Deep Pockets: Free Money Day Brings Radical Generosity To a Sidewalk Near You

Posted by Julie Ma

 

It's hard not to like free anything. "Free" is a powerful concept, but have you ever come across a group of people giving cash to random strangers with no strings attached? Apart from a group of delighted South Los Angeles residents yesterday who were showered with bills from an SUV fleeing the scene of a bank robbery, we're guessing the idea of free money is fairly foreign. 

On September 15, 2012, Free Money Day may change that. Organized by Post Growth Institute, an international network that explores and inspires alternative paths to global prosperity, the second annual Free Money Day happens across six continents. Track where people will be giving out loot—$2,700 in cash and $30,000 worth of land is pledged so far—on the Free Money Day map and pin your own location if you're feeling flush. 

The idea is simple: participants take any amount out of their pockets—whether it’s two coins or five dollars—and give it away to a complete stranger. The gift can happen at work, on a plane, in the streets, on a bus, or even online. Instead of paying it forward, the project is all about paying half forwardeach person who receives a gift is asked to pass half of the funds to somebody else.

“One of the biggest myths that we believe is that there is not enough to go around,” says co-founder Dr. Donnie Maclurcan. It's inequality in how resources are divided, not a lack of a abudance, that makes resources seem more scarce than they are, he says. 

“Our obsession with making more money as individuals is mirrored by our societal addiction to unending economic growth, despite the fact that neither of these, at the end of the day, makes many us any happier," the founders write on their site. "The money systems in which we are currently enmeshed are fundamentally unstable—they create bubbles, and a destructive boom-bust cycle, which result in loss of jobs, homes, health, and even lives.” 

A solution: give participants the opportunity to step back from the growth-minded Western culture—if only for a day—and flip the fear associated with losing money into an opportunity to share it, using a minimum of two coins at a time. “Sharing in common sense," says Maclurcan. "Sharing is engaging in intimacy, trust building, and personal development."

While cold hard cash will take center stage on Saturday, participants around the world are putting their own spin on the concept of giving for giving’s sake. In Portugal, a video store will provide free rentals, encouraging customers to share the cash they've saved with strangers. In Wales, a group will host a skills-sharing event. Two street musicians in New Zealand plan to redistribute their proceeds to passersby, and researchers in Thailand will even give up half of their land holdings to start a land trust for permaculture farmers.

Want to set up a Free Money Day in your city? Feel free to sign up online.

First two photos by Nudzejma Avdic; last photo by Billy Huang.