"weak incentives"?

In that article on gift economy that I wrote about yesterday, there are several anticipated obstacles to providing goods and services without requiring payment. One of the main ones is the prediction that without the necessity of having to pay for what we need (or the competition for people's business), people would not be sufficiently motivated to produce enough, or continually create and innovate. Also, the problem of hoarding (when things are free).

I can certainly understand those objections. And I agree that it demands a high level of compassion and selflessness to motivate us to work and give when there is no immediate gain for us (and we don't have to work for our own survival), or to take only what we need and leave enough for others (when we're not limited by what we can pay for). Again and again I've found myself struggling to find the love to replace the fear and ambition and greed that usually are our motivators.

But I believe it is an extremely important transition to make. And I think it is possible, since love is a much more powerful motivator than fear, and God provides incentives that we could never dream of.

One of the main differences in incentive I've experienced so far is that I've been able to focus much more on the value and goodness (and personal satisfaction) of the work itself, rather than on how well it meets the demands of society (pays the bills, is profitable for the company, etc). So my thoughts are about what God is doing in the world, and how specifically he wants me to participate in that. Rather than thinking about what people want, what they will pay for. This is more difficult, but also much more rewarding, since to serve God means serving the one who created me, who knows my abilities and interests and joys, and who wants to bring these to fulfillment for the good of all. What boss (or customer) can claim that?

And I'm discovering that we all really do want to work. To create, to serve, to produce something really good. To help one another. We just usually never get to freely explore those deep desires, because we're always being pushed to come up with the rent money.

The incentives behind a gift economy may be weak, at first, or look weak from those outside looking in. But the incentive of love is deep and powerful, growing stronger in us as we explore it. It is God Who is Love, waiting to fill us with himself.