Awhile back I posted a list of things and services I am willing and able to do for barter, as well as a list of things and services I am interested in bartering for. I didn’t get much response, although I know these things take time to seep into folks’ minds. Then, a few days ago, a friend posted this link: http://timebank.sfbace.org. (Thanks Bear!)
I was excited, as here was a built-in community of folks in my area with infrastructure in place who actively want to start bartering now. I signed up.
As I began exploring the site, one of the thornier issues I’ve had with bartering came up right away. This site is based on time trading; everyone’s value is considered equal, so for one hour of my time doing whatever, I earn one hour of credit that I can cash in for one hour of someone else’s time. This is all fine and good – to a point.
But here’s where it starts to get tricky. Goods are also offered, and given a time value. One of the things I am most interested in is trading for food, as I currently live in an apartment and have very limited abity to grow my own food, let alone have chickens, eggs etc. So naturally I was thrilled to find that I could trade someone for farm fresh eggs! However, I noticed that they were asking one full trade hour for these eggs. The skills I have to offer bill out between $20 – $45 an hour. $60 – $75 an hour when I offer massage. So, that would be a pretty pricey carton of eggs! (To be fair, I don’t know how many eggs are being offered, perhaps several cartons. Which is more than I could use.) So right out of the gate, I am experiencing this system as not addressing my needs in a realistic way.
I am feeling inflation to be sure, but as of yet I am still able to get a carton of eggs for less than $30 an hour.
This dilemma can arise with services as well. Is it fair to trade exact time for time when one person went to school for years to learn their trade, i.e a chiropractor, and one is offering to weed your garden?
Of course a staunch socialist will say that everyone’s efforts being equal is the way to go, promotes equality etc. This is a nice idea but does it really work in practice?
For my part, I have to admit, I would be loathe to trade a deep tissue massage, which takes a toll on my body, for a carton of eggs. Or even 6 cartons of eggs.
So I am intrigued by this timeshare trade site, and I look forward to exploring it further and at the very least, meet folks in my immediate neighborhood who are open to this type of thinking. But I also am not yet convinced it is the barter experience I am looking for.
I post this for discussion among those who have expressed interest in barter movements. I’d love to hear your thoughts on how best to facilitate a barter economy. Should it be based on time and thus everybody’s efforts are equal? Does valuing one person’s training and knowledge over another’s devalue some people? Or does it devalue a person to expect their years of medical school to be the same worth as pulling weeds from a garden? By what criteria do we place value on things? Perhaps the timebank model is good for certain types of barter but not all? Perhaps we can take a cool idea and make it better?