What is a Gift Economy?
Most of us know the joy of giving gifts with friends and family. But many of us do not know the joy of giving gifts outside of our closest circles.
A gift economy is an economy where items are given as gifts with no expectation for any direct value. Giving gifts with no expectation of anything in return is an act of letting go of control, an act of generosity and an act of giving towards the greater health of a community or society.
Our dominant economy operates differently. Goods and services are typically not exchanged without receiving the equivalent value in money.
Gifts and Trust
One of the differences between gifting and selling is that we gift to those people that we trust and honor in our lives. We typically sell our products and services to anyone that is willing to pay for them. What if we also trusted and honored everyone we sold to?
We trust in money. An exchange ends with a specific expected outcome – money in our hands. With trust in money and with money in our hands we don’t need trust in people to operate.
Within close communities many of us can find common interests and common goals. Many of us are already operating in a gift economy with our close friends and family.
Our marketplace facilitates the ability to offer gifts to each other in a familiar online format, while extending opportunities to build trust and new relationships.
Hybrid Gift Economy
I’d like to suggest a hybrid gift economy. Hybrid because our vendors need to make money for the hard work to create their products and offer their services and I don’t want to take that away or devalue it.
Unfortunately most of us cannot envision ourselves living in a world where all exchanges are gifted because we are so entrenched in a culture that demands money to operate.
But I do hope that we can explore together what benefits come to us not as individuals, but as a community, when we operate in a gift economy. How might this inform the future that we want to build for ourselves and our children?
Vendors can offer something as a gift to anyone that would like to receive it. The recipient will still need to pay for shipping – unless the vendor decides to opt to pay for shipping.
Communication about a gift’s value
We’ve included the requirement for the recipient of a gift to specify how the gift will be improving their life. This is significant because it allows the recipient to think about the value of the gift, not in dollars or STEEM, but in an idea or expression of how their life will be better.
This communication may just build more community relationships by starting a conversation between gifter and recipient. This prompt also encourages the recipient to think about their relationship to the gift. On the other hand, it can also help vendors weed out individuals that they would rather not offer their gifts to. After all they should reserve the right to gift to who they want.
Gifts and Products
We prefer to keep products for sale separate from the Gifts so that gifts don’t detract from the products that are for sale. And yet gifts may have their own prominence.
Because we are operating different than other marketplaces that prioritize profit over people. We are putting people in front of profit. A marketplace that wants to squeeze as much profit as possible out of their vendors and their customers would never encourage gifts unless they were sure it would mean more money for them.
The Gift Economy
In our case, by looking past profit, our marketplace has the unique ability to explore more than one form of exchange.
Suppose you ask me this: Why would someone provide a gift on this marketplace rather than asking to be paid for a product?
I believe there is opportunity to feel rewarded in gifting to our fellow humans. The reward of giving can be very satisfying and has the potential to be equal or greater in value than the monetary value that is placed on a physical object.
Perhaps our relationships can become deeper if we look past the physical level and deeper into our spiritual connections with each other.
Opting Out of Greed
By not seeking profit, our market’s participants may interchange goods and services for like value. By not choosing profit we can opt out of middlemen in our transactions. Middlemen of transactions historically seek profit. A middleman that chooses to grow, and is able to grow, plausibly passes a point of seeking profit that turns into a greed snowball. Greed places dollar signs on the backs of customers, shoppers and advertisers until they are no longer seen as humans, but are seen only as profit or lack thereof. All decisions are made based on maximizing profit or minimizing loss, rendering ethics, morality and humanity obsolete.
Homesteaders Co-op is not a middleman in any transactions, whether they are made with money, by trade or as a gift. By choosing not to be a middleman we have the unique opportunity to opt out of greed. Certainly it is possible for greed to make its way into our marketplace, our minds and our actions. But our initial success and track record has been built on generosity, independence, empowerment and choice. Our actions and reputation are recorded on the steem blockchain for anyone to audit.
What is possible, that wasn’t possible before, when we put our ethics first and fear takes a back seat? This is what we hope to continue to reveal as we continue on with this intention.
What do the gifts mean to the Vendors?
We won’t encourage any vendor to offer gifts in our co-op unless they have an interest in it. We completely understand the importance of earning money. It will be completely up to the vendor whether they operate completely financially, completely in the gift economy or any combination. They are also not obligated to fulfill any gift request that they may receive.