Some of you may have heard of him -- about a year ago blogger Kyle MacDonald started on a quest to make a series of barter transactions with a red paper clip as his starting item that would result in his owning a home. Since to make this work he had to get a higher monetary value out of each successive transaction, one had to believe either that he was a really really good exploiter of market inefficiencies, or, more likely, would advance in each trade with a premium related to the publicity value of his effort. In other words, people would trade him value X for something less than value X to either garner publicity for themselves or because they just wanted to participate.
Well, for most of the effort, all proceeded well. People traded with him voluntarily, in many cases knowing that on a strictly financial market value assessment, they may have lost in transactions with him but making up for it with the non-tangible benefit they got from participating. Well, I say it was voluntary, and it was, right up to the final transaction. But then it fell apart. Because in that last transaction, the town government of Kipling, Saskatchewan bought Mr. MacDonald a house with taxpayer money, in exchange for a movie role (the article is not clear on how the town will use a speaking part in a movie) and I am pretty sure this was not done with the voluntary consent of every taxpayer in Kipling.
Intriguingly enough, he was offered this item of value (a movie role) from actor director Corbin Bernsen as pure gift, rather than a trade. Macdonald, interestingly enough, did not accept the role as a gift because he "feared the integrity of his journey would be compromised if he
accepted the role without trading Bernsen something he really could
use". And the taxpayers of Kipling really could use a movie role, how? It says volumes about the philosophic state of western man that accepting a gift freely offered challenged the "integrity" of what he was doing but accepting taxpayer money taken by force without the owners' permission is A-OK.