Fungible Funds

| September 9, 2002

Fungible Funds

With all of the twists and turns of the economy, people may be feeling at the whim of the market's touchiness. But Seneca Burr and Paul Saint-Amour in Swallowtail remind us that-- even in the U.S.--capitalism is not the only system out there, nor does it have to be the main one.

'These days when we think of the word 'economy,' we envision the baffling, impersonal machinery of the national economy,' they write. 'This Economy with a capital E is the monolith that all roads, both national and personal, lead to, an edifice as immovable as it is incomprehensible to the average citizen.'

But there are other, more subtle 'markets' that govern daily life, one being the 'gift economy,' the basic system of most households that relies on 'reciprocal favors founded in goodwill rather than dictated by contracts.' (The writers point out that the original meaning of 'economy' (from the Greek 'oikonomos') was 'the rules of the home.')

But just how much of a gift economy remains in the U.S., and how does it survive amid capitalism's 'buy, buy, buy' imperative? The writers say the Internet is one vestige of a gift economy because it has not been commodified-- yet. 'The nature of the gift lies in its donation and circulation,' they write, ' The moment that process is halted, the market takes over, the gift economy dies, and the community pays dearly for its loss.'
--Julie Madsen
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