The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Sunday, October 15, 2000

Potlatch, the New Economy

Potlatch is a system of giving to obtain social status. It was a system practiced by the Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest (and possibly elsewhere, although I'm only familiar with it in the Pacific Northwest).

It's not the accumulation of wealth that conveys importance to a person or family in a potlatch system, but distribution (or destruction in some cases) of wealth that makes a person or family influential.

This was an actual survival mechanism, those who had the fortune to obtain large amounts of tradable goods would give out to those that were not so fortunate (say, due to flood, drought, or other natural disaster) with the implication that when times turn bad for them, there will be some other “big man” (to borrow a term) to give stuff out.

Note that this is an economic system based upon abundance or overabundance and might be another way for people like musicians to make a living: the more they give away, the more influence they gain.

Something to think about.

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