Share and Share Alike 

For insight into the sharing economy, we look back to the fourth grade.

Everything I know about economics I learned in fourth grade. (With apologies to Jim Angresano and Jasper LiCalzi, who taught me political economy at the College of Idaho.) Specifically, I learned it in Tim Hanna's class at Sagle Elementary School, 1990.

Mr. Hanna, now long retired, was a gruff, lanky, sarcastic guy whose bushy white mustache boasted a big yellow nicotine stain up the middle. I thought he was the greatest.

One of the best parts of Mr. Hanna's class was that for a portion of the year, he threw out the standard curriculum and converted our classroom into a "mini-society." He printed money, which we designed; doled it out in equal portions; established a student as the central banker; and told us to form businesses. Being fourth-graders, our businesses were not always creative. Lots of kids sold cookies, while others peddled pencils or erasers. For whatever reason, a few friends and I tapped into a hidden—and never to re-emerge—interest in hair styling; which is to say, we shellacked fellow students' hair into mohawks and bizarre spikes.

We did a brisk trade, and probably no small amount of damage to everyone's budding neurons with all that Aquanet. As the money rolled in, one of my partners started buying up desks. As other students went into real estate, speculation drove the value of desks higher and higher. To pay their exorbitant rents, shop owners raised the prices of their pencils and cookies. Kids turned into loan sharks and we had to print more money, further inflating the currency. Thankfully, we didn't have a stock exchange.

That experience might have something to do with why all my public policy essays in college were stridently Marxist-Leninist—seriously, every single one. (Ask LiCalzi if you don't believe me.)

Of course, a lot of people are leery of the American-style market economy these days. More people are opting to take part in what economists have taken to calling the "sharing economy," which is pretty much what it sounds like. Whether it, too, will descend into chaos remains to be seen. In the meantime, read Jessica Murri's piece on the sharing economy in Boise on Page 9.

And speaking of sharing, let us know what you think of our new look. Email

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