Friday, October 28, 2005

In Praise of Freecycle

I wonder if the economists in the government are taking freecycle into account? Freecycle, for those who don't know, is a no-cost classified ad concept implemented in Yahoo groups. For example, I'm in the Reston/Herndon freecycle group, so I get an e-mail digest containing "Offers" and "Wanted" postings. The Offers are of things still possibly usable but unwanted. For example, I just posted a series of offers, including an old (14 year old) PC and some homemade furniture. To my surprise, I've some interest from people.

Economically, the point is that freecycle (and craigslist.com, which operates slightly differently) lubricates the reallocation of assets, of "productive" stuff. By extending the useful life of products, it increases their value without requiring resources to produce. It's one of the rare instances where you can get something for nothing, or nearly nothing (since you do invest the time needed to coordinate the pickup).

2 comments:

  1. That's a great point. It brings to mind the practice of bartering and 'swap meets'. I realize that in some areas the term 'swap meet' is the same as yard sale or garage sale, but I mean it as a gathering where people bring their used stuff for others to take for free and maybe find stuff for themselves out of what others bring. Churches do that sometimes.

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  2. I wonder how much it depends on the community? Where I grew up, and when I grew up, there wasn't much to give away because you rarely bought stuff you wouldn't use up. But if you had things, like a baby's crib or diapers, you knew who in the community was expecting for the first time and so could use it.

    More recently, I'd expect settled communities to do more swap meets, etc. while freecycle and craigslist would appeal to newer and more mobile areas.

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