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A Gift Worth Paying For: An Alternate Economic System

In our modernized system, it’s not as simple as identifying as a Karl Marx fan or a capitalist devotee. The economic infrastructure is an intricate design involving a multi-faceted platform with many entities. Economics is at the center of everything. Every choice we make, be it within the constructs of relationships, business, education, consumerism, politics, religion, health, communications, economics is taken into consideration. For some, that may be an unsettling thought, but it doesn’t have to be. Economics in itself, as a discipline, practice, or theory is not negative. It can become negative through how we define it, attribute value to it, and interact with it. A concept called Sacred Economics by Charles Eisenstein led me to carefully consider a few things about our current economic system. The video is definitely worth watching.

“Charles Eisenstein is a teacher, speaker, and writer focusing on themes of civilization, consciousness, money, and human cultural evolution” (http://bit.ly/VxHigR). The term Sacred Economics actually refers to an anthropological and social science of a Gift Economy. Wikipedia defines it as:

In anthropology and the social sciences, a gift economy (or gift culture) is a mode of exchange where valuable goods and services are regularly given without any explicit agreement for immediate or future rewards (i.e. no formal quid pro quo exists). Ideally, voluntary and recurring gift exchange circulates and redistributes wealth throughout a community, and serves to build societal ties and obligations. In contrast to a barter economy or a market economy, social norms and custom governs gift exchange, rather than an explicit exchange of goods or services for money or some other commodity.

You may wonder how this type of economic construct could apply to a modern system. Essentially, in science and technology, a gift economy prevails.

Engineers, scientists and software developers create open-source software projects. The Linux kernel and the GNU operating system are prototypical examples for the gift economy’s prominence in the technology sector and its active role in instating the use of permissive free software and copyleft licenses, which allow free reuse of software and knowledge. Other examples include: file-sharing, the commons, open access (Wiki).

Market economies were established when city states became more prevalent, and a more complex money system was necessary. Take into consideration the eruption of social media tools and management systems. Social media operates on a gift economic infrastructure in that it differentiates itself from a market economy on three accounts – context (relationship rather than transaction), earned rather than bought status, and the creation of social currencies.

In the Pacific Northwest, native tribes developed the ritual of the potlatch. Status was given not to those who accumulated the most wealth, but instead to those who gave the most to the community (http://bit.ly/MvjAuC)

Perhaps this type of economic philosophy sounds like fluff and infeasible to execute, but consider why you would think that. Our modern system no longer entirely operates on a gift economy so it’s difficult for society to comprehend an alternative economic operative process. Given our complex and expansive global economic system, an integration of a market and gift economy would be an optimal model to consider. How would we incorporate this? Would we refer to the mechanical and social operations of media, technology, and networking? Which entities would be involved? This would require a complex, collaborative process, but it’s completely plausible to execute. More on this in my next post.

-Share and spread the economic gift-



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