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The Free Non-Market?

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02/07/2005

The Economist for February 5 contains an article that, for many of us, introduces a novel mode of production: sharing. While voluntary (without which it would be confiscation, not sharing), this mode of exchange seems to abjure not only counterexchanges of money, but any and all kinds of formal bookkeeping of the sort that normally accompanies barter and other forms of nonmonetary exchange.

As a former kibbutznik, the author, Yochai Benkler of Yale University Law School, has experience of sharing that most Austrians would have only a masochistic interest in experiencing. But Benkler's paper in the Yale Law Journal that the article refers to seems altogether free of cant, neither advocating any sort of moral program nor proposing any increase in government intervention into the process. Perhaps as Ronald Coase was seen to do, he advocates the avoidance of regulatory frameworks that are, often unconsciously, so oriented to obsolete assumptions regarding modes of exchange as to frustrate the highly productive kinds of sharing that have grown up in at least the two very interesting examples he cites. Regardless, just as sharing is a mode of production, so also is it a market. Just without money, receivables, or payables.

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