American Samizdat

Monday, November 20, 2006. *
Taking "buy nothing day" to the next level: no bartering
A local co-operatively run coffee shop is having a barter fair for buy nothing day, and it got me thinking. Barter fairs seem like good fun, and there are a number of clear advantages to bartering over fiat exchange. As Fenris 23 put it "It is usevalue usevalue exchange rather than exchangevalue usevalue." Barter fairs may be the only true free markets (see: Manuel DeLanda). Also, bartering by-passes financial institutions (though when it comes to larger scale economic hacking, alternative currencies and credit unions may be more successful).

So why am I against bartering as part of "buy nothing day"? It depends on the reason for "buy nothing day." If the intention to create a large-scale alternative economic system free of the exploitation of capitalism (the ultimate goal of The Church of Stop Shopping, as I understand it), then bartering (coupled with other, more scalable alternatives), makes total sense. But if the aim is to liberate a day of the year to be free of consumerism, then barter should be abstained from.

Exchanging something of value for something else of value is still commerce, and participants in the market are still propelled by the grand goal of shopping: getting a good deal, or at least not getting ripped off. The entire process can still be boiled down to the exchange of something surplus for something equally, if not more, desirable. Again, there's nothing wrong with this. That's life. But to me, the idea of liberating a day from buying would be about rejecting, if only temporarily, the self-interest of trade and getting back to the spirit of thankfulness. It would be about spending the day not trying acquire more, but to appreciating what I have. Spending time with family and friends, or getting some valuable alone-time, or giving with no expectation of exchange. I harbor no illusions of a large scale gift-economy working any time soon, and no illwill to those seeking to improve their lives through trade. But doesn't a day dedicated solely to living and not thinking about gaining or losing property sound nice?

Check out Bolo'Bolo author PM's Liberating Wednesday (courtesy of Trevor Blake). (He does advocate barter, as the agenda here is the creation of alternative economies).

(Full hypocrisy disclosure: as I will be traveling on Buy Nothing Day, I will likely end up at least buying coffee, if not a meal somewhere).
posted by Klintron at 9:17 PM
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