Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Greatest Threat to the "Sharing Economy"?

Leviathan. According to Dan Primack at Forbes:

Sidecar CEO Sunil Paul said yesterday at a conference that U.S. auto ownership will be cut in half over the next decade thanks to social car-sharing services like his. It sounds ludicrous for any number of socio-demographic reasons, but what if you allow yourself to drink the battery fluid? What would the rise of companies like Sidecar mean for the country?

Less traffic? Likely. A cleaner environment? Probably. A massive cut in state tax revenues. Definitely.

According to an April study by the Center for Automotive Research, the auto sector was responsible for approximately $91.5 billion in state taxes for 2010 -- or around 13% of all such receipts. Included in that figure was $30 billion from the sale of new and used vehicles and $20 billion from vehicle registration fees. Not included were such things as excise taxes or title fees.[...]

To be sure, there are all sorts of social and environmental benefits to car-sharing specifically, and to the larger notion of a sharing economy. But there also are significant national costs to decreased ownership of major goods like automobiles. At the very least, Paul and other sharing economy evangelists should be aware of both sides of the equation.
Primack's take seems somewhat bizarre though. While I can respect that it's necessary to be aware of "both sides of the equation", the problem isn't the innovation that allows for us to use what we own more effectively as it's framed, it's taxing the wrong activities, it's the overspending, it's the over regulation.

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