Sharing Economy

Autonomous cars have been discussed rather thoroughly recently and at this point it seems a question of when and how rather than if they will become standard. But as this issue starts to settle, new questions about the application of autonomous technology to other types of transportation are becoming ripe for policy debates. While a great deal of attention seems to be focused on the potential revolutionize the trucking and shipping industries, not as much attention has been paid to how automation may help improve both intercity and intracity bus travel or other public and private transit like trains. The recent requests for comment from the Federal Transit Authority show that policymakers are starting to consider these other modes of transit in preparing for their next recommendations for autonomous vehicles. Here are 5 issues that will need to be considered for an autonomous transit system.

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Hurricanes Harvey and Irma mark the first time two Category 4 hurricanes have made U.S. landfall in the same year. Currently the estimates are the two hurricanes have caused between $150 and $200 million in damages.

If there is any positive story within these horrific disasters, it is that these events have seen a renewed sense of community and an outpouring of support from across the nation. From the recent star studded Hand-in-Hand relief concert and JJ Watts Twitter fundraiser to smaller efforts by local marching bands and police departments in faraway states.

What has made these disaster relief efforts different from past hurricanes? These recent efforts have been enabled by technology that was unavailable during past disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina. Continue reading →

Yesterday, the White House Council of Economic Advisers released an important new report entitled, “Occupational Licensing: A Framework for Policymakers.” (PDF, 76 pgs.) The report highlighted the costs that outdated or unneeded licensing regulations can have on diverse portions of the citizenry. Specifically, the report concluded that:

the current licensing regime in the United States also creates substantial costs, and often the requirements for obtaining a license are not in sync with the skills needed for the job. There is evidence that licensing requirements raise the price of goods and services, restrict employment opportunities,  and make it more difficult for workers to take their skills across State lines. Too often, policymakers do not carefully weigh these costs and benefits when making decisions about whether or how to regulate a profession through licensing.

The report supported these conclusions with a wealth of evidence. In that regard, I was pleased to see that research from Mercatus Center-affiliated scholars was cited in the White House report (specifically on pg. 34). Mercatus Center scholars have repeatedly documented the costs of occupational licensing and offered suggestions for how to reform or eliminate unnecessary licensing practices. Most recently, my colleagues and I have explored the costs of licensing restrictions for new sharing economy platforms and innovators. The White House report cited, for example, the recently-released Mercatus paper on “How the Internet, the Sharing Economy, and Reputational Feedback Mechanisms Solve the ‘Lemons Problem,’” which I co-authored with Christopher Koopman, Anne Hobson, and Chris Kuiper. And it also cited a new essay by Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok on “The End of Asymmetric Information.” Continue reading →

On June 9th, the Federal Trade Commission hosted an excellent workshop on “The ‘Sharing’ Economy: Issues Facing Platforms, Participants, and Regulators,” which included 4 major panels and dozens of experts speaking about these important issues. It was my great pleasure to be part of the 4th panel of the day on the policy implications of the sharing economy. Along with my Mercatus colleagues Christopher Koopman and Matt Mitchell, I submitted a 20-page filing to the Commission summarizing our research findings in this area. (We also released a major new working paper that same day on, “How the Internet, the Sharing Economy, and Reputational Feedback Mechanisms Solve the ‘Lemons Problem.’” (All Mercatus Center research on sharing economy issues can be found on this page and we plan on releasing additional papers in coming months.)

The FTC has now posted the videos from their workshop and down below I have embedded my particular panel. My remarks begin around the 5-minute mark of the video.

Along with colleagues at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, I am releasing two major new reports today dealing with the regulation of the sharing economy. The first report is a 20-page filing to the Federal Trade Commission that we are submitting to the agency for its upcoming June 9th workshop on “The “Sharing” Economy: Issues Facing Platforms, Participants, and Regulators.” We have been invited to participate in that event and I will be speaking on the fourth panel of the workshop. The filing I am submitting today for that workshop was co-authored with my Mercatus colleagues Christopher Koopman and Matt Mitchell.

The second report we are releasing today is a new 47-page working paper entitled, “How the Internet, the Sharing Economy, and Reputational Feedback Mechanisms Solve the ‘Lemons Problem.'” This study was co-authored with my Mercatus colleagues Christopher Koopman, Anne Hobson, and Chris Kuiper.

I will summarize each report briefly here. Continue reading →