The Art of the Chisel & The Sharing Economy

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle at 2:30 pm by George Smith

Once sharing meant giving someone a slice of your pie, gratis. Now, fittingly, in America it has gone modern, meaning to take a slice of someone else’s pie, through technology, and sell or rent it to yet another person while putting your sharing hand in both their pockets.

AirBnB is one of the great companies of the sharing economy and it has powerfully enabled people with a smartphone app or a laptop. So much so that it’s now easy to find AirBnb owners drunk on their own urine-passed-off-as-Kool Aid: Why, we’re so great and have done so much for world cultural understanding, founder Brian Chesky ought to win a Nobel Peace prize!

Here’s how the AirBnb operation works from personal observation.

AirBnb-enabled entrepreneurs live in a rented apartment nearby. They subsequently rent another apartment in the same complex and sublet it through AirBnB. It has a weekly retinue of guests, signed up for one or two day stays.

And a parking bay is a key thing since such space is important in LA County.

Which is how it was noticed and, one presumes, how many AirBnb places appear in the midst of housing that was formerly long-term rental. The complex has a set of renters who have year-long leases, as do many — it was standard pre-Airbnb — and while renters sometimes change vehicles or allow a friend to use their spaces, they don’t drive two or three new, often hire cars, a week.

The most clever bit about this is the way the sub-letter/AirBnB sharing economy entrepreneur used and uses a refurbishing the apartment owner and management company applied to the place before they rented it as an attractive feature. It is a nice place!

And so one sees the sharing economy isn’t that at all.

Is AirBnB’s Brian Chesky ripe for a Nobel Peace prize? Well, a good deal of what AirBnb does has now been described in news pieces as process that doesn’t smell so good.

AirBnb has directly aggravated a shortage of long-term housing Los Angeles County, one of the most expensive places to live in the country:

From the LATimes, in March:

The last time he advertised one of his apartments, longtime Los Feliz landlord Andre LaFlamme got a request he’d never seen before.

A man wanted to rent LaFlamme’s 245-square-foot bachelor unit with hardwood floors for $875 a month, then list it himself on Airbnb.

“Thanks but no thanks,” LaFlamme told the prospective tenant. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

But he understood why: More money might be made renting to tourists a few days at a time than to a local for 12 months or more.

As short-term rental websites such as Airbnb explode in popularity in Southern California, a growing number of homeowners and landlords are caving to the economics. A study released Wednesday from Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, a labor-backed advocacy group, estimates that more than 7,000 houses and apartments have been taken off the rental market in metro Los Angeles for use as short-term rentals.

While this may be described in many ways, one of the words that doesn’t come to mind is sharing.

Using trivial network communications technology and the web to grab a piece of the economic pie is a fair way to characterize it. Predatory, is another. Of course it is more attractive to rent to transient stay tourists on the upper side of the wealth curve than it is to long-term residents, particularly if there is no process in flipping to a hotel/motel arrangement other than entering a listing in a database!

For the LAT, the landlord who turned down the AirBnB-armed customer said he has had no trouble finding qualified long-term renters in the county. His open slot was filled in 24 hours.

A similar long-term housing shortage in Manhattan has been aggravated by AirBnB.

While browsing at Vroman’s this week I saw a book by the American Enterprise Institute’s Arthur Brooks, “The Conservative Heart: How to Build a Fairer, Happier and More Prosperous America.” On the cover it has a nice little heart painted on the American flag.

It made me laugh.

Brooks writes for the New York Times opinion page. As an accidental concern troll. I’ve characterized his work — stupid armchair philosophies insisting Christian faith, fulfillment and happiness come naturally from existence as a capitalist small businessman.

I wrote about himhere for quotes on the so-called sharing economy and AirBnB:

BROOKS:WHAT is a “helping industry????

To hear him tell it, [AirBnB co-founder Nathan Blecharczyk] started the business because it was fascinating and fun. And most of all, he says, because it could help ordinary people who needed an affordable place to stay or had some excess capacity in their homes. That’s right — Nate sees Airbnb as a “helping industry.???

Some will howl at this …

Ordinary people, especially vulnerable people without power and privilege, find Airbnb empowering and useful. It lifts Americans up …

Any of us can work in a helping industry. That includes teachers, nurses, stay-at-home parents … The blessing of our free enterprise system is that any of us can sanctify our work. We just need to ask if what we are doing truly lifts others up.

Does AirBnB sanctify transient rentals for tourists? I’m having trouble finding it.

The fundamental problem with Arthur Brooks, if you’re read a lot of his columns at the Times, is he never really acknowledges how thoroughly American big business and its free enterprise have worked over the majority of Americans over the past few decades. There’s never a single atom of this harsh reality. Just lots of material on how Americans allegedly hate negativity, how things should be approached with a gentle smile for maximum mindfulness and joy at one’s work. How a positive attitude is always what is needed. And how people, or more specifically, a poverty-stricken woman sleeping on a friend’s couch, has now potentially reached the beginnings of nirvana as a small business person by renting out her old bed.

Never mind there’s no evidence that a majority of American’s want to be small business people. Or that most Americans do not work for small businesses, if they work at all. And that such a person, sleeping on a couch in a place they didn’t have to rely on previously, is just another sand pebble on the empty beach of the desperation economy.

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