Free Resources

by Flemming Funch, 22 April 95.

My vision of a future society is one where resources are freely shared, where cooperation and mutual respect is the norm, and where we can find synergetic strength in our diversity.

One of my approaches for moving towards a society where things are free is to gradually increase the percentage of my own resources that I can comfortably offer freely to other.

It is also clear to me that it is an developing business trend, to offer some things for free and to charge for other things. And the amount of quality stuff and services you can get for free from viable businesses is growing. Take for example Netscape who manufacturers Web browsers and servers. Their business model was from the start to give their main product, the Netscape Navigator, away for free. Based on that it is now the most popular product of its kind, as well as it is the highest quality product. And Netscape is now the recognized leader in this field and seems to be making more and bigger business deals than any of their competitors based on that.

Offering a product for free is no longer just a trick to get people in to buy something more expensive. Increasingly it only works if the free product is of high quality and is given away without any strings attached.

It doesn't work well to give something away one doesn't really own or in a way that one can't viably support. The resources need to be present and unencumbered before one can succeed well in giving them away.

I am thinking now that it is probably a very good personal strategy to become clear on what resources or services one has available to give freely of, and which resources or services one will have to be exchanged directly in valuables for, in order to survive viably.

For most of us, no matter what we do, I think there is a level of service we can provide that we are comfortably giving for free. Or even that it is most practical to give it for free. At the very least it is a smile or some kind words to another. And then there is a level of service that we will have to demand something in exchange for.

I am a counselor, I do personal sessions with people. I charge $80 per session for doing so, and feel good about that. I do not feel good about doing it for free, and if I did so it would at this point take away from my freedom to do whatever else I might want to do with my life.

However, there are actions I will happily do for free and that I wouldn't feel good about charging money for, even though they are valuable. Anybody can send me an e-mail message and ask me something, seek my advice, pose philosophical questions, or try to draw on my knowledge or connections. I can viably make that service available freely, and it would be impractical and distracting if I had to think about that I ought to be paid for doing it.

Likewise, I've written some training manuals that it is a bit of a bother to sell on mailorder in their printed form. But it is very easy to leave them on an ftp or WWW server and allow anybody who wants them to pick them up. I can do that viably and it makes me feel good.

But, if somebody asked me to write a new training manual for a specific purpose, I probably wouldn't want to do that without being paid for it.

Or, if somebody tried to commit me to answering 5 personal questions every day over e-mail, I couldn't do that.

The freedom to choose WHAT to give and WHEN to give it is crucial.

We each have an inner need for security and for being compensated or rewarded for what we do. That is most likely satisfied by a combination of free action and paid actions.

What I am suggesting is to be very specific with yourself and others on what you are available for and what you aren't.

Then my aim is to arrange things so that the amount of freely given actions and resources will continuously grow.

At some point our collective free resources will reach a point where everything that we can reasonably ask for is already freely available to us.

At which point a monetary economy no longer makes any sense. There is no point in asking to be paid if what you need and want is already abundantly available to you.

- Flemming