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article imageOp-Ed: Trading without money (in these hard times)

By Alexander Baron     Apr 5, 2013 in Business
Although we little people are being squeezed at both ends - by the banks sitting on money and the government "austerity" cuts - we can still trade without it.
Although it's always a good thing to have money to spend if not money to burn, the value of money is purely psychological. This is a difficult concept for most people to grasp, so I always draw the following analogy. If you walk into your local corner shop and present the suspicious grocer with a genuine £50 note, and he refuses it, you can buy zilch. On the other hand, if you pay for the same small item with a fake pound coin...
Now try that thought experiment with a parachute. Jump out of a plane with one, and if it is the genuine, correctly packed item, whether or not you believe in it, you can be assured of a safe landing, all things being equal.
Although most people don't grasp this concept, governments do, which is why forging banknotes or even possessing these contraband will land you in deep trouble. When we buy something we are exchanging a promise for goods or services, we obtain something today for the promise of something tomorrow. It can get complicated, but let's leave it at that. It follows then that if Mr A and Mr B have something each other wants, and their values are equivalent, they can trade on the spot. It's even easier if Mr A has something he doesn't want or need, but Mr B wants. He can simply give it to him rather than throw it away, the only caveats are that they can contact each other and make this one-way trade, which means that in the real rather than the cyber-world they have to be in close proximity. This is how Freecycle and Freegle work. And sometimes they work amazingly well.
Earlier this year I had a new bathroom suite fitted, and the builders left behind two tins of paint at the top of my stair. Having ascertained they weren't coming back I could have thrown the cans out, but posted a message to my local Freecycle group.
My message was posted at 10.05am; I had messages from no less than 5 people in quick succession, shortly after ten past eleven a lady was at my door, and I posted my TAKEN message at 11.16, which would probably qualify for the Guinness Book Of Records.
Okay, that was exceptional, sometimes there are no responses, and as might be suspected, there are always more potential takers than givers. To date I have made little use of Freecycle, but many years ago - the last Millennium, in fact - I did use LETSLINK; I supplied the material, and a lady in Lewisham knitted me two massive scarves. That was the only trade I managed, and from the little I have seen of LETS, I have not been overly impressed, nor have I been impressed with the barter groups I have found on-line, but these are things we can and should be developing at a local level. Passing on or using stuff that will only be thrown away is good for the environment and can't be bad for us, while especially for the unemployed or those on low incomes, trading services even on a small scale can only be beneficial both economically and in helping to develop and preserve a community spirit.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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