What Is a Peer-To-Peer (P2P) Economy?
A peer-to-peer (P2P) economy is a decentralized model whereby two individuals interact to buy or sell goods and services directly with each other, without an intermediary third-party, or the use of a company of business. The buyer and the seller transact directly with each other. Because of this, the producer owns both their tools (or means of production) and their finished product.
Understanding Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Economy
A peer-to-peer economy is viewed as an alternative to traditional capitalism, whereby business owners own the means of production and also the finished product, hiring labor as necessary to carry out the production process.
In capitalism, workers do not own the means of production, nor do they have any rights to the finished product they have helped make. Instead, they are paid wages in return for their labor. An advantage of the capitalist system is generally increased productivity and efficiency of the production process over a P2P system since traditional businesses have the advantages of economies of scale and mass-production techniques.
A P2P economy can exist within capitalism. Open-source software (which is P2P) co-exists with retail and commercial software. Services like Uber or Airbnb serve as alternatives to taxi and livery services or hotels and inns.
Since a third party is removed from the transaction, there is a greater risk that the provider may fail to deliver, that the product will not be of the quality expected, or that the buyer may not pay. Reduced transaction costs and lower prices often defray this extra risk.
Because providers of P2P goods or services own their finished product and means of production, the peer-to-peer economy is similar to the economic production of pre-industrial age when everybody was a self-producer, a system that was supplanted by more efficient economic systems that provided greater productivity and wealth. The internet and the IT revolution have made the P2P economy a much more viable system in the modern age, and have also spurred investment in service providers who, while not directly involved in the production of P2P goods or services, act to make P2P transactions more visible, safer, and efficient.
The modern state of emerging P2P economies is just the latest example of the internet’s value to consumers. The emerging internet-empowered, self-producer model of capitalism is now significant and disruptive enough for regulators and companies to have woken up to it. That is a sign of its immense potential for such innovative business models in years to come.