It was a new word to me too, but one I learned is the oldest and simplest of concepts: bartering. I’ve looked more deeply into it–into the origins of the term and the philosophy and politics of it–and I suppose one of these days I’ll write more about it all.
For now, I’m thinking only one thing: We have surplus sometimes. I’ve been giving it away and usually happily so. Occasionally we find an opportunity to trade, but it’s relatively rare. Most often the surplus we can’t give away goes to the poultry and the dogs, also happily, but less so.
One year I took it to the local Food Bank, nearly an hour round-trip, thinking I was doing a good deed for the community. After one particular drop-off I remained in the parking lot for some time engaged on the phone. I watched as several people in vehicles far finer than mine strolled into the building and back out again with my hard-won, organically-produced fresh vegetables. Another avid gardener said she overheard complaints from patrons of the Food Bank that those vegetables are useless since they don’t know how to cook them, and they often take them just for show, along with their preferred items, only to throw them out at home. After that, I changed my mind I was performing any real social benefit. I doubt that supporting the poor choices of the so-called poor is a good idea, sustainably-speaking. If one can afford to drive an SUV, one can surely afford to pay for one’s produce. Otherwise, let them eat Ding-Dongs.
Agorism, otherwise known as bartering, solves our immediate practical problem of surplus, and while all the accompanied philosophy and politics are important to me, they are not as important as this. I’m reminded of one excellent quote on the topic, and that’s as political as I’ll get this post, I promise.
‘When you see that trading is done, not by consent, but by compulsion – when you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing – when you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors – when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don’t protect you against them, but protect them against you – when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice – you may know that your society is doomed.” Ayn Rand
Bartering encourages the producers, rewards the producers, as it should be. Either you have something I value to trade with me, or you don’t. Simple economics. I might need a haircut, or a lesson in business development, or maybe I’ve got a real hankering for a pint of pear hooch. Do you need me to have a licensed dairy to trade you my cheese for one of these?
If you do, go to Wal-mart or Whole Foods, no matter, and do your thing. Pay your taxes, vote with your dollar, give the banksters their unfair share. But if someday you decide their cheese sucks, you know where to turn. That is, if you have something worth trading. How about some gorgeous carrots for some . . .?
Links to share in my on-going research:
We take our homesteading adventures to the next level.
I wrote a blog during our beginning years called Homesteading: Starting from Scratch. At the time we had just moved rural, very rural, to raw land in East Texas. We hauled in water and camped while we built a cabin without the convenience of electricity, intending to get off-the-grid.
Five years later we’re still not off-the-grid! Not even close really. But, the next step means, we’ve committed to . . . something. Something more. That includes me quitting my job, for real this time. I’m excited and anxious but especially determined. We are aligning our life with our values, it’s been a slow but rewarding process. Thank you to any who are curious about our next steps, for reading and maybe even relating.
We have managed quite a lot these last years even if we are still far from our goals. We’ve learned much about the unique requirements of gardening year-round in East Texas. We’ve had chickens, turkeys, ducks, Guineas and decided chickens and ducks are all we need, or really like. We’ve taken up beekeeping and cheesemaking and are eagerly awaiting pigs. Sheep will follow, maybe goats, soon maybe even a cow. Right now to make our cheese I travel to a dairy which is a 4-hour round-trip for Grade A raw milk. Not sustainable. Still, despite the clear necessity, I am scared to get a cow!
We don’t barter much, yet. That’s where we’re heading. It’s about principles and ethics and holistic health, and the future of man and the planet.
Kensho: Zen for “the moment of insight”