Two Narratives of Platform Capitalism | Frank Pasquale

Frank Pasquale (2017) “Two Narratives of Platform Capitalism,” Yale Law & Policy Review: Vol. 35 : Iss. 1 , Article 11; landing, landing.
Frank Pasquale, is a Professor of Law, University of Maryland.

tl;dr → Economists, as a self-conscious class, are storytellers in service to the governing class; their stories are wrong. The Rent-Seeking Behavior obtains. Michel Foucault is invoked. Diagnosis & Nostrum. The Salubious Result obtains. Q.E.D.
and → gig work is sucky work undignified; guaranteed employment is better.


  1. [Conventional] Narrative: Market is good.
  2. [Herein] Counternarrative: Gig-market is bad


Mainstream economists tend to pride themselves on the discipline’s resemblance to science. But growing concerns about the reproducibility of economic research are undermining that source of legitimacy. These concerns have fueled renewed interest in another aspect of economic thought: its narrative nature. When presenting or framing their work, neoliberal economists tend to tell stories about supply and demand, unintended consequences, and transaction costs in order to justify certain policy positions. These stories often make sense, and warn policymakers against simplistic solutionism.


  • narrative == story.
    story == parable.
  • The bible is full of parables
    Footnote  34 cites Ecclesiastes 9:11 to remind about the nature of chance (serendipity, luck): To wit:
    <quote ref=”KJV“>I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.</quote>
  • <quote>These stories often make sense, and warn policymakers against simplistic solutionism.</quote>

Platforms increase discrimination by identifying customers with picture-based profiles which reveal their race or racially-identified names. Ranking and rating systems can also reinforce bias.

Conventional Narrative Counternarrative
Platforms promote fairer labor markets by enabling lower-cost entry into these markets by service providers. Platforms entrench existing inequalities and promote precarity by reducing the bargaining power of workers and the stability of employment.
Platforms reduce the impact of discrimination by increasing the number of service providers in transportation, housing, and other markets. Platforms increase discrimination by identifying customers with picture- based profiles which reveal their race or racially-identified names. Ranking and rating systems can also [always & everywhere] reinforce bias.
Regulators of platforms are likely to [always & everywhere] reflect the biases and interests of incumbent providers (like taxis and hotels) thanks to incumbents’ political ties. Large platforms now command so many resources that their own lobbying efforts can easily swamp those of fragmented and uncoordinated incumbents.
Large digital platforms have gained massive market share because of the quality of their service. Large digital platforms have gained massive market share because of luck, first-mover advantage, network effects, lobbying, strategic lawlessness, and the unusually low cost of investment capital due to quantitative easing.
Platforms promote economic growth by drawing the un- and under-employed into the labor market. Platforms undermine growth by reducing wages as workers scramble for gigs by offering to complete them for lower wages than their competitors.
Platforms promote flexibility by breaking down jobs into tasks, enabling workers to piece together work at their own pace. Low-pay gigs and piecework force workers to be “ready for duty” constantly lest they miss an opportunity to work.
Using data-driven profiles of users, platforms can preemptively channel them to the workers they are most compatible with. Users may experience loss of agency when serendipitous or unpredictable options are effectively hidden or obscured


There are 39 references, appearing as footnotes in the legalistic style.


The Suitcase Words
  • economists,
    mainstream economists
  • themselves,
    pride themselves,
    pride themselves on the <snip/> resemblance <snip/>,
    pride themselves on the discipline’s resemblance to science.
  • reproducibility
    the reproducibility,
    the reproducibility of economic research
  • undermining
  • source of legitimacy.
  • narrative,[
    the] narrative nature
  • economists,
    neoliberal economists
  • supply,
    supply and demand
  • unintended consequences
  • transaction costs
  • positions,
    policy positions.
  • solutionism,
    simplistic solutionism.

and more in the main corpus.

What Big Tech’s monopoly powers mean | Book Forum

What Big Tech’s monopoly powers mean; Staff; Book Forum; 2017-08-31.

tl;dr → It is all very bad. Others opined; they recite. Pointers are given (Book Forum actaully is a book review meta-site, after all)


  • You Are The Product; John Lanchester; In London Review of Books; WHEN?
    (book) promotion

    • Tim Wu; The Attention Merchants: The Epic Scramble to Get Inside Our Heads From the Daily Newspaper to Social Media, How Our Time and Attention is Harvested and Sold; Vintage, reprint; 2017-08-19; 432 pages; ASIN:0804170045: Kindle: $14, paper: $12+SHT.
    • Antonio Garcia Martinez; Chaos Monkeys: Obscene Fortune and Random Failure in Silicon Valley Inside the Silicon Valley Money Machine; Harper; 2016-06-28; 528 pages; ASIN:0062458191: Kindle: $15, paper: $7+SHT.
  • Who Owns The Internet: What Big Tech’s monopoly powers mean for our culture; Elizabeth Kolbert; In The New Yorker; 2017-08-28; separately filled.
    (book) promotion

    • Jonathan Taplin; Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google and Amazon have Cornered Culture and What It Means for All of Us; separately filled.
    • Franklin Foer; World Without Mind: The Existential Threat of Big Tech; separately filled.
  • Will Amazon take over the world?; Frank Pasquale; In Boston Review; WHEN?
    (book) promotion

    • Nick Srnicek, Platform Capitalism, (series) Theory Redux, Polity; 2016-12-27; 120 pages; ASIN:1509504877: Kindle: $8, paper: $11+SHT.
    • Trebor Scholz, Nathan Schneider; Ours to Hack and to Own: The Rise of Platform Cooperativism, A New Vision for the Future of Work and a Fairer Internet; OR Books; 2017-08-15; 252 pages; ASIN:1944869336: Kindle: $12, paper: $13+SHT.
  • On the kerfluffle at New America vs Google vs Open Markets;
    a.k.a. patronage is a wonderful thing when it is given; patronage is mean and nasty suckage when it is withdrawn
    <advice>Don’t bite the hand that feeds ya!<advice>

  • The hated ones: Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google (AAFG)
    • Nationalise Google Facebook Amazon Data Monopoly Platform Public Interest; ; In The Guardian; 2017-08-13.
      Teaser: A crisis is looming. These monopoly platforms hoovering up our data have no competition: they’re too big to serve the public interest
      Riposte: let’s walk before we run; how about we nationalize The Guardian and see how that pans out before moving on to digest an organization that is run by adults?
      (book) promotion

      • Nick Smicek is a lecturer in digital economy, King’s College London.
      • Nick Srnicek, Platform Capitalism, Theory Redux, Polity; 2016-12-27; 120 pages; ASIN:1509504877: Kindle: $8, paper: $11+SHT.
    • Should America’s Tech Giant’s Be Broken Up?; Paula Dwyer; In Bloomberg; 2017-07-20.
      Teaser: Apple, Amazon, Google, and Facebook may be contributing to the U.S. economy’s most persistent ailments.
      tl;dr → Betteridge’s Law. Yes. Break ‘em up! Break ‘em up! Break ‘em up!
      (book&paper) promotions

      • Jonathan Taplin, age 70; Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google, and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy
      • David Autor (MIT) David Dorn (Zurich) Lawrence F. Katz (Harvard), Christina Patterson (MIT), John Van Reenen (MIT); The Fall of the Labor Share and the Rise of Superstar Firms; In Some Venue Surely, <sour>or maybe this is one of those half-decade duration “working papers” that the social scientists meditate upon before reporting out a “completed work” long after the effect has dematerialized <advice>give it a DOI number and be done with it, everyone else has already used or ignored the implications for policymakers concepts in the remediatory nostrums</advice></sour>; 2017-05-01; 74 pages; separately filled.
  • Trump damaged democracy, Silicon Valley will finish it off; Some Cub Reporter (SCR); In The Daily Beast; WHEN?
    Teaser: Donald Trump’s rise is, in a sense, just one symptom of the damage the are doing to America.

Techno-skeptics’ objection growing louder (at The New School’s conference entitled Platform Cooperativism) | The Washington Post

Techno-skeptics’ objection growing louder; Joel Achenbach; In The Washington Post; 2015-12-26.

tl;dr → A conference report.  The dissidents met, ate, drank, talked (in the argot of the times: they shared, networked, bonded). A good time was had by all.

Original Source

Platform Cooperativism: The Internet, Ownership, Democracy; a conference; The New School; 2015-11-13 & 2015-11-14.

Separately noted.

Think Outside the Boss | Trebor Scholz, Public Seminar

; Think Outside the Boss; an essay; In Public Seminar; 2015-04-15.
Teaser: Cooperate alternatives to the sharing economy

Trebor Scholz, professor, Hampshire College

Rethinking Marxism, a peer-reviewed journal produced by the Association for Economic and Social Analysis

Rethinking MarxismA Journal of Economics, Culture & Society; Routledge; since 1988.

Cooperative Alternatives to the Sharing Economy; In Some Blog; 2015-04-29.
Videos? of the panel.