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The Potlatch Economy

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Joined: 17 Mar 2006
Posts: 712
Location: Oregon

PostPosted: Fri Jul 21, 2006 8:57 am    Post subject: The Potlatch Economy Reply with quote

Last night I was talking with a group of people about the skills and trades
needed in a post-peak-oil society. As an aside, I started to realize that
a list that one person had made was oriented toward a particular
scenario of post-peak-oil, one that had a decidedly medieval cast to
it. My outlook is a bit shorter-term, and more gradual. Gas and food
become more expensive. The cost of commuting rises to the point
where some jobs are uneconomical, so unemployment rises. The cost
of goods manufactured in China or elswhere become more expensive.
Folks may have the time and good reasons to reconnect with their
neighbors to trade goods and services. etc.

In any case, for a wide variety of scenarios, money may be either
hard to come by, or devalued as a currency. You might see an
increase in bartering. We might even see a move to the Potlatch
economy. The tradition of the Potlatch comes from Northwestern
Indian tribes. A tribe would host other tribes to feasts and give gifts
to them. The tribe (and its leader) were valued by what they gave,
not by what they hoarded.

And I think that this could work for Americans. You give your
neighbor some apples from your tree, and they may give you a
pie or some cider, or help fix your porch. Each of you may well
think they got the better of the deal, and rightly so.

What is surprising to me is that we haven't embraced this idea
on a more widespread basis already. We have charities and
freecycle, but considering the incredible material wealth, the
real surplus that most Americans now possess, the garages with no
space for cars because they are filled with what they ought to
consider junk, but which could be a treasure or a needed material
for someone else, there is an amazing potential to redistibute
the "wealth" in our society, voluntarily.

I think that the reason this has not happened, and paradoxically,
might be more prominent in the future is because of the mindset
of "scarcity". Our parents and grandparents may have lived with
the great depression of the 30's, and known what true scarcity
was, but I think the main instigator of this mindset is a "meme"
(see other fora for discussion of memes) propagated by the media
that there is not enough; that you need more to be happy. My
sense is that this mindset dominates most people's thinking, and
it takes a "jolt" of some kind for people to recognize that they
not only have "enough", but that they have more than enough,
enough to share.

Consider this: when measured against world standards, a family
that has an income of $35,000 (a middle-class or lower-middle-class
income) would be considered amongst the "super-rich" along with
Bill Gates.

If and when true scarcity arrives, folks might be more willing and
interested in sharing. How many lawnmowers and hedge trimmers
are needed on any given block? Do I need to bargain with you
when I give you some extra plums? Not if the potlatch economy
takes hold.

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Joined: 20 Mar 2006
Posts: 1273
Location: Kent (East Hill), WA

PostPosted: Thu Jan 10, 2013 3:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

From the webpages of ...

The sharing economy, from soup to nuts

From cars to kids’ clothes to cold hard cash, sharing is caring more than ever before. The sharing economy builds and leverages social bonds, creates a more democratic marketplace, reduces the sheer amount of stuff we need to buy, and creates more resilient communities in the process. It’s the bastard child of market disruption that began on the web decades ago (Napster, anyone?), but it’s a child with a conscience.

Last edited by jabailo on Sun Jan 27, 2013 7:13 am; edited 1 time in total
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Joined: 20 Mar 2006
Posts: 1273
Location: Kent (East Hill), WA

PostPosted: Sun Jan 27, 2013 7:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Is the Sharing Economy Innately Sustainable?

There’s no doubt that sharing promotes collaborative exchange and that husbanding our natural resources is good for the environment, but will this trend of “what’s mine is yours” continue to promote sustainability?
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