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What is the Really, Really Free Market?

OccupyDC activists hosted a free goods-exchange event in Malcolm X  Park on Saturday, December 8 to benefit area residents. They aim to build a sharing collective that returns resources directly back to the people who need them. John Zangas explains the ideology behind D.C.’s first “Really, Really Free Market”.

Credit: Kingsport’s (TN) Really Really Free Market

The Really, Really Free Market is designed to benefit everyone in the community by simply re-distributing resources, at no cost. Members of the public are encouraged to bring something they no longer use, but is in usable condition, and offer it to someone who has a use for it. Anyone can take whatever they need, without the burden of a price tag. There is no requirement to give, and no requirement to take. The only “cost” to participants is a little bit of time they would ordinarily use to shop.

As a community resource designed to benefit everyone, the Market serves as an introduction to the concept of collective living. The guiding principle is sharing goods and services, which can provide vital resources directly to people in need. Ultimately, and on a grander scale, the practice can raise standards of living by releasing capital and freeing labor for community work, such as education and daycare. If such a collective sharing space were available in every community, people could be unbound from their obligation to the monetary system and wage labor. The Really, Really Free Market is a small step towards that goal.

On Saturday, there will be no limit to what people can donate into the market: cooked or prepared dishes, canned goods, clothing, books, appliances, household wares, anything that might be useful to someone. No credit cards will be accepted, no debit cards swiped, no checks written, no money will exchange hands, but folks will be meeting people in their community, exchanging stories, and making new friends.

Organizers are emphasizing the communal spirit of the event as much as its practical aims. “Bring stuff. Share stuff. Holiday cookies and warm cider will be served! Radical carols will be sung!” their publicity material exclaims, before succinctly explaining the Really, Really Free Market concept: “Come give and come get! The Really Really Free Market is a way to share the things around us without worrying about money, barter, or asking anything in return.”

The Really, Really Free Market is one of thousands of collectives working worldwide to circumvent exploitative monetary systems. These monetary systems run on the limited resources of the 99%, as both laborers and consumers, and entrap many in cycles of credit and debt. The 1%, investors and business owners, benefit directly as a result of others’ poverty: increasing profit margins by lowering wages, while demanding debt repayment with interest.

While capitalism depends on growth, the simple beauty of a collective system is its self-sustainability. When participants see themselves as both providers and beneficiaries, they come to value their role in the system, and are more likely to return to it. If someone acquires a free toaster or a winter coat and gains the utility of it for a year, they will never forget where it came from. They will be encouraged to return to that space, bring something they no longer need, and put it back into their community. The Really, Really Free Market is mutual aid in action.

Collective structures also save energy which is ordinarily spent creating products, shipping them, selling them, collecting them and disposing of them. Each stage of a product’s life cycle has an associated labor cost. In a capitalist system, we are taught to buy, buy, buy. Private ownership is valued above sharing. Goods used by one family are thrown out, not given away when no longer needed. Usable products end up in a landfill.

These flows of capital and labor enrich the 1%. Through collectivism—sharing—however, the usable portion of the goods are returned directly to the people. These flows of capital and labor enrich the 99%. That is the aim of the Really, Really Free Market.

The Really Really Free Market will take place on Saturday, December 8, 12pm to 5pm, at Malcolm X / Meridian Hill Park (16th Street and Florida Avenue). 

Note from the organisers:

If you decide to donate items, please make sure they are clean and in working and serviceable. If you’d like you can bring a dish, or something to share at the food section. You are not required to donate anything to come to the Really Really Free Market. Do bring along a blanket or tarp if you donate a large number of items.

Take along several plastic bags in case you find something you need.


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3 Responses to What is the Really, Really Free Market?

  1. Great idea.Enuff stuff goes to waste.

  2. i stopped by gave what i didnt need and carry; got me a book, some casettes and a small jacket. good i dea/r. then i went to a end death penalty show with 2 old school dc rock/punk bands (missed the first one) (and saw ‘el-amine’ on the way back on my trail—5 miles) and then since it stopped early i talked to my family for an hour and then went to see ‘familiar faces’ with ms. kim/ dj floyd etc (rare essence–dc go go) (no scooby i think) and someone bought me a beer and a couple others offered to jack me up but that was cuz they dont trust me. even suttle thoughts stopped by.

  3. I understand the concept and on a small community scale would work quite well I would suspect. If greed leaves the equation many good deeds can find their way into our lives.

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