Professor and documentarian Douglas Rushkoff, author most recently of Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus, doesn’t blame the billionaires for income inequality—he blames the operating system. “It’s not about redistributing the spoils of capitalism after the fact,” said Rushkoff, “It’s about pre-distributing the means of production before the fact.” Our market, Rushkoff says, prioritizes stockholder profit over corporate sustainability. “The object of the VC is not to build a company. The object of the VC is to flip the company for 100x or 1000x of their original investment,” said Rushkoff. He gave examples of companies that he thinks are getting certain things right, like Kickstarter, a revenue-based business that chose an alternative way to structure its stock options; Meetup, which still profits a few million dollars annually and brings people together face to face; and Chobani, which gave ten percent of their shares to their employees pre-IPO.
In terms of regulating what we are referring to in this series as the sharing economy, Rushkoff believes that first and foremost, people and places need to have a seat at the table. “The city should be a shareholder in a company that’s using its infrastructure to run itself,” said Rushkoff. He believes we need to do a better job of requiring cooperation between parties that are incentivized differently. His advice to individuals? “Invest locally, if you can…Share with other people. Do ring on your neighbor’s doorbell, and say, ‘Do we both need to have snow blowers here? Can I use yours and you use my lawn mower?’ Create ways to actually cooperate. It sounds socialist, I’m sure it sounds really foreign, but the fewer lawn mowers we have, the less pollution we have.”