President Bill Clinton’s former Labor Secretary Robert Reich is worried about the sharing economy. In a recent column, he bemoaned the fact that the rise of services like Uber and Lyft have initiated a shift away from salaried employment towards more independent contractors. The cost of this, he argued, is the security and stability of the American workforce, stripped of the labor protections government has installed for the benefit of the salaried employee. These protections, including retirement benefits, health insurance, and minimum wage requirements, are in Reich’s view necessary to a healthy economy, and he fears that a shift away from them will prove catastrophic to America’s future.
Like so many prophets of doom before him, Reich suffers from a lack of imagination, and a belief that, simply because things have been done a certain way, they must continue to be done that way in order to avert existential peril. In fact, the sharing economy offers tremendous new opportunities for technological advancement, improved public policies, and human liberty in general.