What if we all lived in the gift economy?

by Andrew McLean (3 minute read)



Our 'collective stewardship' model was already too radical for most Australians. But we wanted to push ourselves further. We started the project by charging 'rent' (although we preferred the term 'weekly contribution') using an algorithm to decide how much each person pays - based on square meterage, access to services etc. But, in 2020 we decided to move away from the transaction, and into the gift. It made some people uncomfortable - "Just tell me what you want me to pay, and I'll pay it". But what happened next was astounding. People were asked to search their hearts, instead of our normal 'what can we get away with' attitude - an attitude of scarcity, we were freed to ask, 'what can I afford? What can I give". Which gave rise to internal monologues of abundance. "If I have all I need, then what can I give for this project to move forward?"

Some people doubled their weekly gift overnight!

Including me - someone who has been scratching and saving as much money since I was young.


The book, "Sacred Economics" by Charles Eisenstein came at just the right time for us. It's a brilliant, lucid work that is so important as so many of us seek to create a new world. It's available for the gift as well - of course. Downloadable here.


Charles asks tough questions and reflections on our economic system. I heard Bruce Pascoe (Author of Dark Emu) speak recently. He said,

"My people found a way to create a society where everyone has a job, shelter, food, water and community"

It made me question so much of how we - so called, enlightened society simply don't care enough to ensure that the 'least of these' (to quote Jesus), are cared for. To be fair, maybe it's not that we don't care, but people like yourself, are so busy earning minimum wage, commuting and paying taxes, that we simple don't have the 'bandwidth' to take in others needs.

Eisenstein says that capitalism has taken away what was once free and charges us for it. Perhaps there is some difficult truth in this meme? Life is actually a gift. Can we find a way to live in a way that feels less like trying to run through molasses under the weight of mortgages, appointments, and legislation?


What if we were to re-discover the gift economy. When we have our needs met, maybe we could feel free to gift our time and energy.


I'm proud that we, here at the Maleny Eco Village, have experimented, and are living with the gift economy.

The vibe at Maleny Eco Village is like a family you can choose

Families don't count hours of work each person does, or track their 'what have you done for me' ledgers. But we live firmly in the transaction at school or work, and it's so hard to snap out of that. I want to live in a world that is different to the one I'm in now. I would like people to be able to live freely in this world as they wish to. I wish for less transaction and more relationship - more gift. So in someways, our little 'nano-nation' is a small attempt at changing my world and it is.


I encourage all of you to read Charles' wisdom and to implement it into your lives. It changed our lives and whole project. Feel free to engage in our eco village and organisation, and find your own way to build your own nano-nation in the gift economy.


First Nations mob around Maleny talk about 'moving at the speed of trust'. Obviously this new world needs a level of trust to move into gift. But where else do we have to go other than trust and love?