The Barter Project #2 – update from the world’s worst blogger

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?

One thought on “The Barter Project #2 – update from the world’s worst blogger

  1. It just needs more participants, and people to see what other people are charing so that they can do do appropriately. Of course, this is partly why the idea of gold coins were developed. Easily divisible into small amounts, can carry it with you, and it has value of its own outside of being a ‘coin’. Time is interesting, but it only works so long as the site (or somebody else mutually trusted) keeps track, and its hard for A to trade to B so that A can buy from C. Thus, since we don’t all value ‘time’ equally, it probably also needs to shift to using something else as the ‘unit of exchange’.

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