« Gerry Gleason Update from the Leading Edge of The Gift Economy | Main | God Underwrites the Second Bottom Line »

October 03, 2009


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Christine Egger

Why either-or? Why require absconding from non-free currencies? I was with 100% of the vow right up to the first bullet ("I will not acquire or sell anything with conventional money anymore") and then with the second one the author lost me completely ("I leave every asset that I acquired in the past via this system. I will only keep what was offered to me as a gift.").

Consider me to have signed up for the entire vow except for those four bullets. Does that still count, should you be counting those who answer your call?

Tom Matrullo

A visionary, Saint Anthony (the Anchorite) version of Moore's Capitalism?


Thank you Tom. I don't think this is as ascetic as the Hermits and St. Anthony, and there is a deep connection as well.


Looking at the vow, the part you cite is actually in a sort-of addendum of "practical actions", and not part of the vow proper. It is up to each of us who might take this vow to figure out how to live it as a practical matter, and to question how this is consistent with our vow.

I am coming to understand that what is measured and accumulated in scarce currencies is not wealth at all, but rather something a lot more mundane: resources. Let's look at the "Antiques Road Show" picture of wealth. If the object being appraised is actually valued as wealth, the appraiser will give an "insurance value" rather than an "auction value", and it these cases the owner does not care that much about the price, they are keeping it in the family anyway. If it were destroyed or stolen, the insurance settlement would be small consolation.

If on the other hand it is just an object to the owner, a high appraisal will likely lead to the sale of that item. That is to say, when you are ready to trade something away, it is no longer wealth for you, it is only a resource (to be exploited). Another case may be an object that is a rare cultural artifact. Here the price may tell me that it is more valuable to the commons, and too important for me to care for it the way it deserves. Giving it to a museum would have a lot more integrity than selling it.

This is a path to the understanding of gift-giving as wealth generating. This is in a way similar to the wealth generating capacity of markets, only you have taken out the power relationships that are almost always part of markets. These power aspects of markets are directly related to scarcity. For resources, scarcity may be a reality and taking it into account is important.

Back in the ARS context, if I have something that is much more valuable to someone else than it is to me, I will trade it away for something that is more valuable to me (as a resource). I could also just gift it. Now, money and currencies are at base informations systems to help make decisions about the best use of resources and wealth. I generate wealth in a gift because I place the resource with those who value it most, not on a resource scale, but as wealth.

This is at the core of the move to new non-scarce currencies. There is no incentive to devalue something to "purchase it at a better price". The transaction is: the gift moves from giver to receiver, and appreciation moves the other way (actually both ways). The appreciation currency is not scarce, I can appreciate as much as I have the time and energy for, and it is of course deeply connected not to my need for resources, but to what I say is wealth for me. This process can make visible the conversion of resources to wealth without any opportunity for power relations in the market to extract a cut.


Monks to the left of us, ascetics to the right ... something in the nature of money and wealth is sacred, for sure.


I don't know, maybe money is profane. I have never seen it function as sacred, despite the way MBA's hold to it as a religion. Financial institutions have done their best to make all that is sacred profane by the application of a single limited filter of value denominated in scarce currencies.

Phil Cubeta

Maybe the connection between St Anthony and what Gerry is saying is in the idea of "treasures in heaven," or the kingdom within, or caritas, grace and love, or appreciation, which are the true wealth possessed even by the widow who was honored by Jesus for giving away her "mite," the tiny last coin that separated her from the destitute. She was, Jesus, said the biggest giver.

"Abundance" might be another word for the "treasure" created and protected in the economy of the gift, or the circulation of love, grace, gratitude, services, and goods, but all subordinate to and expressing grace, graciousness, and the love that confirms a community.

Charity starts at home, which is why in some circumstances we speak of our community members as brothers and sisters, call the pastor, Father, and speak of brethren.

I am not saying this has to be formally religious, but as the Vow shows, its antecendent formations were indeed religious communities.


Well yes, that is certainly one way to look at it, and a very good one.

But I am also trying to make a more practical point. Just like trading makes both parties richer because they are trading something less dear to them for something less dear to the other, gifting what we cannot use well to someone who can increases the general wealth, and to the extent that wealth for me is also wealth inn commons, I am objectively better off having exchanged gifts.

Phil Cubeta

The total welfare is greater, but how is the giver objectively better off, unless he or she gets "credit" in some way, paid in gratitude, ious, funny money, or credit stored up in heaven? Subjectively better off, ok, but objectively?


It depends on how wide you draw the circle of self, but even if he insists on drawing a very narrow circle, the rich man (or woman) is objectively better off by sharing. You have to look at wealth, not money/resources. In what sense is $X billions wealth? Only in the sense that it gives power. The next million plus or minus on a billion is not significant in terms of wealth. What can I do with it? How can I experience it as wealth? Unless you think like Candidia and get a kick out of humiliating people, it is worth nothing.

Making this visible is also what the metacurrency work is all about, but I claim that even if it is not visible, the logic above is operating. If wealth is really in relationship, in the power to influence without force, then anyone who has a lot (resources) will get more value from giving to meet a need than hoarding something of little marginal value to him.

Phil Cubeta

Sounds like an excellent way of explaining the benefits of philanthropy, it transforms money into another sort of currency, one not demominated in dollars, call it the economy of love. Plus the money well used by the gift can have specific benefits, of course, for the cause and the populations served (health, education, arts).


Been ruminating about education reform in the gift economy. Was inspired by this talk:


Since then I have been pondering how to connect all these ideas. Education reform is needed because we live in a post-industrialized society, so we need to shift the paradigm. How do we educate in a post-industrialized society? Beyond students as cogs in a machine? Trying to flesh these thoughts out.

Phil Cubeta

Yes, education key.


Very key.

I've tried tweeting about it, but thoughts are not congealing.

How do we shift from economy of scarcity to one of true wealth? How can we shift from educating kids for the next job instead of education as a gift? Given as a gift and received as a gift. And so then giving back as a joy and not as an obligation.

Phil Cubeta

Sounds like you and Gerry are thinkig about the same things. Education as human flourishing, as a healthy plant grows and yields fruit, seeds, and new plants.


Have you come accross @mushin in you web wanderings: The Painful Labor of Emergence http://retwt.me/D3Pq

Phil Cubeta

Thanks, blogged it.


Continuing the conversation. Do you find this vow to be "radical" ?


Phil Cubeta

Radical from "radix" for root. Yes, radical, but we need clear statements of the root issues, since clearly, among the radicals in this tradition were Jesus, Seneca, Diogenes, Rousseau, Thoreau and so many in our moral tradition.


Right, but I think JF's friend meant it more in the sense of revolutionary defiance and radical separation from the mainstream. I think it is radical in this sense of going to the root of the matter.

It is interesting that many people think that if you make a strong spiritual stand based on a rootedness like this, that you necessarily are going to want to convert everyone by fundamentalist zeal. It is dangerous to be sure, but more like the radical danger of people actually following the teachings of Jesus rather than telling everyone else how they should.

Phil Cubeta

In God We Trust, so it says on the Almighty Dollar.


Your replies get harder to decode as time flows by. Like an oracle, the meaning needs to be constructed by the seeker.

Phil Cubeta

And that pyramid on the dollars and the all seeing eye? God and Money seem to have fused. To get them disentangled does seem radical, going back to an earlier understanding of God and Mammon.


I think that is part of the point of JF's post. Though we are aware of these deep foundations, it also isn't necessary to go there to take up this vow. Some people get frightened when you inquire into matters of foundations, and though this movement does in the end deconstruct current financial institutions, it doesn't do it through violence or even opposition.

Though true, this can be off-putting for many, so we don't want to start there. I think this is also related to the idea of "addressing each of the tribal levels present" from that TED video I recently linked. This way of thinking is only for those who have reached level 5 and are moving beyond even that.

Phil Cubeta

Thank you for all the connections and links. I have been so immersed these days in course design that I have not had time to forage around on the web for leading edge ideas and trends.

The comments to this entry are closed.


Wealth Bondage Premium Content

  • Castle by the Sea
    Provided as a professional courtesy at no extra charge to those with net worth of $25 million or more and/or family income of $500,000 a year or more, and to their Serving Professionals of all genders.