A transfer is an activity that assigns some rights and responsibilities for an economic resource from one agent to another.
We want to emphasize that although ownership is the primary right transferred in the current economic system (along with renting or leasing), we seek to focus on transfers not necessarily governed by the legal context of property ownership. This puts the focus on economic coordination rather than ownership, although the vocabulary supports all existing paradigms too.
For example, perhaps some agent has many apple trees, and plans on pressing apple cider. Another agent has an apple press and agrees to exchange use of the press (a resource) for a portion of the apple cider. The use of the press involves some rights (to use the press for some period of time) and responsibilities (to not run it beyond its capacity and to clean it up before returning it), and the rights and responsibilities to a portion of apple cider is transferred in exchange.
Or in a library, a book can be checked out for a period of time. The agent who checks it out is responsible for caring for it and returning it on time, and can read it, or use it however they want.
Or let's say that a community has farmland and equipment held in common. The community transfers that to some farmers to use and take care of. The community also transfers seeds every year to the farmers, enough to grow the food the community needs. During the year, the harvests are distributed (transferred) to the community members for their consumption. In reciprocity, the community provides for other needs of the farmers.
In spite of these examples, we also want to note that transfers do not imply explicit or implicit exchanges, only a one-directional flow.
Transfer vs Process
Transfers and Processes both structure "value flows", but they are conceptually and functionally different.
- Processes create or change or transport an economic resource, whether producing goods or services, recycling, even if they create "waste" as a by-product (that can hopefully be used somewhere else).
- Transfers do not create or change or transport an economic resource, they just put the rights and responsibilities for a resource into a different agent's hands so that the resource can be used or consumed or transfered again.
This is an important distinction as we seek to change the world, because transfer and exchange cannot move us beyond the current unsustainable and unjust system. We the people need to manage our production and creation (and waste) for human and ecological needs rather than profit.
That said, the structure in value flows is similar, allowing transfers and processes to participate seamlessly in value flows: