I have been the honour and immense pleasure of reviewing Generation Share by Benita Matofska of The People Who Share and Sophie Sheinwald, for Good Works (Generation Share by Benita Matofska and Sophie Sheinwald), which I have loved because it shows the story of people who are likeminded and yet, while reading it, it was impossible not to notice subtle differences. From the teenagers in Brighton looking like my peers at the Liceo Classico so many years ago, disparaging at governments, to people living in communes and looking like they would have been right at home at Woodstock, I have been reminded of how unusual I am. Yes, groups like the Conservative Environment Network help with knowing I am not alone, and that when politicians, even Boris Johnson, make pledges for the environment they are talking to within the party as much as outside of it; still, I cannot help but
I have already talked about Conservative environmentalism and social justice, and today, since it’s Global Sharing Week, I would like to put forward the small-c and big-c conservative case for the sharing economy.
Let’s start by defining conservatism. At its basic, it is a political philosophy that aims to protect society from radicalism. It proposes that change should be organic, and if something isn’t broken you shouldn’t “fix it” (with a degree of liberalism influencing whether two conservatives think some is indeed broken). Whatever economic system you support, they all have in common the idea that we should live within our means, and keep taxes as low as possible (with variations of ideas of where the threshold should be). It favours individualism, although on a spectrum from personal responsibility for the good of society (paternalism) to anything goes because that’s people’s decisions.
While the Sharing Economy, which is “A system based around the sharing of human and physical resources”, sounds like some hipster radical idea to usher communism by the backdoor, it’s, in fact, a very old concept. Up until the past 50 years it was, in fact, how most people lived. It was a way of living that affected all the social classes in different ways. Dinner parties and long stays in the country for the hunting season, musical entertainment in the drawing room of a private house and the gentlemen’s clubs are all forms of sharing of the upper classes. As long as there is a resource, be it the baker’s oven, the village church or an accomplished lady’s ability at the pianoforte, that is not used by the proprietor for their own enjoyment alone there is a sharing economy.
Which brings me back to the idea of living within one’s means: sharing opens access to things that are not within one’s means. It works from car sharing allowing to rent a car when you need it but not pay the costs of owning one, to things like many of the projects in the book that affect the way we use the money raised in taxation. Reducing waste means there is less money spent on disposing of things, which is on average 32% of a council’s council tax revenue. It also makes our areas look more pleasant, therefore making us happier. Other projects show how organising informal networks of social care reduce the need for professional care, and co-housing can also help those whose caring need are fewer, freeing up the resources to help those whose needs require more intensive care.
Elderly people who have access to informal care have reported fewer and less damaging accidents, which in turn affects their cost to the NHS. Another project that affects the NHS that is in the book is Hearts Milk Bank, A report estimates that nationwide availability in NICUs would save £43 millions in care costs, and would prevent £130
There are many ways in which the sharing economy can help our communities, where family breakdown costs over £48
Conservatives love to talk about tax cuts, and often with good reason. Businesses can be crippled by tax while bigger businesses get away with the proverbial murder, and the Laffer Curve has proven that a lower tax rate brings in higher revenue, but few look at resources already there without generating money that could help lower the size of the state while making sure that everybody is taken care of and sharing in the prosperity of the country. In fact, so many people want to scrap Foreign Aid (which is a negligible expenditure that can be invested for greater return to both the receiving country and Britain) when there are a lot more expenditure cuts that can be made, and not with austerity measures which cut the government budget with little plan of how to fill the gaps, and so have been really damaging to those with no recourse elsewhere in our fractured society.
There is a lot more
“Generation Share” by Benita Matofska and Sophie Sheinwald (IBSN9781447350101) is published by Policy Press (Part of Bristol University Press). Available at www.policypress.co.uk