Strange but True: Future of economics may lie in 'Zipcar capitalism'

BY BILL SONES AND RICH SONES, PH.D. Published: December 4, 2012

Strange but True

Sharing a new economic model

Q. It's been called “Zipcar capitalism” or “collaborative consumption” and reflects a whole new way of looking at and doing things. It has even generated a whole new vocabulary. Are you in the know here?

A. In this new economic model, consumers rent, share or trade services, extending the old idea of “time-sharing” for resort properties into “communal purchases” that give people “fractional ownership” of expensive items, says Paul McFedries in “IEEE Spectrum” magazine. “Zipcar capitalism” comes from the car-sharing services where subscribers — “Zipsters” — rent vehicles by the hour. Since many cars just sit in a driveway or parking lot anyway, why not try “social car sharing,” or “peer-to-peer rental.” And if you're not going to be using your house or apartment for a while, why not consider renting it out. “Collaborative travel” services will help match you with prospective renters and even ensure the safety of your abode. As one New York Times writer put it, sharing is “clean, crisp, urbane, postmodern; owning is dull, selfish, timid, backward.”

“Tool sharing” also has taken off, as have “co-housing” and “social lending,” done without a bank as intermediary. “Carrotmob” comes from “flashmob,” where a group gathers to purchase products from an environmentally friendly store. Adds McFedries, “My favorite communal purchase idea is ‘cowpooling,' buying a whole cow or side of beef from a local farmer.”