Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

While I think most on this site would applaud efficiently allocating anything, there are some drawbacks to efficiently allocating things strictly for money.

Michael Sandel, author of What Money Can't Buy, argues pretty eloquently the economic and social cost-benefit to pricing things like a placement in line, or a spare room in a house.

To extend one of his examples, Airbnb gives you a hard-cash price for your extra room—or even your couch. One of your friends wants to couch surf for a week.

By past social convention, you'd give it to him for free. He saves money he'd spend on something else.

By Airbnb convention, you charge him for it. You kind of have to, because everyone else is, and you can't leave money on the table. You have cash now, but a bit less than he would have, because Airbnb takes a cut.

Sandel was interested in investigating this society where the rich get the best of everything first, explicitly at the expense of the poor.

So I hope there are some comments investigating whether or not we're better off socially, not necessarily economically, by renting our "excess capacity" or being generous with our "excess capacity."




I think you may be missing the part where, by drawing in revenue, you help offset the risk of letting random people make use of your capital.

While I agree that perhaps in a better world everyone should simply share resources unencumbered by profit motive, the assignment of a usage fee to a couch or something does help prevent overuse of resources.

In the case of a friend sleeping on my couch, there is our personal relationship and desire not to cause future trouble that helps limit the possible risk of the couch getting destroyed--having a pecuniary barrier to entry for a stranger to use my couch seems reasonable.


What is abuse? Abuse is about fairness. Fairness is not about money, though we have tried for a long time to mediate pain and suffering through money. Abuse and fairness are emotional. It is not rational. Putting a monetary value to this is rationalizing what is fundamentally not rational.

Just because it is not rational does not make it any less real. You don't negotiate with a hurricane. If you are weighing the pros and cons about renting stuff out to a friend, then there are some deeper issues involved. Is this particular friend widely known for mooching off of you? (Why is such a person your friend anyways?) Generally, if you fear abuse of your assets and personal space/time, then you also have some Jungian shadows related to abusing your friendships.

Renting something out to strangers and taking money to mitigate risk -- that seems fair to me. (But risk is emotionally related to the same kinds of issues related to renting or not renting out to a friend, or a friend abusing or not abusing your generosity).

There are ways to deal with the underlying non-rationalizable emotions that does not involve money. Hopefully, those methods will become more popular going forward.

It's interesting. I have never considered this before. Conducting transactions like this means stripping away the impersonal nature of corporations (http://onthespiral.com/unifying-value-universe), makes you much more aware of human nature, maybe gets people to start dealing with it.

Consider also http://playspent.org ... It turns out: a social net is very advantageous. (http://www.amazon.com/Dont-Need-Rise-Network-ebook/dp/B009K8...)


Of course we're better economically. The previous situation -- where the price of the couch was vague and hard to discern -- had worse inefficiencies and waste, it's just that it was harder to get a grasp of all the willing couch-surfers you were screwing out of an opportunity.

Learning about waste != creating waste, any more than learning about employee theft is responsible for draining the company's resources.

Btw, you're being generous (or not) in both cases; the only question is just to whom you're being generous: the friend, or the strangers ready to put significant money down for the scarce resource.


There is no doubt that resources are being allocated more efficiently. Also, it s making available to the masses what used to be exclusively for the ultra rich (you can sleep in a castle in Tuscany or rent a private jet, pretty much the only thing left exclusively to the rich is going to space, for now).

This kind of economy is here to stay, and it will probably become the norm in many other sectors too. It will be interesting to see the long term effects in the general economy.


  By past social convention, you'd give it to him for free. 
  He saves money he'd spend on something else.
For your friend? Maybe. But most people you transact with on AirBnB are not your friends. So this hasn't really commoditized a friend relationship.




Applications are open for YC Winter 2020

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: