Posted: March 21st, 2011 by Militant Libertarian
“Grassroots barter markets have a notorious reputation lately for fizzling out before they ever get a chance to shine. The reasons for this are sometimes complex, but if we are to be honest, usually the lion’s share of the blame goes towards the way in which they are often half-heartedly initiated. If the foundation of your network is not built on solid ground and a passionate desire for a better future, then that network will fail. In a world dominated for decades by fiat currencies and debt, in a world where private trade has become a novelty rather than a mainstay of local commerce, there is little room for error, or ego. Establishing a barter organization today is not just an act of self preservation in the face of a crumbling mainstream economy, it is, indeed, an act of revolution. For by doing so, you are stating loudly and with clarity that you will no longer be held enslaved by the corrupt financial labyrinth. That you will no longer participate in its trappings. That you will no longer play the game by their rules. By building your own system, you declare independence, and this is not something to be taken lightly.
This revolt, as it were, is against the dire mechanizations of globalism; a modern day rehashing of ancient feudalism which, as in the days of lords and monarchs, benefits only the ultra-rich. So far, globalization has given us nothing but a tenuous condition of interdependency, a constant state of decay in which every nation becomes a domino in a long and precarious chain; one falls, and we all fall. The claimed “mission” of globalism is harmonization and “equality”, but the cultures of the world are made equal through globalization only in that they are made equally desperate.
Truly free markets, whether large or small, are the ultimate defense against globalism and corporate centralization. They create flexibility, redundancy, and integrity. If the people are in control of their own trade, if that trade is designed to strengthen local communities and not global conglomerates, if their transactions are structured in a manner that protects their privacy, instead of laying their entire life bare for an unaccountable bureaucracy to dissect, then they will be very difficult to dominate. No society can hope to remain free without first having free markets.
Understanding the gravity of this undertaking is the first and most important step before delving into the difficult work of barter organizing. It is a step that we at the Alternative Market Movement cannot help anyone take; it is something each person must do on their own. The following steps, however, we can help with. Here are some simple guidelines to make the barter process easier for you and your new network…
Anyone Can Barter: The strength of bartering lay in its simplicity. Anyone can trade with anyone else, at any time, for any reason. There is absolutely no need for a middle-man to regulate a barter transaction. Period. The scale does not have to be grand either. A weekly or bi-weekly traders market on public grounds would be fantastic, but it is not absolutely necessary. Talk with friends, family, and co-workers, and start trading! The point is to uncomplicate commerce.
Online Social Networking: Social networking is a powerful communications tool, and should be used to meet like-minded people in your city or state to expand your network base. However, networks should NOT become dependent on the internet for all organizing. Eventually, Americans are going to have to stand up from their computers, leave their houses, meet in public forums or open markets, and deal with each other face to face. The social networking function of Alt-Market.com can never take the place of physical organization in the real world. That said, we believe it can help immensely in the initial stages of any group hoping to grow and invite new participants.
Alt-Market.com is also NOT a new eBay or Craigslist. Transactions between participants should be handled face to face, and kept as local as possible. Again, relying completely on the internet to support your bartering completely defeats the purpose of building barter networks. If Alt-Market.com, or the internet itself, were to be shut down, those who refused to do the work of building locally would be utterly lost.
Free Market Skill Sets: Alt-Market.com will feature instructional video submissions from anyone who believes they have a skill useful in a poor economy or a post collapse economy. Our goal is to find the best teachers in the movement to share their knowledge with others, so that we can expand the practical skill sets of barter networks and make trade more dynamic. Teachers whose videos qualify will be given the opportunity to participate in Alt-Market conventions and workshops across the country meant to give people hands on training experience in various trades. Every person involved in a barter network should endeavor to increase their skill sets in order to improve their ability to trade.
Some skills, like firearms repair, or welding, have obvious value. But one should not discount other talents. Fabric work, candle making, electronics repair, are great barter skills. Those with engineering or construction backgrounds will be highly sought after. School teachers could always home tutor for trade. Even a barber could trade haircuts for goods or services. Make a list of your valuable skills, then work to expand it.
Approach Your Local Farmer’s Co-Op: I can’t stress enough how important food production is in the midst of an inflationary environment. As long as Americans are completely dependent on the dollar for trade, they will be forced to endure ever increasing food prices at the grocery store. Planting one’s own garden is a given in this scenario, but Farmer’s Co-Ops will also play an integral part in barter economies. Groups should make a point to approach local co-ops and discuss with them the advantages of participating in barter commerce, including the fact that by doing so, they will greatly increase their customer base while corporatized farms continue to lose money.
Start A Micro Industry: Those with business savvy and funding could find great opportunity within the barter framework. Producing a particular item or service for an entire town or city is no doubt possible, and could even bring local employment back to life. The best micro-industries will, of course, stay focused on goods and services practical for a poor economy or post collapse environment.
Micro-industries and small businesses involved in the Alternative Market Movement will be in a unique position to nurture barter networks by giving their employees the option of being paid in gold, silver, or trade instead of dollars. This would complete the circle of wealth and trade, making each community financially self contained and protected against derailment of the wider system.
Wean Yourself Off Corporate Chains: As your network grows, and more and more goods and services become available, move to support that growth by purchasing what you can through the network. Hey, there’s always going to be some items that you might have to shell out fiat for at WalMart, so don’t feel guilty, but do make an effort to buy local instead.
The number of mom-and-pop stores in this country is dwindling fast. Involving them in the barter process would be ideal. Just as with farmer’s co-ops, they stand to gain a considerable customer base while other businesses flounder in the bad economy, and you gain an outlet to barter for goods without having to set foot in Wally World. Small businesses can also use Alt-Market.com to their advantage by setting up a profile page and alerting every interested person in their immediate area that they are open to barter and trade. This is, essentially, free advertising for participating businesses.
For those businesses concerned about the tax implications of accepting barter in their stores, we will soon be providing legal advice from networks which have already handled these issues and have the answers at hand.
Start Small, Aim High: Moving your entire city or state into a barter framework is going to take time. Attempting to implement trade on that scale from the very beginning will likely end in bitter disappointment. The key is to start local, between family, friends, neighbors, and those you meet through Alt-Market.com and other tools, then create a strong core group, and grow from there. Participants who first involve those acquaintances they know well, such as their church, or pre-existing political club, will be off to a very fast start, because successful trade is highly dependent on trust.
Eventually, networks from one city may begin to trade with networks from a nearby city and so forth, until finally, barter is as commonplace as the dollar itself.
Expand Options, Don’t Limit Them: Asking the average American to go cold turkey on the dollar and start using only silver, or only goods for barter, is simply not going to work. The secret to wider success in a barter economy, I believe, is to increase options, not limit them. Barter systems that accept gold, silver, goods, services, and even dollars (until the dollar implodes), will attract the most participation. Again, in economics, flexibility is strength.
Now that we’ve covered some of the more constructive steps in starting a barter system, here are some serious mistakes that could derail your network. Are these ‘official Alt-Market rules’? No. They are suggestions based on intensive study into the functions of macro and micro commerce. They are also based on common sense.
What NOT to do:
Micro-Manage Your Network: Barter networks need organizers, not dictators. The most important thing to remember here is that barter and trade belongs to everyone, and no one person can or should control such a system. It is important to take responsibility for the network you help to build, and, it is also important to take pride in its growth. However, if you are out to become the ‘king of barter town’, you are going to lose people. Remember, to fight centralization, we must decentralize. To fight globalism, we must turn to localism.
Introduce Your Own Fiat: As if the dollar is not a big enough problem, why not add to it by printing off your own completely unbacked currency? Fiat is fiat, whether produced by the Federal Reserve, or on your basement computer. If you are going to try to issue a personalized currency for the network you participate in, then it had better be supported by tangible goods or commodities which remain IN STORE, not in transit. That means, you should not issue coupons and notes for a reserve of goods you do not yet have. Its fraud when the banksters do it, and the situation will be no different for you.
Some networks do use personalized currencies, often made of silver, gold, and copper. This works because there is a legitimate commodity, and thus a legitimate store of wealth, involved. Each network will have to decide whether or not this particular strategy is worthwhile for them.
Cheat Your Trading Partners: Honesty is the paramount value of trade. Without it, healthy commerce is impossible. Cheating those you barter with will eventually lead only to your own downfall. Word travels fast in community markets. Keep it honorable, keep it clean, keep it fair. Bartering is for businessmen. “Hustling” is for idiots…
Limit Your Own Trade: Keep your barter options as open as possible. It’s good to focus on what you need, as opposed to what you “want”, but don’t let this diminish your ability to interact in your barter network. You may be offered certain goods that might not be immediately needed, but they may be useful to you down the road. Demanding only silver, or only livestock, or only grain for each and every trade, creates rigidity, and frustrates people into not wanting to barter with you at all. Keep in mind, even if an item is not what you need at the moment, it may still be sought after by someone else you know. Stay flexible, within reason…
This has been an overview of methods and guidelines for participating in Alternative Markets. Alt-Market.com is not a centralized body meant to “administrate” all barter and trade, we are a resource meant to help you administrate your own barter and trade. The concept of “localism” and decentralization is foreign for many Americans. We have been conditioned to expect that an organization or movement must be led from the top down, instead of the bottom up. This is simply not so. In fact, Alternative Markets depend upon you to lead. They depend upon you for direction, not some centralized group of self-proclaimed shepherds. It is my greatest hope that one day, not long from now, barter networks will be so common, sound money principles so respected, and corporate globalism so thoroughly denounced by the populace, that this website will become ridiculously obsolete. Until that day, Alt-Market.com remains here for you…” (snip) …
You can contact Brandon Smith at: email@example.com
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