Can bartering turn economy upside down?
Long before money arrived to complicate our lives, bartering existed as a local-centered, community-based, viable economical system that worked with startling simplicity: trading what you have for what you don’t.
While I’m not naïve enough to believe we can opt out of the money economy altogether – the modern world is too populous and complex for that – bartering can still work exceedingly well in small communities with close-knit personal relationships where people choose to earn less, spend less, and support each other rather than a large chain-store or a mega-farmer.
The beauty of bartering is in its flexibility, personal approach and, last but for me certainly not least, its freedom from tax.
If I, for example, have some backyard-grown organic eggs to spare, I can trade them for some cheese from my neighbors’ home dairy, vegetables from someone’s garden, and so on. By doing so, I’m supporting a traditional, community-centered economical system, forging connections and exercising a creative mode of living. It’s completely win-win, and it bypasses the money economy entirely.
It doesn’t have to be an either/or question, either. Sometimes people are willing to barter or sell. For example, right now we have two adult pure-bred Brahma roosters, one of whom we are willing to either sell or trade for a few chicks or pullets. If you are open to bartering, you might mention it when putting up an ad about something you plan to sell. Some people are short on cash but might have something else – product, livestock, skill – you would be happy to accept in exchange.
This is highly speculative, but I do have a disturbing notion that, as sustainable communities grow and people turn more and more to bartering as an alternative economical model, the tax authorities might not like this. I mean, how can they? Any model that encourages people to buy less is supposedly bad for the economy (or at least, economy in its current state) and prevents the system from ripping people off. We live in an area where many small farmers supposedly don’t earn enough to support themselves, but I know they swap part of their produce rather than selling it, which enables them to register less income, pay less tax and stay financially afloat. To me that’s fair game as I know these are modest, hard-working people who certainly aren’t turning in boatloads of cash, but what’s the legal status of this? I honestly can’t tell.
Therefore, bartering works best as a discreet arrangement between discerning people. We may never know when the tax hounds sniff out the trail of bartering and decide it isn’t legit.
Products are not the only thing that can be exchanged; it is also possible to swap skills and services. For example, my husband, who is a computer whiz, received four beautiful pigeons from someone who needed his hard disk restored. It is possible to trade piano lessons for yard work, fix a chicken coop in return for a plumbing job, provide childcare in exchange for home-cooked meals, and anything else you might think of. The important thing is that both parties should agree and feel they are getting a fair bargain.
Online service-swapping boards and forums are a wonderful place to begin and can connect like-minded people even if they don’t live very close to one another. Try it; you’ll be a winner in many ways – saving money, reaching out to awesome like-minded people and developing creative negotiation skills.
Anna Twitto’s academic background in nutrition made her care deeply about real food and seek ways to obtain it. Anna and her husband live on a plot of land in Israel. They aim to grow and raise a significant part of their food by maintaining a vegetable garden, keeping a flock of backyard chickens and foraging. Anna's books are on her Amazon.com Author Page. Connect with Anna on Facebook and read more about her current projects on her blog. Read all Anna's Mother Earth News posts here.
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