File puptcrit/puptcrit.0811, message 301

Date: Tue, 18 Nov 2008 17:44:51 -0800
Subject: Re: [Puptcrit] Gift Economy

Should these vandals be simply admonished with a frown and a stern  
word, or required to pay resitution and perform community service? In  
other words, what are our expectations with regard to goods and  
services which are, by virtue of the "gift economy", worthless/ 
priceless? And isn't the idea of a "gift economy" simply the obverse,  
on the demand side, of Milton Friedman's economic theories on the  
supply side? Isn't it better to organize an economic society based on  
known human behaviors, with incentives and disincentives, enticements  
and dis-enticements, with effective governing instruments to keep us  
from constantly punching ourselves in the face?

Such a structure does not necessarily mean that those agents that are  
helpless to resolve their own needs and desires will be left to starve  
and die. They'll be integrated into the social fabric because we all  
fear the time when we ourselves are helpless. Such integration will be  
done pragmatically, based on circumstance and abilities, pretty much  
the same as it is done now.

At times during the history of Japanese culture which were  
characterized by extreme poverty, old people would willingly go into  
the mountains to die, rather than continue to consume resources  
desperately needed by their children. This was a social expectation,  
and the timing was often determined by subtle coercion on the part of  
the younger members of the family. However the reality of the  
situation was the common agreement of all.

Milton Friedman's theories were introduced into diverse political  
contexts (Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, etc.) with guns and  
disappearances serving, de facto, functions similar to price controls  
and market regulation. Consumers were not provided the same options to  
effect their needs and desires (guns, disappearances,) or a kind of  
symmetry and balance might have been achieved. I suspect that the  
attempt to institute a "gift economy" would have the same disastrous  
consequences as Chicago School economic theory has had in the contexts  
where it has been introduced.

I see little in the "gift economy" idea to alter my belief that a  
mixed economy is best, i.e. aspects of capitalism, socialism, gift- 
giving, along with the requisite controls and enforcements effected by  
democratic will, with a pragmatic preference for what works.

-Bill Elston

On Nov 18, 2008, at 4:46 PM, Alan Cook wrote:

> While we are talking abou gift economy, we need to consider the  
> recipients.
> Free to sit on bus benches, public parks, schoolgrounds are often  
> abused and vandalized. Recipients have responsibilities to not abuse  
> the gifts but care for them.
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