Nobel Prize-winning author Mario Vargas Llosa is probably my favorite living novelist. His work is heart-wrenching and vivid, a celebration of the power of the individual — an island of true liberalism in the sea of Marxism that makes up modern literary fiction in Latin America.
So, I was disheartened to read his most recent collection of nonfiction, Notes on the Death of Culture. In it, he decries what he sees as a devolution of modern culture from classical forms of art, to a “civilization of the spectacle.” While I make no attempt to normatively evaluate the two stacked against one another, I do think there is a lot to celebrate in this “spectacle,” as he calls it.
Replacing Substance with Entertainment?
Vargas Llosa’s spectacle can basically be defined as modern forms of entertainment and mass media, and the values underlying most people’s consumption of those mediums. Having “a good time, escaping boredom” has become the “universal passion,” has led culture down the path to banality and frivolity, and has given rise to tabloid-style journalism.
The two most important factors in these developments are the post-WWII economic gains experienced by the West and certain Asian economies, and the further democratization of culture, in which literature and the arts are no longer only the domain of the elites. Now, everyone gets a seat at the cultural table which, he contends, has caused a “cheapening and trivializing” effect that has downgraded the content of our cultural consumption, to the extent that “a Verdi opera, the philosophy of Kant, a concert by the Rolling Stones, and a performance by Cirque du Soleil have equal value.”
Continue reading at FEE.
Two days have passed with no Uber or Lyft service in Austin, Texas. Local policymakers blame Uber and Lyft for pausing their operations in the city, but the Austin City Council pushed ridesharing out by regulating in search of a problem.
In December 2015, the Austin City Council approved an ordinance that would require ridesharing drivers to go through fingerprint background checks. The ordinance also included restrictions on picking up and dropping off passengers and requirements on maintaining a physical presence in the city, fee payments and proprietary data sharing.
Though the ordinance went into effect on February 1, 2016, the fingerprint requirements were given steadily increasing compliance rates, which had to reach 99% by February 1, 2017. Rather than altering their business models, Uber and Lyft took their protests to the voters by setting up a challenge to the ordinance called Proposition 1. Their efforts were rejected by voters last weekend, and the companies pulled out of Austin on Monday.
Read the full article at Forbes.
This article was coauthored with Austill Stuart.
Listening to Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail may lead one to assume she is against the sharing economy, or what she calls the “gig economy.” As she promised in her first major economic address at the New School in New York City, the gig economy is “raising hard questions about workplace protections and what a good job will look like in the future… I’ll crack down on bosses who exploit employees by misclassifying them as contractors or even steal their wages.”
But when it comes to her personal life, Hillary Clinton does not detest the gig economy—she loves it. The Clintons’ tax returns show that Hillary and her husband Bill are practically gig economy royalty. After leaving the White House, the Clintons earned just one percent of their labor income from employer paychecks. The rest ($198 million) came from a variety of independent contractor gigs.
Since 2000, the Clintons earned about $200 million from working (as opposed to real estate or other investments). Of that $208 million, $167 million of it (83 percent) came from work that is part of the gig economy, such as giving speeches and private consulting. If one includes income from other non-employee work (such as book promotions and sales) this number shoots up to $198 million, or 99 percent.
Read the rest on Economics 21, here.
Advocate Fred Roeder was featured on BBC World Service’s ‘Have Your Say’ program, where he discussed the advantages of ridesharing and Uber.
Listen to his appearance (from 34:00 onwards), here.
The American economy is changing, and millennials’ attitudes about work and their careers are changing with it. The rapid rise of the so-called “sharing economy” embodies many young Americans’ new economic ideal—one driven by technology, convenience, and flexibility.
Companies such as Uber and Airbnb offer the technical platform and support to allow transactions between buyers and sellers easily to take place. For this reason, these types of companies are often referred to as “intermediaries.” Those who partner with intermediaries are classified as independent contractors, not employees.
The flexibility that independent contractor status offers workers is vital to the sharing economy’s success. While some workers use these platforms full time, the vast majority use them for part-time work or supplemental income. About 8 in 10 Lyft drivers choose to drive 15 hours a week or less, and half of Uber drivers use the platform for less than 10 hours a week.
Read the rest on Economics 21, here.