The Really (Really) Free Market Operates Under a Simple, Radical Philosophy
Mounds of clothing and toys, crafts and kitchenware, a library-worth of zines and books — even a clothing repair booth — filled the upstairs stage hall at St. Stephen’s Church in D.C. on the third Saturday of this month. It was Christmas for children and utopia for adults, for a simple and radical reason: all of the treasures were completely free.
The D.C. Really Really Free Market (RRFM) is organized by a few individuals affiliated with Black Lives Matter DC, Peace House DC, and Resist This. Unlike a sanitized shopping mall, friends and acquaintances organically formed circles to catch up, and strangers from all walks of life smiled at one another in recognition of the event’s novelty. People rummaged through a hodgepodge of items on tables throughout the room, commenting on what they discovered to one another, and expressing disbelief at the response to the usual question: “Where can I pay for this?”
Unlike a sanitized shopping mall, friends and acquaintances organically formed circles to catch up, and strangers from all walks of life smiled at one another in recognition of the event’s novelty.
A radical history
RRFMs — or “free stores” — are reciprocal exchanges: community members bring belongings they no longer want, or skills they would like to share, and receive items and skills from others. They function similarly to gift-economies, as opposed to barter systems, since what you take is not contingent on what you give (and vice versa). In its earlier years, RRFMs used the slogan “Because there’s enough for everyone, because sharing is more fulfilling than owning, because free trade is a contradiction of terms.” All organizers do is publicize the event, help set up, and find a space for left over items at the end of the event.