A free store is a “store” where all goods are free. Whether it is a book, furniture, a shirt, or a haircut, it is all freely given away. It’s a place where anyone can participate by leaving stuff they don’t want or taking stuff they do. No strings attached.
The items in the store are either given as gifts to the Free Store, or found in the streets. New York City is world renowned for having the best “garbage”. Perfectly good stuff can be found in trash bags on the streets every day.
Mutual aid is the voluntary exchange of resources and services. Instead of looking to corporations or the state, we can look to one another for what we need. This practice has existed for thousands of years in many societies. Capitalism creates a false sense of scarcity by placing monetary value on everything from the environment to human life, in order to build wealth. Mutual aid focuses on building community wealth, and not only in terms of material gain. Mutual aid places value on a large spectrum, not just on monetary or material goods. Mutual aid creates cooperation instead of competition.
At the free store, we don’t use terms like “donation” or “barter” or “trade.” A gift economy means giving what you have to give, and taking whatever you want or need. A gift economy is a society based on mutual aid where goods and services are regularly given without any agreement for immediate or future rewards.
On paper this may seem problematic, because people are greedy and will just take and take. But it’s obvious by the amount of goods in the Free Store, that that’s not the case at all. The greed we see in our society is largely fueled by the sense of scarcity created by capitalism. If we’re willing to share and practice mutual aid then we’ll see that there’s enough of everything for everyone.
When: April 24th, 2015
Where: 4219 12th PL. NE, Washington, DC 20017
Time: 4 pm – 7 pm EST
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