There’s been an interesting discussion going in the comments section to the last post (Collapse) about the pros and cons of equipment sharing. It’s an important issue because it is uneconomic and unsustainable for each person on the island to be fully equipped. On the other hand, there are all kinds of problems with equipment sharing, partnerships and co-ops.
I hate to raise the ugly specter of insurance. But having spent my working career as an underwriter and then a broker, co-owning certain kinds of equipment in our litigious society is problematic. For example, let’s assume a group of people wish to buy a pickup truck together. It will be very difficult for the group to find a company who will insure it for multiple owners. Without getting into a detailed discussion of underwriting philosophy, a multi-owner licensed vehicle is an outlier. It is the square peg that doesn’t fit through the round whole of the underwriting template.
As a result, if a group wishes to own a truck the truck needs to be titled to one person who is the legal owner, pays the license, insures it, etc. The others become permissive users and to be safe and to avoid charges of misrepresentation by the insurance company the other drivers should be submitted as occasional drivers so their driving records can be looked at. If there is an accident involving anyone, the accident is charged to the account of the legal owner whose insurance can be put into jeopardy.
Life gets simpler as we move down the equipment chain. Share a hammer. Not a big problem. Share a boat. A bit more difficult. It’s not that sharing can’t be accomplished. It’s just harder than it looks.
A formal equipment co-op as Wynne suggested to start this discussion is very possible. As long as we still live in an environment where someone can drop a lawsuit on you I would not be interested unless it was formally organized and backed by proper insurance. Klayton summed it up nicely with this paragraph: “But it seems it might be a good solution to have these sharing relationships evolve within a small group of people that have already developed a trusting relationship outside of the cooperative agreement. To just open it up to anyone would require complicated rules, accounting, co-op bylaws, etc. Which might work here on the island, but it would take some effort to set up and run. If someone is interested, possibly they could make a small income by managing a co-op with things like a tractor, shovels, ladders, and the like.”
Ed resorted to Shakespeare’s wisdom to describe the point of view that retards sharing:
“Neither a borrower nor a lender be,
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.”
Everyone has had a bad experience loaning something out. I recall Wynne commenting to an earlier post on tools that she had certain tools she would never loan to anyone. I feel the same way.
Although a co-op, co-ownership can work an easier idea is the Time Bank which we’ve briefly discussed before. Nicole mentioned this in her talk on Thursday. It is method of sharing based on an exchange of skills. And it is always one hour for one hour. An hour of medical doctor time is worth the same in a time bank as an hour of tractor time. An hour of sewing instruction is worth the same as an hour of chain sawing. No money changes hands. Too bad we don’t have one of those Island Fellows to help us start a time bank.
(Full disclosure: we are partners in a bunch of stuff—pickup, boat, brushcutter, trailer and more. You can make it work. But it’s tricky).