We are in the midst of a dramatic sea change in technological society. Just a few years ago, for services like getting a ride or a night’s stay, we had to rely on bloated, bureaucratic corporations. Now, with technology and the Internet, anyone with a computer can become an entrepreneur in 60 seconds and offer those services to the rest of us. That is an amazing accomplishment for civilization.
This sharing economy, as it’s called, is great in empowering micro-entrepreneurs who are trying to make ends meet or make an extra buck, but it’s even better for the consumer in these transactions because they are peer-to-peer, person-to-person transactions. The provider can’t hide behind a corporate veil in his or her business. They must be accountable since their reputation is at stake. The result is a much more responsive service and a much better consumer experience.
Of course there is a downside to the sharing economy. Detractors will claim, for instance that Uber is less safe than traditional taxis. I find that hard to believe since I think I got about four communicable diseases the last time I rode in a cab, but they still make that claim. And there are those who claim that short-term rentals destroy communities and turn entire neighborhoods into hotels. They have legitimate concerns.
Still, it’s clear that this new economy is helping a lot more than it’s hurting anyone. Cities with legislation restricting these services are only hurting their constituents. It’s time to legalize free exchange and usher New Orleans into the 21st century.