Health, Wealth and Wisdom

Daily Prompt: Barter System

July 8, 2013

If the world worked on a barter system, how would you fare? Would you have services to barter? Would you be successful, or would you struggle?

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Since I was a kid (especially when I was a kid, rather) I was enthralled by the idea of the barter system. I thought it was almost a game, setting values for a particular item with respect to each and every other thing.


one horse = two cows

                      = two goats and a kid (the goat kind)

                      = 4 bales of hay

                      =5 bushels of corn

…or something like that, at any rate.

As I got older though, I realized that that’s not so much different from what we do now with money. For example, if a t-shirt is $10, and a pair of jeans is $30 , then you’re technically saying: 1 pair of jeans = 3 t-shirts. BAM. Barter System.

Not being a born bargainer, I think I’d probably be a bad barter-er. I have a hard time even understanding the simple

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15 comments on “Health, Wealth and Wisdom

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  5. Bartering and monetary exchange. Would you consider, in this case, that the two are pretty much the same?
    I wonder though, when we say “barter”, do we mean physical goods? Money does not inherently have a value except for what we attribute to it, right? (Hence, inflation, etc.). Whereas, actual things, one horse for one cow is…identifiable?

    Haha I think everyone thinks they’ll be bad at “bartering”; but, you’d be surprised with what you actually can do. 🙂

    • That’s an interesting thought. Merriam-Webster says it’s “The action or system of exchanging goods or services without using money”, but i think that money was invented on the basis of the bartering system – a sort of intermediary step, if you will. like if you sold the $30 jeans, you’d get $30, which you could then exchange for 3 t-shirts.

      following that train of thought, inflation occurs to readjust the value of the intermediary (money) to account for differences in the rarity/value of the goods being “bartered”. What do you think?

      • OMG I love you (Merriam-Webster, FTW!) But I digress, I do agree that money is that intermediary step; however, I wonder that without the actual money, if we’d actually be more productive because then worth and value wouldn’t be distinguished by how much of that intermediate you have, but instead more on what you can give and provide? (As in, I’m not rolling in a million piles of green dough; but instead, I can do this and this in exchange for something else?) But then, I guess that requires everyone to be proficient at some kind of skill – which for people like Paris Hilton maybe be actually good…Haha.
        On the note of inflation, huh…I hadn’t thought of it like that. I was more focused on the idea of “price fixing”. But then, rarity/value of goods is … huh , nevermind…lost that train of thought. I see what you’re saying; that does make sense. 🙂

        • Haha thank you 😀

          I agree that removing the intermediary would be better for fair exchange, but the primary advantage of money as i see it is the ability to save: if you trade a day of labor for a barrel of broccoli, you have to figure out how to deal with all that broccoli ASAP – whereas, with money, you don’t necessarily have to (a) buy anything right now – you can stretch it out as per necessity or choice or (b) buy so much of only broccoli. I can’t see anyone trading a day of labor for a sandwich, fries, a drink, a new shirt and a pair of shoelaces, can you?

          I think the main problem lies in the fact that we have (quite conveniently) underestimated the value of certain things, such as labor, because we believe that the effort and cost of education should have a payoff somewhere. in truth, i think everyone should pursue what appeals to them and what they have an aptitude for, and should be, for lack of a better word, “paid” for how much work they’ve done, or – better – their level of skill in their work. but then defining that would be the new headache. also that’s an insanely utopian world, and has other problems too, like if certain jobs require education, and we consider all jobs equal in basis, then why should we have to pay for our education? and if we do, then why differing amounts?

          Also, random thought: an intellectual friend of mine posed the question once: if in today’s world of technology, a few people can comfortably work enough to sustain the world, why should everyone be forced to work, other than traditional ideas of fairness?

          What are your views?

          • To your first point. Ah. Ya, that does make sense… Hehe.
            To the second point, education really should be free, or at along the ideas of it being paid for by others as a compassion point. Or perhaps even like the old apprenticeship programs. Although, to note, in Europe it is mostly paid for them. I feel that maybe we do need more of a socialist system though

            Ah, your friend does pose a conundrum though. Because ya if s few can work to sustain do the rest need to work? But then, we have to define work as… Are we talking about contribution to society? Then would everyone else loaf around? Or are they able to pursue their own wants and desires that hopefully contribute? As is right now, we see that many people just do whatever they want anyway because they have the money. And everyone else pulls the backbreaking labor, ya?

            Sorry, I’m typing this on phone so may not make as much sense as it seems to in my head somewhat. Haha. I would really want to continue this conversation when I’m at the computer.

            Thoughts on these thus far?
            What do you think about your friend’s thought.

            • Yeah, I actually have heard about the education expense handling in sweden. they pay for education by raising the level of taxes (which people can afford to pay because now they don’t have to pay as much for education) right?

              and about the conundrum: that’s it exactly. if a few people can do it (willingly, of course) do the rest really need to? i think, for the sake of argument, we can take the worst possible case and say that they choose to do neutral things (neither productive nor counter-productive). i think so long as no one is being forced to work in compensation for others’ loafing around, it’s a very logical idea.

              I see what you mean about the situation right now though. Hmm. You’re making perfect sense, by the by. 😀 I agreed with my friend as far as the fact that ideas of fairness have to be reevaluated and not used to create work where it’s not required. Again though, I see problems. You obviously owe something to the people who do work (so you should “pay” them) but on the other hand they’re doing it of free will and because they supposedly want to (so you don’t have to “pay” them). Right? Again, if you pay workers, you’ll always get people (like we have right now) who want the benefits but not the work. So perhaps not paying people is best. There’ll always be people who work for curiosity/interest’s sake. What say?

              *I’m rambling a bit, i know; i’m just putting down my thoughts as they come into my head 🙂 *

ask. debate. scribble.

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