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Raw Deal

How the “Uber Economy” and Runaway Capitalism are Screwing American Workers

By Steven Hill
13-minute read
Audio available
Raw Deal: How the “Uber Economy” and Runaway Capitalism are Screwing American Workers by Steven Hill

Raw Deal (2015) reveals the ugly truth behind the new sharing economy and the harm that companies like Uber or Airbnb are inflicting upon societies around the world. There’s a major crisis on the horizon, and it will affect not only these companies’ exploited employees. We’re all at risk, and we’ll need to choose our next steps wisely to prevent an economic collapse.

  • Students of economics and politics
  • Readers interested in the job market and labor regulations
  • Employees worried about declining workplace standards

Steven Hill is a senior fellow at the New America Foundation. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Guardian and the Huffington Post, and his best-selling books include the widely acclaimed Europe’s Promise.

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Raw Deal

How the “Uber Economy” and Runaway Capitalism are Screwing American Workers

By Steven Hill
  • Read in 13 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 8 key ideas
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Raw Deal: How the “Uber Economy” and Runaway Capitalism are Screwing American Workers by Steven Hill
Synopsis

Raw Deal (2015) reveals the ugly truth behind the new sharing economy and the harm that companies like Uber or Airbnb are inflicting upon societies around the world. There’s a major crisis on the horizon, and it will affect not only these companies’ exploited employees. We’re all at risk, and we’ll need to choose our next steps wisely to prevent an economic collapse.

Key idea 1 of 8

The sharing economy promises freedom but doesn’t deliver.

You may not realize it, but every time you use Airbnb or Uber, you’re taking part in a new economy, known as the peer-to-peer or sharing economy. While it might sound like an exciting new development, many are raising important questions about how good this new business model really is for the economy and society as a whole.

Those in favor of the sharing economy call it revolutionary, and believe it could create a kinder, gentler strain of capitalism. And since it removes the middleman and cuts through the red tape of government regulations, supporters see it as a path to greater freedom in the marketplace.

Let’s take a closer look at Airbnb. While it has by now grown into an enormous multinational corporation, it was first seen as an exciting new business venture that could disrupt the market by offering an alternative to overpriced hotels.

It even received praise from across the political spectrum, with liberals seeing it as an example of self-sufficiency and sustainable practices, while conservatives supported its decentralized business model.

But as we can see now, neither is true. The benefits of a sharing economy are mixed at best, and what we’re left with is raw capitalism and impersonal, faceless transactions.

Airbnb might have begun with the idea of letting people make some extra money by sharing a spare room, but the company’s greed has since destroyed that concept.

Airbnb is now flooded with professional renters, and landlords are evicting regular tenants in order to make more money through temporary rentals. Even though Airbnb is aware of this, they obscure this fact by putting forward a wholesome image of sharing.

They also disregard laws that try to protect tenants.

Many cities prohibit rentals for less than 30 days so that tenants have some security. But Airbnb dodges these regulations by positioning itself merely as a booking agent that can’t be held responsible for how anyone might use their services illegally. Airbnb has also avoided the responsibility of paying hotel taxes in a similar fashion.

But as we’ll see in the blinks ahead, there are many more serious problems with the sharing economy.

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