No Squash For Karl Marx — By John Reed

No Squash For Karl Marx
Regular readers will note my previous discussions of various economic theories. My opinions on socialism and government-controlled finances and the soul-killing resulting dependence on permanent handouts have been loud. So too has been my support of free-market capitalism: with judiciously light and even-handed regulation, it can provide solutions more quickly and fairly. More on that later.
Now let’s talk about another economic system, one that’s been around longer than either modern system: barter. The free trade of goods and services without the middlemen of money or money handlers.
This time of year the barter system is in full force as my neighbors’ gardens start producing. Thanks to recent rains and generous neighbors, I have a full refrigerator and half a freezer loaded with fresh corn, squash, zucchini, beans, cucumbers, and tomatoes. I get the sense more is coming.
While my own garden is belatedly starting to produce, I’m already working on recipes for sauces, casseroles, and more. In due time I’ll be returning the favor with pear honey, fig preserves, grape jelly, and zucchini relish.
One advantage to bartering is the lack of a time frame. I might get a bucket of string beans now, and repay with muscadine jam in October. In simpler times, more than just food was bartered. A doctor’s visit might be repaid with a pig. A simple swap and a handshake might see a season’s fieldwork earn a place to sleep and eat.
Members of the younger generation are rediscovering the barter system as food co-ops and communal gardens spring up in major cities. Along the way, a couple of other concepts are being found, both critical to the success of any barter system.
Successful trade requires two things: mutual trust that the items being traded have approximately equal value. Also, there needs to be an appreciation of the work involved in producing those items. If I thought growing corn was easy, I might think I should get three bushels for only a pint jar of jelly in return.
Mutual trust and an appreciation of work. Old-fashioned ideas sorely needed these days. A few more “even Stephen” trades and handshakes couldn’t hurt.

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