Seth Godin Akimbo: The Gift Economy

In his Akimbo podcast, Seth Godin teaches us how to adopt a posture of possibility, change the culture, and choose to make a difference. Here are my takeaways from the episode.

In this podcast, Seth discussed how we are moving from an economy that is based on scarcity to a model that works much better based on the idea of abundance.

In the typical capitalistic economy, the concept of private property is critical. The modern economy is based on the idea that rational people who have the same consideration of time will make rational decisions about how to allocate scarce property. When someone owns a property, someone else cannot own that same property at the same time.

The concept of private property is quite pervasive. It is also a powerful engine that changes our culture and our world. We have come up with many ways of enhancing our economic model that depends on scarcity and a zero-sum game.

But not everything works equally well with this private property model. Many important ideas in life work well because they are widespread. Sometimes we turn those into ideas into private property by patenting them, and sometimes those ideas spread freely and benefit others.

These days we have a different class of goods in addition to the private property. Those goods work better when more people engage with them. For example, when it comes to digital goods, monetizing it for the benefit of its creator is one way but not the only way. We can monetize some digital goods and transfer the monetary benefit to another group. We can exchange the digital goods we created for something else, such as reputation and recognition. We can even focus on spreading the digital goods around by making it available for free.

Today we live in a world where interoperability matters. That is where people being in sync is better than people not being in sync. We all benefit from ideas that can spread and help people move forward. Particularly if the idea does not cost us anything and might benefit us at the same time, in that culture, the obsession with turning everything into private property might be misguided.

Time like this is when we start moving from a capitalist economy to a gift economy. In the gift economy, a gift can freely change hands from one person to another. When we receive a gift, we do not consider that gift our personal, private property. If the gift helps us, we can keep benefit from it. If someone else can benefit from that gift even more, we should consider giving that gift to those who can benefit from it.

For many great pieces of art in our lives, it never occurred to anyone to get rich, making a painting or song that the purpose of monetizing a painting or song. The purpose was to express our gift, our humanity, to share a little bit of our soul. When that art or idea is spread from one person to another, it creates society culture in sync.

The sharing of ideas feeds each of us, particularly from the artist who was generous enough to make it in the first place. We now have the urgency to make the gift economy matter because it encourages us to do work that matters for people who care. To create circles of gifts that keep giving and keep circulating. The gift economy matters not because we seek reciprocity and more private property, but because we seek the idea of working together because together might be better than alone.