Sunday morning I got up with a mission. To put seed in the bird feeder, weed a bit, and water the dogwood. I could tell it had rained by my blinking clock radio and the health of the flowers out from, but I still needed to water the dogwood. Some of the leaves were curling in the way that dogwoods that need more water do.
As I was sitting idly with garden hose in hand, I thought about what a great garden we had in the back yard. Not because it was tidy, but because ti was thriving. Our philosophy, the one we discovered after trying to commit to the other way of gardening is “We’ll plant you in a nice hole, and it you can make it, God bless you”. Everything that is out there that keeps coming back year after year is there because it can, including our green roof. I even planted most of a bag of onions that sprouted in our kitchen out there. They are doing great.
Compare that with the once beautiful front yard our neighbor had when we moved here 5 years ago. A splendid and seasonal array of flowering plants of different varieties. She moved away 2 years ago, and our new neighbors have little time or use for such a meticulous yard. They paid a lawn service this year to pull most of it out. Tragic, but not as tragic as watching the whole thing revert to mess. Now its easier to care for, but a bit out of place. Our first neighbor had landscaped in terraces that aided the flow of the garden, now those terraces look curiously bare. I suppose if anyone there gets the gardening bug again, the terraces will be there, but I’d bet they don’t share her vision of what those terraces should be.
This is similar to the difference between a managed and unmanaged household, or even an economy. Our yard isn’t beautiful, but it is vigorous, and we do choose what went in it. Aside from all the weeds, of course.
This really is the market notion of a catallaxy. “Catallaxy” is different than “economy”, because it implies that a market is made of individuals with disparate goals and incentives. Measuring it as the input and output of a single metric of value, like money, is a folly, because people gain satisfaction and value everyday in a myriad of ways only tangentially related to money. Each individual’s goals are equally valid as their personal property, though they may result in more or less success. An economy, put (too) simply, tries to commodify every member’s performance to objective measures of risk and success. Those with lots of money are clearly winning the economy, but they may be losing the catallaxy.
In our garden, there are winners and losers, but there are also those who thrive where others dare not grow. I built a bike shed with a green roof five years ago, and have given up weeding it for the benefit of plants I paid for, just to see what recruits. The Sedum had just about knocked out the Hens and Chicks, and the Nodding Onion is loving it up there. But there’s a weed with a serrated leaf that thrives in two inches of soil. As long as it doesn’t kill off the nodding onion, I’m proud of it, whatever it is.