Hearn’s all a twatter because cash money is involved?

Facepalm.

19 thoughts on “Alex Hearn’s a strange boy”

  1. I thought the article was just a pedantic moan about using the term “sharing” when in actuality what is happening is “renting”.

    Lending your power drill to someone for a weekend and charging him £10 is clearly renting.

    Whereas swapping your house in Bath with a family in Avignon’s house for a week’s summer holiday is sharing.

  2. I might lend my sister or a mate my drill, even lugg it to wherever I next see them, but total strangers?

    You’ll have to provide some kind of incentive for me to his across town and give them it. It works, it works really well.

  3. Shinsei,

    > “Whereas swapping your house in Bath with a family in Avignon’s house for a week’s summer holiday is sharing.”

    Actually that’s barter. As with most forms of barter, it’s a neat way of avoiding tax. Normally you’re supposed to charge each other rent and declare it as income. The whingers on the Left aren’t entirely wrong when they accuse the new sharing economy of tax-dodging.

    That said, it wouldn’t apply to the Bath/Avignon example since our benevolent leaders let you earn up to £4,250 a year in rent tax-free.

  4. Out of interest where does sharing tip over into bartering (and become liable, technically, for tax) ?

    If I agree to pick to your kids up from school on Mon-Wed and you do the same for mine on Thurs-Fri aren’t we each providing the other with a relatively expensive bespoke taxi & childcare service ?

  5. Current top comment:

    ‘I was quite ambivalent about Uber until a couple of months ago, I was walking past a parked up Toyota Prius on a sidestreet off Holborn Viaduct. The owner climbed out of the back, where he’d clearly been sleeping (there were pillows and bedding in there) and emptied a 2L plastic milk bottle of piss down a drain.

    That is what “the sharing economy” means – sleeping in cars; unprotected workers in unregulated industries racing to the bottom. When Jeremy Hunt says he wants us to work like the Chinese, this is what he’s talking about.’

    So, a bloke who is interested in ‘unprotected workers in unregulated industries racing to the bottom’ but had no real view of Uber until he saw a guy – in a fucking Prius!! – empty a bottle of piss and extrapolated from that various assertions.

    Never mind that it never happened and is, like so many Guardian articles and comments, what we used to call ‘a lie’.

  6. Freecycle isn’t about “acting out of the goodness of one’s heart”. It’s just people getting rid of stuff they don’t want, which they perceive as having less value than the value they perceive that they can receive compared to their time and trouble. There’s also a certain sense of it being nice not throwing things out, but if you don’t value it, you aren’t being altruistic.

  7. @Ian Reid,

    We also discussed it back then I believe (or was that elsewhere?). I recall some nuttering [typo but I’ll let it stand] about the spirit of the law.

  8. I’ve freecycled a lot of stuff, and it was nothing to do with the goodness of my heart and everything to do with the convenience of having people come around a collect stuff that wasn’t worth sticking on eBay, but I didn’t like the idea of chucking out.

    The number of emails I got from the same few people, for wide ranges of stuff, indicated that a fair amount of what’s freecycled ends up being sold elsewhere (eBay, car boots, junk shops) by people with different reward thresholds to the original donee.

    Provided you are ruthless in your selection of who gets the goods (agonising over which bullshit back-story to swallow isn’t worth it) it’s a brilliant system. If some people are using it to turn a small profit then that’s even better because that makes three parties better off. I get a warm glow and less stuff cluttering up the place, someone else gets stuff they want, and someone in the middle gets some beer tokens.

  9. “Never mind that it never happened and is, like so many Guardian articles and comments, what we used to call ‘a lie’.”

    Oh, I can believe it happened. It’s not because of some Uber-induced poverty though – he probably got bladdered and decided to sleep it off instead of driving drunk.

  10. @Matthew

    Yeah maybe – though tthe bit I was mostly questioning was that seeing this happen (if it happened) was what ripped the scales from the eyes of a person who until that moment was a market forces cleanskin.

  11. “Oh, I can believe it happened. It’s not because of some Uber-induced poverty though – he probably got bladdered and decided to sleep it off instead of driving drunk.”

    Maybe he was working there a couple of days and wanted to save money? If I was in London on my own and driving a cab I might be tempted. Do these lefties want low-paid cab drivers being poorer?

  12. @ Matthew L
    Holborn Viaduct is, in fact, a bridge over Faringdon Street. There are no side streets to Holborn Viaduct itself. There are a very few to the approach roads but parking is prohibited in most, if not all, of them.

  13. Bloke not in Cymru

    Was quite interesting when we moved to Canada to see people just put stuff outside their house with a free sign, usually it’s gone within 12 hours. Did the same thing with some odds and ends when we moved recently.
    Though if you chop down a tree a leave the wood to be picked up by whoever wants to collect it usually won’t last that long.

  14. Bloke in Costa Rica

    Yeah, BniC, I freecycle discarded white goods by lugging them out to the kerb and letting the Costa Rican pikies have it on their toes. Do it late at night and it’ll be gone by morning. Lovely jubbly.

  15. I once arranged for the local council to collect an old and stained double mattress. I paid £25 in advance for the privilege. As the mattress was due to be collected by 8am the next day, I put it outside about 9pm. By the time the Council arrived, it had gone.

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