Gift Economy x 2
A gift in exchange for his gift
You invite a friend and his wife over for dinner, enjoy their company, invite them again. Pretty soon they will feel an obligation to reciprocate, to invite you over for dinner or, if that isn't convenient, invite you to a restaurant and insist on paying the bill. It will never occur to them that they might balance the account by offering you twenty dollars instead, and you would be shocked and, probably, offended if they did.
That is a gift economy of just the sort described in the bit of Havamal quoted above, composed somewhat over a thousand years ago. The transactions are exchanges, value for value, but they take the form of nominally voluntary gifts rather than the bargained exchanges of ordinary trade. As an economist I do not have a satisfactory theory of why we do things that way—and would like to—but as a participant in such an economy I at least know how it feels from the inside.
The second kind of gift economy occurred to me in a discussion with a friend whose interests include the history of fencing and 19th century dancing. He routinely spends a week each year teaching the latter at Newport and has just been making arrangements to make his very extensive collection of source material on the former, distributed in past decades as photocopies, available on the web.
He does not expect to get any gifts directly in exchange. What he does get, in addition to his own enjoyment and the feeling of a useful job done, is status. People sharing his interest recognize his name, treat him as an important person. That too is a gift economy, but of a rather different sort—probably closer to the gift economy of open source software. You pour your gifts out to the world and the world, if you are lucky, repays you in a variety of indirect ways.
That second kind of gift economy is more relevant than the first to one of the interesting issues of the next few decades: How to get intellectual property produced if copyright law becomes, for technological reasons, unenforceable. If I can not prevent you from copying my book, I not only can not charge you for it, I also can not make my giving it to you implicitly conditional on your giving a voluntary gift to me. But I can still get credit for writing it and may be able to find ways of turning the resulting status into other things of value to me.