'Free Money Day' celebrated on Ashland Plaza

It’s not often – OK, never – that you see people giving out money on the street. But such a thing did happen on Ashland Plaza Tuesday, as Donnie Maclurcan gave out bucks and dollar coins, asking recipients to give away half and enjoy half.

Aside from sharing lots of laughs, the purpose was to get people to experience the high of receiving wealth and helping others to feel it — as well as to hear a mini-lecture on where money really comes from in our economy and how you can help others by putting yours in a credit union, says Maclurcan, a Social Sciences teacher at Southern Oregon University.

Maclurcan is a cofounder and “Idea Guy” of PostGrowth, an international group seeking global prosperity that doesn’t rely on economic growth. The economist has a doctoral degree in international development and is author of “How on Earth? Flourishing In a Not-for-Profit World by 2050.”

Free Money Day is a worldwide event Maclurcan cofounded four years ago “to raise awareness and start conversations about the benefits of economies based on sharing, as well as offer a liberating experience to inspire more critical and creative thinking about our relationships with money and how we can have new types of economic activity,” according to its website.

Since 2011, more than $10,000 has been distributed at over 200 Free Money Day events in 41 countries, according to a media release.

Handing out dollar bills or two of the new one-dollar presidential coins to each comer on the Plaza, Maclurcan explains that money “is largely created by debt, rather than the Treasury creating paper bills, as most people think.”

The event, he says, encourages people around the world and “inspires greater sharing and reflection on what works in our economy and what doesn’t. What works is supporting not-for-profit businesses that put money back into the economy, such as credit unions.”

The money being handed out by Maclurcan and SOU Landscape Services Supervisor Mike Oxendine — out of their own pockets — was happily snapped up by many.

Jeff Clearwater joined in, prankishly handing out an old 50,000 Turkish lira note, and said “It’s good to give and receive … Money is overvalued. People confuse it with real wealth.”

Just out of college in Tennessee and marveling at the beauty of Oregon, Juliana Hindman said, “It’s a really caring thing and I will give it away. It makes things happen if you give it away — and if you need something, it comes to you."

Rosemary Lazzari said it would go in her gas tank.

Julian Spalding said “It’s a great idea and fun to see it happen, a laissez faire approach to money.”

Jordan Pease, who once ran a free bookstore here, said, “I give to raise awareness of global financial corruption. I might give it back to them. It’s a unique idea.”

Traveling from Vancouver, B.C., with backpacks, Allie Quelch said, “It feels kind of weird to get it and hand it out, but I have a good feeling. It will go in our food budget.” Her companion, Ocean De Ciantis, said “It promotes sharing and a spirit of giving.”

Devon Hines said, “It makes people more hopeful. I can give one dollar to a busker and spend the other on a bus to get to Medford and look for work.”

Handing out more than $100, Oxendine said, “It makes me feel good to share and give to other people and provide an opportunity for them to pay it forward. They get that good feeling without any connotation or bad feeling.”

John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

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