In my last post I laid out a basic scenario of a type of economics that would allow one to remove oneself from the capitalist system. I received good comments, mostly of concern and disagreement. I expected, and accepted that, of course as we have all grown up and learned to function in a society never knowing any other form of economics, then capitalism.
First, I think I should at this point, reveal why I am talking about this at all. There are two grassroots movements coming to a point of actual realization, one being "freecycling" which is a system of bartering in an almost garage sale kind of way. Freecycling is not political at all, but really ecologically based, in the sense that people are saying, don't throw out your old stuff, "freecycle it" to someone who needs or wants it. The second if "freeganism". This is basically Crimethinc's answer to capitalism. It calls for the absolute boycott of anything, and everything capitalist, including rental or ownership of homes, and purchasing food from anyone. This type of Anarchist ideology encourages people to completely remove themselves from the system, and get off the grid.
I agree with freecycling, it just makes sense. Freeganism, however, is another story and what I am proposing is an alternative to that. A way for Anarchists who do wish to smash capitalism to remove themselves from the system in a safe and healthy (and practical) way, as well as a way for anyone to take some modicum of control back, dictate the conditions of their work, help out with ecologically, and save a couple of bucks.
Let's face it, times are getting hard, and there are millions of people out there who are already just barely scraping by. I'm hoping that some of what I have learned in the past three years can help others get the things they need without sacrificing too many needs, time, or sanity.
I'd like to discuss some of the comments to my previous post here, mostly from Don over at It's a Funny Thing. Don is an excellent blogger, who really makes me think. His comments and concerns were echoed by others, and of course are valid and legitimate on every level. Hopefully I can clear up the lines of communication, and help this idea of mine make sense to others.
A medium of exchange is necessary if one wants to escape feudalism.
It was the lack of such a mechanism that was partly responsible for keeping the serf on the farm. And it was the creation of an acceptable currency which allowed him or her to purchase goods and services and to bid out his labor to others.
And he is right. I had no intention of proposing to eliminate exchange, but rather change the parameters of said exchange. I personally see corporations as modern day feudalism, in the sense that a few very rich and powerful people own the business, the equipment, and the land where production takes place, they determine the laborer's worth, and pay you what they deem appropriate, regardless of the conditions of said laborers (re: cost of living, experience, etc). While you can quit your job, you will inevitably be forced back into a similar job, thus never actually removing yourself from the cycle of feudalistic service. You are still a serf, only you get to change your masters from time to time.
I propose that we take some of that control away, and really create a "free market" where the laborers get to determine their worth.
I make wooden cups. I'm also a fair woodworker. But I don't have the time to go to each seller of food, or power, or clothing and ask them if they care to trade.
This is the aspect of fair trade that I had the biggest problem with at first. Don also mentions not having the time and ability to produce enough cups to actually get everything he needs. What I am proposing here is that we, the laborers and citizens need to move away from the preconceived notion that our worth is determined by what we can mass produce.
Our time and efforts are worth so much more than one type of expertise, or particular skill, or product. Not to mention that hand produced products, or specialized skills aren't the only things worth trading.
I'll pose the question: How many times over the period of your lives have you helped someone move? Helped someone paint their house or barn, or wash their car? Watch their kids, or dog sit? Help with home improvement projects, or some otehr type of favor?
Probably hundred of times. I know I have. What capitalism does is tell us what we think we need and want, so we buy the products they make in excess, so they make money. What we really need to do is reevaluate what we are told we want, and what we actually need. We also need to stop being so humble, and address the fact that yes, we too, are capable of accomplishing tasks typically relegated to individuals of a particular trade.
Do you know what I need? I need to learn how to properly can foods so I don't poison my family. I just so happen to know someone who needs an extra set of hands during canning season. She is willing to teach me how to do it, and I am willing to help her can all of her food. That's a fair trade, and it has nothing to do with mass production of a product, or an attempt to sell things that people don't necessarily need. It is mutually beneficial, in a tangible way.
What I am saying is that we need to think outside of the box of "supply and demand" on a profit and product based system.
My husband and I have attained two cars through this barter system. We needed one or both, badly. We had no money to buy even a used car from a dealer, or privately, and no credit or capital to make payments or finance anything. But without a car we wouldn't be able to work (I'll get to that point in a moment).
We happened to find a person who was willing to trade a car he didn't want or need for a little bit of time and effort on our part. About 20 hours worth of work, helping him fix his barn. At my husband's pay rate, 20 hours worth of work wouldn't have paid for a car from a junkyard, never mind a running one. But by trading things that are needed the value of our time went up exponentially, and the value of the product went down, thus making an even and fair trade.
We did the same for our second car.
In fact, my husband's family has survived in this manner for generations. Every square inch of land they own were attained through bartering. So too, were the materials used to build the homes they live in. The cars they own, much of the furniture, equipment, and tools were all gained n a similar manner.
I would also like to point out that we have a true, honest-to-goodness trading post here. It's an actual business where you can freely, and fairly trade goods for goods. I am encouraging more places like this to open up, thus removing all that trouble finding someone to trade with.
When I want a new supply of lumber, I can simply pay for it. My lumber dealer has no use for what I make either, but the person who does want my product has already paid me with a means of exchange that my lumber dealer will accept.
When purchasing something for say, a business, in bulk the equation changes a bit. I have no idea why I would be purchasing lumber - as I have no need for it, but business owners do. For this particular problem, at this point in time, money is still the only real option. I have no actual answer for a fair trade agreement in this, or larger regadrs.
However, what I have been proposing also affects this area of trade. One thing i have noticed is hat when I use a fair trade bartering system regularly, and get everything I can (which is about 80 percent of what we need on a regular basis) it frees up what little money we do make, so we can use it to pay for the things we can't attain via bartering. Things such as rent, utilities, or taxes. So too, would this work for the business man or woman. Anyone running there own business knows that sometimes maintaining the capital needed to keep purchasing supplies is hard work, and sometimes comes out of their own pockets.
Well, the more you barter, the more money you keep. The more money you keep, the more you have to use when you need to.
I have no delusions that our monetary system will go away, or disappear in my lifetime. What I am proposing is only a small step in the right direction towards true economic freedom. In the meantime, I firmly believe that this type of economy will help those who are financially strapped, help those who are working 100 hours a week to make ends meet, helping them dictate the conditions of their work, and taking a bite out of greedy and corrupt capitalist system.
I would like to say that my husband and I couldn't live the life we do without bartering in this manner. Without it, we would probably be homeless, and most likely starving. Seriously. We don't have enough money to pay for everything we need, jobs here are scarce, and they pay very little. (relatively speaking).
It also frees up much of our time together, as we no longer have to slave for just above minimum wage to makes ends meet, as we are now dictating the ends.
There is also something to be said for self reliance. My husband and I have set ourselves up in a manner where we only have to spend a very small portion of actual money. Between growing our own food, and hunting for meats (which also get us leather and fur for trading), we have set up enough trading and bartering contacts that we now literally only pay cash for that which we cannot barter. The cash payment to barter trading ratio is about 20% to 80% respectively.
It's a bit hard at first, and there are some con's to it. But once you really get the hang of it, you'll find it becomes easier, and very, very beneficial. When I first married into this crazy bartering family I resisted. I thought I couldn't do it, I didn't want to do it. I didn't want to establish what I am really worth, versus what I have been told I am worth all these years.
But now that I have, I have a hard time remembering why I hadn't done this in the first place.
But there will be more on this, tomorrow.