The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Will The Laws Of Economics Support It?

Posted on | December 29, 2011 | 11 Comments

by Smitty

The post is titled: “I’m Proud to Be a Freeloader: Taking is as Important as Giving in Collaborative Consumption”

No Right or Wrong Answer
It’s a problem I’ve been pondering in my own experiences with setting up a neighborhood tool share. So far my neighbors seem delighted to lend, but I am the only one doing the borrowing. It’s easy to start feeling like a freeloader, until you realize that the borrower is as valuable a part of the transaction as the lender is. Of course if I now refused to lend to neighbors as and when they reach out, that would be a serious detriment to the system (not to mention it would make me look like a dick), but as long as each gives or lends according to what they have, and asks, borrows and takes according to what they need, then it’s important not to put too many barriers up to reaching out.

The only way I can even relate to this is in a church setting. In a Christian context, one can argue that we are all theologically equivalent, freeloaders upon the grace of God. And yet, anyone truly moved by the Gospel is unlikely to be motionless. Freeloaders happen, but a church is likely to place positive peer pressure upon them to, you know, read the Bible and be productive.

Marx preached “the Kingdom of God, hold the God”. Marx may not really own the results, but the ideas he generated merit careful study and rejection for their appeal to anti-liberty forces since Das Kapital.

People don’t scale. What you can do with the neighbors on your block is not what you can do state-wide. Something like Favabank can work in your neighborhood. Something like it might even have a bit of traction in Sweden. But watch it utterly capsize at the full U.S. population, #Occupy my words.

Via Althouse


11 Responses to “Will The Laws Of Economics Support It?”

  1. Christy Waters
    December 29th, 2011 @ 3:04 pm

    Well, screw going back to work on Monday… I’m liking this whole vacation bit. #ProfessionalVacationer

  2. EBL
    December 29th, 2011 @ 3:11 pm

    Actually the Pilgrims tried it, and starved the first year.  They abandoned it and the colony prospered.  Been there.  Done that.

  3. TrogloPundit
    December 29th, 2011 @ 3:19 pm

    I once had a conversation with a guy who was upset at the idea of accepting charity – he was in a position to need some.  I asked him how we’re supposed to follow Jesus’ mandate to charity if nobody will accept that charity?

    That’s different from being a willing freeloader, of course. 

  4. EBL
    December 29th, 2011 @ 3:21 pm
  5. herddog505
    December 29th, 2011 @ 3:25 pm

    It’s easy to start feeling like a freeloader, until you realize that the borrower is as valuable a part of the transaction as the lender is.

    Well, yes, but only to the extent that one cannot lend unless somebody else borrows.  Takes two to tango and so forth…

    However, I get the idea that the author (Grover) is confusing borrower / lender with buyer / seller.  The former is a case of charity; the latter is a mutually beneficial arrangement.  If a man borrows my shovel, I may feel good about my altruism and it may encourage him to do something nice for me some day, but if a man BUYS my shovel, he has something that he can use indefinitely and I get some money out of it.  Win / win.*

    This, incidentally, is why capitalism works and provides goods and services more efficiently than other economic models: the system is built on concrete incentives.


    (*) This is not to say that there’s something wrong with borrowing or lending, or that one should act only some immediate reward / incentive.  Charity, even the minor charity of lending a tool to a neighbor, is a virtuous and commendable thing.

  6. Anonymous
    December 29th, 2011 @ 4:15 pm

    The benefit of lending and borrowing capital is that it connects those with idle capital with those who can be productive.  That’s the idea behind bank deposits and the loans made by the deposit taker.

    The case of a neighborhood tool bank isn’t really much different.  Most people don’t use all of their tools all of the time.  In fact, I have lots of tools that I’ve only used a couple of times.

    When the neighbor borrows the tool, presumably he’s doing something productive on his property.  This might not directly benefit the lender, but it takes an idle asset and puts it to work.

    I’d argue that in the case of sharing tools, there is a benefit of improved property maintenance and increased values.  It increases the productivity of neighborhood capital, perhaps at the expense of the local Home Depot, but that’s how productivity goes.  Ultimately, the borrowers probably have a higher standard of living than they otherwise would, and the lenders might, too.  The current lenders may ultimately take advantage of the tool bank.

    I don’t see anything that violates economics generally, though it does require a certain amount of trust among the participants.  But then, what doesn’t?

  7. Dana
    December 29th, 2011 @ 4:27 pm

    Since I own more tools — a lot more tools — than I actually have,  I think I understand that guy.

  8. K-Bob
    December 29th, 2011 @ 5:22 pm

    A neighborhood tool thingy sounds nice.  Don’t put anything in there you need to make a living with, though.

  9. Adjoran
    December 29th, 2011 @ 7:26 pm

    His “neighborhood tool bank,” as I understand it, isn’t a physical warehouse of tools, but rather an advance agreement between several parties to lend to each other.  It is no different than one guy borrowing a tool from another except the agreement is in advance.  It works just fine until a couple of tools aren’t returned on time or in the condition in which they were lent, then it falls apart.

    But it has exactly ZERO relevance to the website, where these “favas” aren’t to neighbors who you can see come home from work, but to strangers on the intertubes.  If it lasts a year, I’ll be shocked.

  10. Adjoran
    December 29th, 2011 @ 7:28 pm

    But it does give me a chance to relay my favorite tool-borrowing story.

    A guy knocks on his neighbor’s door and asks to borrow his lawnmower.  The neighbor says, “I’m sorry, I can’t lend you my lawnmower – my wife is making soup.”

    Dejected, the first man turned to leave but then turned back and inquired, “Say, what does your wife making soup have to do with me borrowing your lawnmower?”

    “Well, nothing really,” the neighbor replied, “but if I don’t want to lend you my lawnmower, one excuse is as good as another!”

  11. Jorge Emilio Emrys Landivar
    December 30th, 2011 @ 12:43 am

    Again, keynesian ideas do not work.