In Gift Economy We Trust
What do we refer to when we say Free Walking Tour? Many people are new to the issue, so they think of Free as something “without cost or payment”. Then why would I work for free? But we are missing the point here. The English dictionary lists more than 20 different meanings for the term "Free"; one out of 20 is “without cost or payment”. When talking about Free, we talk about freedom not price: that's “the ability to act or be done as one wishes; not under the control of another”. Only keeping in mind this premise is possible to really understand our idea of Free Walking Tour.
It describes an activity people freely decide to join without any obligation. So, how much is it? That's exactly the point: there is no fixed price, people simply decide by their own how much it is worth for. Free Walking Tour, as many other businesses – think about the open source technologies – is truly described by the idea of gift economy, or rather an economic system where goods and services are not traded or sold but given without an explicit agreement, according to the relation GIVE-RECEIVE-RETURN (or simply called "the giving circle").
In a society persuaded to accumulate or purchase things, it’s indeed a radical choice to give. However, we all are familiar with or live in gift-economy systems: giving is something we do on a every day base because it makes us feeling good. Gift has always been one of the distinctive traits of human society; only today, with the prevalence of market economy, it has turned into something personal, bounded into our private sphere. Yet the examples of donation-based businesses are many – just think about domestic economy! The main difference is freedom: the absence of constriction, contract, coercion between the parts. It doesn't mean that there is no obligation – we would talk about ‘gratitude’ instead: if someone gives us something, we feel we owe it to him – rather there are no guarantees: participants make the price. Giving freedom to the people is finally a successful strategy: people are more aware of the value of what they are doing or buying. The focus switches from the things being traded to the people who trade, moved by a sense of fairness and their own economic resources. Are we all mad to trust in gift economy? We don’t think so. We wish we lived in a more human economy. We shall break down the mantra of price as the only valuable thing and start again to put people first.