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Friday, March 13, 2015

FEE Brings the Sharing Economy to Florida State

Peer-to-peer exchange opens new frontiers for freedom and innovation


The sharing economy is changing the way people interrelate. Interactions have gone from selling used items on eBay, to renting apartments on Craigslist, and now requesting rides from a stranger through our smartphones. The peer-to-peer economy is morphing the culture of millennials into that of cooperation and harmony, and FEE discussed that transition with over 100 students at Florida State University with the How the Sharing Economy Is Changing the World event.

With the cooperation of GenFKD, the Devoe L. Moore Center, the Stavros Center, and the College of Social Sciences, the event equipped participants with philosophical ideas and supported a foundation of liberty for a peer-to-peer economy free of government intervention.  

On the beautiful green campus of FSU, Jeffrey Tucker opened the event by pointing to different types of peer-to-peer business ideas such as Craigslist and Uber. Tucker highlighted his talk with the idea that money can also be a peer-to-peer choice whether it’s cigarettes in Depression-era Germany, noodles in prison, or bitcoin.  

Examining a similar point with a different method, Nikki Sullivan brought neuroscience and economics together in her talk on neural computations relating to economic and social decisions. The intriguing topic sparked curiosity in the auditorium. One of Nikki’s main points was that in a trade setting, people like to be treated fairly; if the trade keeps reoccurring, fairness will prevail and will increase harmony between the traders. While this might be intuitive, how do we persuade someone to agree to a liberty-based approach to markets? FEE’s President, Lawrence W. Reed answered that question next with his talk on trade.

“There are three ways to communicate liberty and the foundation of sound economics,” Reed began. The first is a moral argument, which is liberty itself. The second is peace, using Bastiat’s quote, “When goods don’t cross frontiers, armies will.” And lastly, consider the alternative. What happens when we don’t have liberty, such as in the case of protectionism? Whether domestic or international, protectionism would have prevented or at least delayed life-altering inventions such as cars, airplanes, Amazon, and Uber.

The highlight of the event was GenFKD’s Dolphin Tank activity where students formed teams to come up with an idea for a peer-to-peer product, complete with a company name and revenue streams, all in 10 minutes. The judges, two individuals who previously were on the TV show “Shark Tank,” as well as an entrepreneurship professor, provided guidance for the groups as well as judged the three winning teams.

To close out the program, Max Borders, editor of The Freeman, taught students how to be entrepreneurial and create value in a world of uncertainty. At one point during his talk, he asked students if they had “the new civil disobedience app” on their phones, referring to Uber, and assured the participants that they are the future innovators.

When not listening to speakers, students were conversing over lunch or picking up educational materials such as FEE’s newest versions of Economics in One Lesson and The Law. Between interactions with speakers and discussions among the participants themselves, the idea that economic freedom in the sharing economy promotes harmony and cooperation was prevalent. We look forward to seeing how these students can change the future with peer-to-peer entrepreneurial ventures thanks to their newfound knowledge.

  • Zena Aziz is the Spring Programs Associate at FEE and a graduate of Ohio State University.