The gift in the circle, and the market around it

The following echoes a basic intuition that I formuled 2-3 years ago in my manuscript, P2P and Human Evolution, i.e. envisaging a form of society, where the gifting/peer production is at the center, and the market at the margins. In this report by Guillaume LeBleu, on the Beyond Money meeting in San Francisco, Matthew Edwards explains that between those two concentric circles, intermediaries are missing, and this is what we need to focus and work on.

This is a very important insight, since the impersonal aspects of modern money do have advantages over a purely social system based on social relationships with people that we know. In Edwards proposal, the advantages of both impersonality and relationality are integrated in a higher unity through diversified specialized systems that seamlessly work with each other.

Guillaume LeBlue:

“* Mathew (Edwards) presented a model of trust as concentric networks, with the core circle as most trust-worthy in which a gift economy operates, and outside of this circle the rest of the world, the global economy with global currencies. For Mathew, there is little in between and this is where an intermediate concentric network must emerge with a mix of gift economy with a bit of accounting/reputation and local currencies with less influence of global market forces. He gave as an example the Village Network currency systems, which operate both as a gift-economy and mutual credit currency. He explained that in this system, everything starts with the expression of a need by a member, that others are offering to satisfy (ex. need a ride to the airport), rather than by a marketplaces of products/services offered that can be shopped for.

* We discussed how deeply unsatisfactory exchanges can be, compared to authentic gifts: “billing for necessities makes me feel really bad”, earning $1500 in a WE for a wedding you don’t want to be at, having to asks patients or students for money knowing they don’t have it. Binal Shah of Karma Clinic shared with us in a small group how she provides healthcare to patients on a gift economy basis. Here is what she says to her patients: “What I provided you is worth way more than you can possibly pay for it so I’m going to give it to you”. She simply trusts that the ripple effects of her gifts will come back to her and satisfy her needs. Another attendee, who is an educator, as well as Mathew mentioned how he provides a service on a sliding scale basis, but with a commitment to always says “Yes” even if the patient cannot pay the full price, sustaining their activity by the generous contributions of some clients that allow them to provide service for free to others.

* Someone mentioned how existing platforms such as CouchSurfing could be extended to provide housing and foor for people volunteering (not just for CS, but any volunteering). This is in line with some ideas I introduced in my talk.

* Anthony Di Franco summarized a discussion by saying that our perception of scarcity is a self-realizing phenomena and that we must find ways to change this perception to a perception of abundance, which in turn will entice people to give more.”

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