Stick this in your Third Place and let it stew.
The crude name for this idea is “shit sharing”, but I think “divestment banking clubs” have a better ring to them. Basically it’s a way to have all the stuff the American Way seems to demand, without being buried in stuff you aren’t actually using at the moment. How? You share it. With a corporation. That shares it back with you. Or something.
Take DVDs. They last forever, they’re reasonably cheap, you like movies or TV shows or whatever, so you buy a bunch of them. I personally have every episode of BSG on DVD. So does Ted, and so does Patrick. Why do we each have a copy of something we’re unlikely to watch more than once a year?
Take power tools. (insert grunting noises as necessary.) I might need a belt sander maybe once or twice in my entire life. I might need a power screwdriver once or twice a year. When I get to that point, I usually borrow one from a friend, but it requires me to a) have a friend and b) have the friend trust me with their power tools and c) come up with the elaborate hand-off protocol that keeps the power tools from sitting in my shed for three years. About half the time I end up buying the damn thing to avoid the hassle, which makes me the
target friend for the next cycle.
Take camping gear (the inspiration for this article.) Take musical instruments. Take paperbacks. Take all that liquor that you only use at parties. Take that giant cooler you only use once a year. Take the fondue set, the floor loom, the spinning wheel, the child car seat, the window AC, the elaborate garden sprinkler set…
…and put them all in a central place. Could be a Third Place, could be a storefront, could be a clubhouse whatever. Put an inventory management system on them, either with or without a person to manage it. Credit the original owners of the stuff with shares in the club/corporation/whatever. Collect a membership fee big enough to cover maintenance and the occasional new acquisition and small enough to be worth the loads of freed-up storage space and convenience of having access to loads of stuff.
Day-to-day, it would work like car-sharing for pretty much anything. You go to a web site and check if the thingy you need is available, and reserve it for a block of time. You pick it up when you get around to it and bring it home, then take it back when you’re done. Your membership allows you a certain amount of stuff out/reserved at a time, so you have an incentive to return things on time. There’s a certain amount of wear and tear assumed, but if it gets out of hand you switch to the “that guy breaks stuff” membership that costs more and allows less. If you buy something new that seems of interest to the club, they can acquire it and give you more credit/shares.
This wouldn’t work as a for-profit venture, because then it would be called a “pawn shop”. The point here is to band together as a group and get individual benefits, while using the group’s structure to protect you from risk. Sound familiar? It should. Investment clubs work like this, and they do pretty well. So how about a divestment club?