Sharing and a Shrinking (or Expanding) Economy

Uber is awesome. Airbnb is amazing. Taxis are too expensive and hard to come by. Hotels are astoundingly overpriced.

This is why Uber works and why it worries taxi drivers and unions here and abroad.

This is why Airbnb has taken off and why it has infuriated hotels and local governments.

But the sharing economy is only going to grow.

It's a matter of need, of course - people rent out rooms to make money in a still-stagnant economy. People protest against overpriced rides in hard to find taxi services. And it's a matter of people doing it for themselves, that is, coming up with a way to bring services, for example, more easily to those who want them. A friend used Uber in taxi-challenged Washington, D.C., after a theatrical performance, when the line of people waiting for normal taxi service stretched around the corner at the Kennedy Center. With Uber, a minivan - enough to pick up all six of us - showed up in five minutes.

Corporations and unions are against the power of the sharing economy, and that's quite understandable. But the internet is providing new ways of making services available, at prices the market will bear. (If only there were an Uber or Airbnb for the airline industry,)

Think of the changes in publishing as a result of e-readers. Print book prices - long too high - have been challenged by the e-book. Publishers are still fighting with Amazon on pricing, and e-books still cost too much by far, but the surge in sales of self-published e-books is likely to continue to put pressure on how much a publisher will be able to charge for an e-book. That industry the entire economy are shifting as a result of technological changes.

Who knows what's going to work, or how people who were raised to make a living one way are going to cope with today's, or tomorrow's, economy? But despite resistance to new technologies (such as the Supreme Court decision to ban Aereo, which will probably, much to the regret of broadcasters who wanted it banned, cause many more young people to abandon broadcast television), there's no going back.

For better or worse, no matter what side of the technological fence you stand.