In “The Zero Marginal Cost Society,” published earlier this year, economic theorist and writer Jeremy Rifkin coins the term Collaborative Commons to describe the “digitalized space where providers and users share goods and services” in the emerging “shareable economy” that is transforming the way we organize economic life. He proposes that a shift to this new economic system “from the exchange economy in the capitalist marketplace … offers the possibility of dramatically narrowing the income divide and democratizing the global economy in the first half of the 21st century.”
It’s no surprise then that Rifkin casts as shortsighted the German court system’s decision this week to ban in that country the low-cost UberPop service from Uber, the global carsharing service. In response to a lawsuit filed by Taxi Deutschland in Frankfurt, the court ruled that Uber lacked legal permits to pick up passengers. But in an opinion on the Huffington Post yesterday, Rifkin wrote:
“We are entering a world partially beyond markets where we are learning how to live together in an increasingly interdependent global Collaborative Commons. Germany and other governments around the world will need to create the appropriate legal framework to allow the sharing economy to grow.”
He calls carsharing services “just the tip of the zero marginal cost iceberg.” And Uber execs seem confident that German authorities will come around to Rifkin’s point of view. They have promised to ignore the court and “Uber on” in Germany while they appeal the decision.