Antirival goods, network effects and the sharing economy
Keywords:Rival good, Non-rival good, Anti-rival good, Inclusive good, Sharing economy, Network effects, Returns to shared use
Nothing facilitates large-scale collaboration like the prospect of inclusive, all-win games. Modern humans have gotten much better at large-scale collaboration because they have discovered, or invented, a broad range of collective goods that are easy to share and become more valuable the more they are shared, thus multiplying the opportunities for all-win outcomes. Steven Weber (2004) and Mark Cooper (2006a, 2006b) have drawn our attention to ‘antirival goods’ — subject to increasing returns to shared use — to differentiate them from ‘rival goods’ — subject to decreasing returns to shared use — and ‘nonrival goods’ — subject to constant returns to shared use. Unlike Weber and Cooper, I argue that nonrivalness and antirivalness are orthogonal properties of some collective goods, rather than stages along the same continuum away from rivalness. Collective goods, I also argue, are most inclusive when they are both nonrival and antirival. In an economy rich in both nonrival and antirival goods, the collaborative stance will often be the default collective choice, at large and small scales alike. Digital technologies are ushering in a transformative age as they expand the cornucopia of nonrival and antirival goods available to us. This inclusiveness of many digital goods eliminates the free-riding problem and mobilizes large amounts of volunteer work.
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