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The Pros and Cons of Bartering for Survival

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September 04, 2013
The Pros and Cons of Bartering for Survival - 2

Could you live off the barter system? It makes an interesting hypothetical scenario. Bartering for necessities can be traced back to pre-literate cultures at least 6,000 years ago, and it still exists today through various web-based systems and networking organizations. But could you really survive off that system if you were out of cash, or if cash had lost its value, or if the electronic payment systems went down?

You’d have to muddle through the same problems with the barter system that our ancestors faced, and all of this is assuming that everyone plays nice and acts civil (which is a hell of a presupposition if we’re talking about an emergency situation). Still, if it works, the benefits are plentiful.

The Benefits of Bartering
- Anything can be traded for anything else, as long as both parties agree.      
- The barter system works under any conditions, regardless of a failure of utilities or infrastructure.
- Barter lets you trade different combinations of services, goods, and supplies for your needs.
- It can transcend language and cultural boundaries.

Barter Pitfalls
- It can be hard to determine fair trades, as supply and demand creates a heavy impact on barter situations.
- Some things are difficult or impossible to divide without them losing value, i.e. one live chicken.
- Barter requires that both parties have a desire for something that the other party possesses.
- Some barter items cannot be saved for the long term. One of the primary functions of money is to act as a store of value. You can’t keep your fresh eggs to trade next season, or save rice for your retirement.
- You end up showing others what you have, which could incite theft (or worse problems).

It’s an interesting situation to consider — bartering for your needs and even for your wants. If a good trade works out correctly, each person walks away with both something valuable and the willingness to trade with that partner again.

If forced to, would you trade with your neighbors and friends? If so, what would you trade? What goods and services could you provide that would be most valuable? Let’s hear it in the comments.

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from Tioughnioga 9/16/2013 at 12:55pm

This is a really interesting point. I confess that I don't know much about doomsday preppers, but in the few TV shows and YouTube videos I've watched, there is no mention whatsoever about the possibility of a barter system being worked out -- and certainly, none of the preppers I've seen had any plans for anything other than holing up and defending what's theirs. Nobody would ever call me softhearted, but I do believe that far more people are decent than not, and I think that come doomsday, this would still hold true. Certainly a percentage of outwardly decent folks could turn savage when things get desperate, but I bet that by and large, a simple barter system would come into being again.

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from Josey 9/9/2013 at 04:45pm

Let's hope we never get to that state in the lower 48.

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from Josey 9/9/2013 at 04:45pm

Let's hope we never get to that state in the lower 48.

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from Tioughnioga 9/16/2013 at 12:55pm

This is a really interesting point. I confess that I don't know much about doomsday preppers, but in the few TV shows and YouTube videos I've watched, there is no mention whatsoever about the possibility of a barter system being worked out -- and certainly, none of the preppers I've seen had any plans for anything other than holing up and defending what's theirs. Nobody would ever call me softhearted, but I do believe that far more people are decent than not, and I think that come doomsday, this would still hold true. Certainly a percentage of outwardly decent folks could turn savage when things get desperate, but I bet that by and large, a simple barter system would come into being again.

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