It’s hard to imagine an economy without money.
I imagine it, though, whenever I buy vegetables from Missy’s little grocery and then Missy has lunch at the cafe. The money circulates between us, but it’s really just representational, a way to keep the interaction fair. We’re bartering, even as we pass the same ten dollars back and forth.
It’s so simple.
Except, of course, at the end of the week, only one of us can deposit that ten dollars into our bank account and use it to pay our bills. Missy can’t pay her vendor with my soup. I can’t trade Missy’s avocados for gasoline at the Marathon station.
Those of us raised under the western mindset were pretty well inculcated with the notion that bartering to meet daily needs is a primitive form of economic exchange. Regressive, even. Something undertaken by those whose cultures — or households — are deficient, backward, unready or unable to join the great material continuum known as the money economy.
But its scale — which is relational and specific rather than abstract — is so much more satisfying. At least to me.
So I figure it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. A little barter around the edges of the money economy may not make a measurable difference to the numbers people in offices far away — though if they’re in government, they’re sure to want to tax it somehow — but it makes a difference to those of us engaged in it. It offers the opportunity to move at least some of our exchanges from transaction to interaction as we go about the business of meeting our daily needs.
And that’s not nothing.