Born out of the Great Recession, when people needed new ways to make and save money, the sharing economy has expanded from DVD rentals to include dresses, handbags, cars, pets, drones, children's toys, etc. More than an economic reality, the sharing economy is a sign of the times, suggesting that the individual consumerism that has powered the American economy may be shifting. Boston College sociology professor Juliet Schor, who studies the sharing economy, said:

"It's very counterintuitive from the old individualistic American culture, where what people aspire to has been increasing amounts of privacy, gated communities, owning your own. So it is a real twist on where values, sensibilities and culture have been."

Also as a result of the recession, the millennial generation tends to value experiences more than material purchases and happiness studies confirm this trend: the luster of buying a new product wears off quickly relative to the benefits of a good experience. So in a time when American debt is generated not by the purchase of luxury goods but by middle class items like a home and an automobile, perhaps renting will prove a lasting way to guarantee a dignified standard of living.

As Felix Cramer says in his Big Think interview, car sharing could help ween America off its dangerous addiction to an automobile culture:

Read more at the New York Times

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