The headline—spotted at Strike the Root—says it all, but in true rambling-reptile fashion, I’ll say more. Boom times for barter, says the LA Times headline. Amid the stories the article is built around, some important insights can be found.
“I don’t think people realize the power of bartering,” Huggins said. “Sometimes we don’t value what we have in our services—because we put so much value on the tangible dollar.”
For avid swappers, cash-free transactions provide a sense of community and connection that money can’t always buy.
Of course people are turning to barter in these challenging economic conditions—that cycle is well established. But there are costs attached to the convenience of a dollar-based economy—the fickle and ultimately worthless nature of fiat currency being the largest elephant in that room—that tend to be unnoticed by many. And, as the bit quoted above states, relying on money can diminish some of the intangible elements of an exchange—but it doesn’t necessarily do so.
Perhaps wanting to avoid the appearance of being too sympathetic to alternatives to our corporatocracy, the article provides the obligatory cautions:
As a form of everyday currency, bartering has downsides. It’s far more time-consuming and tricky to negotiate the exchange of goods and services than it is to simply plunk down some bills. Sometimes prospective swappers flake out or try to rip off their trading partners. Transactions don’t always go smoothly.
Plus, there are potential tax liabilities. The Internal Revenue Service considers income from bartering taxable.
“Far more time-consuming”? My experiences to date don’t support that assertion. And of course trust is an important element of these exchanges—but it’s inherent in cash exchanges as well. We tend to trust that the bills received aren’t counterfeit, for example; and we also trust that the money will hold enough of its value to be exchanged for something else down the line. To me, our current situation highlights that blind faith in the value of the USSA
FR– Sachson is a risky proposition.
And of course the gov has its hand out—but taxing such exchanges is much more difficult, primarily because tracking them can be challenging. How can one prove one didn’t buy supplies with cash to repair a garage door oneself and not keep the receipt(s), rather than bartering for the repair? What the IRS considers its realm and what it can prove are quite different reality-sets.
The conclusion is what most clearly highlights the educational opportunity we agorists have right now:
But people won't buck the cash economy when good times return, said Lawrence J. White, professor of economics at New York University’s Stern School of Business.
“Bartering waxes and wanes,” White said. “Money is really the most efficient mechanism.”
I do agree with White, that money is efficient. However, just like all transactions, the willingness to use money is built upon trust—and that trust must be met at several layers. If the money isn’t inherently valuable—as salt, cattle, shells, gold, and silver all have been or are still—then users trust that it is backed by something that does have value. Ultimately, they have trust in the issuing body not to cheat by shorting, or manipulating the money supply.
How much trust does the USSA government and the Federal Reserve deserve today?
Our society and markets today are packed with ancient assumptions about how they work and the character of the players. Banks—and corporations in general—are almost automatically accorded a level of trust, viz., that they will not cheat their customers. By and large—and in the main because they all engage in rent-seeking and rely on special favors granted them by the state—they have failed to be worthy of that trust.
Thus far, my calls for creating agoras—trusted networks of exchange among pro-freedom individuals—seem to have brought no response. If the lack of evidence is truly due to lack of action, well, that’s disappointing but hardly surprising. Like humanity at large, we suffer no shortage of individuals willing to complain but not willing to act to improve things.
However, this is an educational opportunity that is too important to pass up. It’s long past time to unpack some of those assumptions, to show people how they’ve been betrayed by the fascist system in this country. We can encourage their awareness of some of the less obvious benefits of barter, as well as the fatal flaws in the current money monopoly scheme. Helping people see—and more accurately value—their goods and services without the dollar blinders on is a crucial step. Coupled with their positive experiences with bartering, our efforts could help see to it that future generations are less gullible and less vulnerable than recent ones have been.