Rachel Botsman: The Case for Collaborative Consumption

I cheer any chance I get to see an articulate, intelligent woman wishing to change the world. However, there is one downside of collaborative consumption which we have already experienced in world history, and this grand social experiment has failed in many places including both Europe and Asia.  Botsman’s over-enthusiasm for sharing, for example, a land owner sharing land with a farmer in exchange for food services, is veering dangerously into the backward territory of feudalism.

Feudalism was a set of legal and military customs in medieval Europe that flourished between the 9th and 15th centuries, which, broadly defined, was a system for structuring society around relationships derived from the holding of land in exchange for service or labour.


I agree that a sharing economy should be encouraged without endangering the concept of ownership.  Niall Fergusson speaks of “6 killer apps” that allowed Western Civilization to achieve imperium over the rest of the world:

  • Competition
  • Scientific Revolution
  • Property Rights
  • Modern Medicine
  • Consumer Society
  • The Work Ethic

It appears that Fergusson argues that 1/3 of of the success of the West was due to ownership.  I believe that, to some extent, property rights and a consumer society is necessary for individuals to feel ownership in the system or “have some skin in the game”.   Land prices may be skyrocketing, but all paths do not have to lead to feudalism.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Xander
    Feb 20, 2015 @ 10:25:56

    I’m going to argue that collaborative consumption is a clear new trend, and will likely continue for individual owned, highly-idle resources on the principle of greater efficiency. I have witnessed the feudal lords of AirBnB–players who own numerous locations and rent them out–but most are still individuals who retain ownership, and “rent” to travelers.

    People will still own land, we’re just realizing you don’t need to own it all the time, and still create value adding businesses by providing land as a “service”.


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