This week’s blog is borrowed from Seth Godin, I highly-recommend subscribing to his blog if you haven’t already. He shares many snippets of his genius.
One of the little-remembered innovations of the industrial economy was the price tag.
If it was for sale, you knew how much it cost.
And if you got a job, you knew what you got paid–by the piece, at first, and then by the hour and perhaps by the week.
Both price tags and pre-agreed wages are pretty new ideas, ideas that fundamentally changed our culture.
By putting a price on buying and selling of goods and effort, industrialists permitted commerce to flow. One of the side effects, as Lewis Hyde has pointed out, is that knowing the price depersonalizes the transaction. It’s even steven, we’re done, goodbye.
Compare this to the craftsperson who won’t sell to someone she doesn’t respect, or the cook who charges people based on what he thinks someone can afford, or based on what he’ll need to keep this project going a little longer… These ad hoc transactions are personal, they bring us closer together. Everything doesn’t have to have a price if we don’t let it.
Which leads to the eagerly avoided questions like, “What do you owe the editors at Wikipedia?” or “Is it okay to blog if you don’t get paid for it?” and “Is there a difference between staying at a friend of a friend’s house and staying at an Airbnb?” When people use Kickstarter as a sort of store, they denature the entire point of the exercise.
Seeking out personal transactions might be merely a clever way to save money. But in a post-industrial economy, it’s also a way to pay it forward and to build community.
Sometimes, we don’t pay because we have to, we pay because we can.