Thomas Friedman did a column on airbnb today that was fun to see because I'm doing nothing but airbnb, but also troubling because he conflated three things and then the comments did more.
So first of all, here's the link: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/21/opinion/sunday/friedman-welcome-to-the-sharing-economy.html?ref=opinion. The three issues are:
1. A simple description of how this "sharing economy" works. What I think he misses is the importance of the technological tools that make it happen and the trust/"crowd-sourcing" piece.
2. Instead, he argues this replaces the old, broken economy. Well, it doesn't. It sits along that economy. And, inasmuch as it actually replaces it, we have problems. But that seems unlikely. What this "sharing economy" does is makes areas that were previously inefficient more efficient and it does it through increasing connection and intimacy. But it's the difference between Costco and the shuk. Sometimes I want one, sometimes the other--they serve different functions.
3. The "sharing economy" is virtually unregulated at the moment. Which is a problem both for oversight and for supporting the common good (aka taxes). There are exemptions for cottage industries in some cases--some of this falls into that category, I'm sure. But one way or another, there are questions of how this impacts society that need to answered.
Anyway, I don't really think Friedman understood that there were three questions. He conflated the first two and ignored the third. And the comments were remarkably scathing--largely, I think, because few people untangled the mess.
However, I mentioned the column to my host and he directed me to this TED-talk, which is much better (although it, too, ignores the tax question) in analyzing the nature of this new phenomenon: http://www.ted.com/talks/rachel_botsman_the_currency_of_the_new_economy_is_trust.html.
In response to finding a column that I didn't want to read (I was looking for a cite that I couldn't find and ultimately decided I didn't need), I found yet another diatribe about how Reform leads to intermarriage, which is ultimately the END OF THE JEWS!!!!!! (enough exclamation point, do you think?) Which led me to decide on my next project: understanding the effect of synagogues on congregants' practice. Here's what I mean--and I don't think anyone's done this, but I need to confirm, of course.
There's a bunch of confusion between correlation and causation around intermarriage, lack of Jewish affiliation/practice, and the imminent death of Judaism, except (of course) for the Orthodox. The claim, largely by anti-Reform (aka Orthodox) is that Reform CAUSES intermarriage. I would argue that Reform DEALS with intermarriage by providing a safe space in which intermarried families can be Jewish. The real question is: how do synagogues make a difference in the lives of families and individuals?
In order to answer that, you need to see where people begin and where they are after a period of time. And you need to do it in different kinds of synagogues and, ideally, in a couple of different areas of the country. You find out knowledge/practice levels when people join, track over time, and see where they are at the end of ten years... I want that to be my next project. How to make that happen--that's another question...
And really what I did all day was sit around and read interview transcripts in order to write the talk I'm giving on Sunday. Tomorrow I actually write the thing...