Stout, former writer for BarterNews
We already barter. Whenever we take
our turn driving in a car pool, every time we trade in our
car for a new one, every night when we babysit the kids of
the woman who sometimes babysits ours -- even when we give
away three railroads to get a monopoly at Boardwalk and Park
Place -- we are bartering.
Bartering means having fun at a swap
shop, or trading my Mickey Mantle baseball card for your
Reggie Jackson, or sharing our food at a pot-luck dinner, or
letting you use a part of my garden in exchange for some of
the vegetables that you'll grow.
Bartering is Jack trading his cow for
a handful of beans, and then climbing up that beanstalk for
the adventure of his life. This book can broaden the
adventure that we are already having, and show us a barter
way of life. As Adam Smith said, "The propensity to truck,
barter, and exchange is common to all men." And to all women
and all children.
Bartering is not a new phenomenon. It
began many years ago, BC (Before Cash), when people traded
arrowheads or mastodon meat -- all practical things that
have obvious value. Then someone invented money (which is an
abstraction of that value) to make trading easier.
After all, a one-to-one deal is
possible only if I have a stone ax that you need, and
you have the maize that I need; if you only
have baskets to trade, then the exchange doesn't work out --
and I go hungry for lack of maize while you get eaten by a
bear because you don't have an ax with which to defend
Money was probably invented by a
surviving relative of someone who had been eaten by a bear.
Or, more likely, by a smart prehistoric businessperson who
wanted a better way with which to keep track of trades.
Barter was there in 1492 when Queen Isabella gave Columbus
three ships and he gave her information about America. And
it participated in 1626, when Peter Minuet is said to have
traded $24 worth of beads, knives, and kettles for Manhattan
Later in our history, the pioneers
traded with the Native Americans and with one another --
when community barn-raisings and work parties were a way of
life and business. During the Great Depression, barter was
popular for a while, but it faded as our economy recovered.
The most-recent back-to-barter renaissance started in the
severe recession of the early 1980s.
We can all achieve rewards from
age-old, good-as-gold bartering. We can:
Fulfill our material needs.
more control over financial matters.
Protect our cash flow.
Benefit from previously unused assets.
certain items which we can't buy in stores.
with other people.
chores which we don't like.
- Get an
education in skills, people, and values.
Develop a more humanistic and wholistic lifestyle.
Prepare for any upcoming depression.
Improve community relations.
less dependent on banks, lenders, credit cards, money,
and the unpredictable economic scene.
Achieve the benefits which are described in the
business section of this book.
We -- the people -- are the world's
most valuable resource. Instead of reaching for our wallet
every time, we might offer a part of ourselves: our skills,
our time, our talent, our under-used possessions. Bartering
helps us to utilize more of those resources to meet our
needs. Bartering is a wonderful "self-help program"; the
"help" is coming from parts of ourselves which we have not
When we recognize these assets, we
develop ways in which we can make our life better through
barter. And when we start sharing these assets to get what
we want, the pleasant side-effects of bartering might make
us realize that while the best things in life might not be
free, sometimes they feel that way.