I’m not sure the global economy has worked out all that hot for most people, and by most people I mean “most people in the world.”
You know how they always describe a total breakdown of a nation as “degenerated to a barter economy”? Like during a civil war?
Well, I think barter economy can be pretty cool. The people tend to know each other, and even if they don’t, the transactions are personal and face-to-face. My goat for your carpet, twenty drachmas.
One of my friends has a lovely family and a very nice life, and many years ago she was a hairdresser. And she has never been crazy about my hair, mostly because I shave it over the sink with a pair of electric clippers.
Sometimes there are tufts sticking out. Okay, always.
And nose hairs, and ear hairs, and those funny eyebrow hairs you get when you’re old that are white and stick out about four inches so that if you get too close they can put someone’s eye out.
“Let me cut your hair,” she said one day.
“Okay,” I said, “in exchange I’ll bake you a loaf of bread.”
I baked a loaf of sourdough, 1/3 white, 1/3 wheat, 1/3 rye, stuffed it into my backpack, and my wife and I rode over to her house.
She did an amazing job cutting my hair, and I handed her the loaf. We were both really happy. Me because now I no longer look like I shaved my head in the sink, and she because there was a honking loaf of warm sourdough on her kitchen counter.
We three talked and laughed the whole time, and even fed a couple of dog biscuits to Dakota, who lolled in the kitchen and let me pet her. The whole thing, it was more than just a transaction.
Back to the global economy
On the way home I flatted. A wire went through my tire. I changed it, but the bead on the cheap-ass Schwalbe ‘cross tire came apart when I put it back on the rim, and blew out, so I rode on my flat over to a bike shop.
I bought a couple of tires and the mechanic put them on. We didn’t know each other and it was pretty impersonal. The owner stood in the back and gave me a perfunctory nod.
I paid with my credit card and we left.
The price was fair and the mechanic did a great job, but it was different, paying money versus swapping something for bread. I know what it was: No one really cared. And no bodaciously cute, happy mutt munching dog biscuits, either.
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