Friday, August 04, 2006

Morons Use Commerce to Avoid... Commerce?

I stumbled upon the Burning Man festival via a comment on A Stitch In Haste.

It doesn’t sound particularly interesting (to me) but I found something odd in the description of the event.

Primary Focus of the Event

Commerce-free event. No cash transactions are allowed at Burning Man

The participants instead rely on a gift economy, a sort of potlatch. Since the earliest days of the event, an underground barter economy has also existed, in which burners exchange material goods and/or favors with each other;

Um, isn’t any exchange of goods de facto commerce?
Commerce is the trading of something of economic value such as goods, services, information or money between two or more entities.

The arbitrary banning of money (which is what I assume they mean by commerce free) is rather inefficient. If I want a groovy Burning-Man t-shirt but the guy that has one only wants a Che t-shirt and I only have Eliot Sptizer t-shirts I’m probably not going to get what I want.

The concept of money is to allow everyone to possess something that can be universally traded. I have $10, I give it to the guy with the Burning Man t-shirt and he, in turn, gives it to the guy with the Che t-shirt. Everyone gets what they want without have to deal with a bunch of unnecessary transactions (which are still commerce).

People find the dumbest ways to show their dislike for capitalism without understanding that their replacement activity is really an inefficient form of the exact same system that they are trying to protest.


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