VIDEO: Building a Living on eBay


At a time when socialism seems determined to crawl back from the dustbin of history, it can be a challenge defending the moral legitimacy—and humanity—of a capitalist economy. Efforts like that of my colleagues Fred Smith and Ryan Young are certainly welcome, as is new research from academics like Prof. James Otteson. It’s especially nice, however, to also see individual businesspeople telling their own stories of hard work and success.

In the video above, David DiBartolomeo, who sells tablet and smartphone cases via his own eBay store, describes the business he and his family have been able to build, and how it has enabled them to contribute philanthropically as well—in their case, to Ronald McDonald House Charities. Much like more recent platforms like Uber and Airbnb, eBay enables millions of people around the world to build their own income streams, whether as side-hustles or, as was eventually the case with DiBartolomeo, as a fulltime career.

The built-in support and flexibility of selling on an existing platform is exactly what many people need to take their first step into the business world. For many people, it is like a micro version of buying their own franchise, in which they get the logistical help of a large company, while only operating on a small scale. Small-time sellers (and resellers) on platforms like eBay can often use support and advice—for example, when it comes dealing with legal issues likes taxes.

The U.S. is full of modest but inspiring success stories that platforms like eBay, Etsy, and Amazon have made possible. It is therefore especially alarming when we hear about proposals that would punish or break up these companies, making it harder for people like the DiBartolomeos to build a living on their own terms.