Gift Economy

Mar. 2, 2018

Charles Eisenstein claims to be a degrowth activist and promotes a gift economy. He points out that money is an agreement, a manmade invention. Scarcity is built into the money system which throws people into competition and many basic human needs do not get met. Nature becomes a commodity and things that were once part of the commons must now be earned.

A Gift Economy is one where status is given to individuals based on what they give to others as opposed to a commodity or exchange economy where status is given to those individuals who have the most. In a gift economy generosity is a way of life and it tends to balance inequity. The more you give, the richer you are. A person who hoards wealth is not viewed positively. In a gift economy, work driven by passion is an expression of our gifts. This is the type of economy Native Americans practiced before Europeans colonized North America.

An example Eisenstein offers is about power tools. A community or neighborhood could keep a set of power tools available to all community members. Of course, this works against the growth economy because this will reduce how many power tools need to be manufactured. But it reduces environmental impact because less resources need to be used. A gift economy builds real community and has less of an impact on the environment. Of course, a gift economy presumes the better nature of people; that people will take care of the commons. But when there is less competition and income inequality, community members’ basic needs are met.

Charles Eisenstein Videos

Short version:

Longer version 12 minutes: