Alternative Markets, Barter Systems, and Local Co-ops are the Lifeboats That Will Save Us

Interview with Brandon Smith, founder of Alt-Market.com

Eric Blair
Activist Post

More and more people are becoming aware of the complete system failure we’re experiencing in the United States and around the globe. As the true nature of the control system is revealed, people tend to feel as Howard Beale did in Network when he said, “first, you’ve got to get mad…and scream, I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”

But once that anger at being lied to for so long subsides, then we must get on with the business of taking action to make the world more just and hopeful for our children.  Many people will take to the streets to protest certain aspects of the current system. Others will do everything in their power to inform or warn their peers of the coming iceberg. Those are good and necessary functions, but they won’t stop the Titanic from sinking.

It seems the broken system will continue to take on water despite the best efforts to affect change within it.  That’s why some are suggesting to jump ship now before they run out of lifeboats.  By jump ship, I mean function outside of the system as much as possible.  The faulty economic system is only propped up by our belief and support of it.  When we operate outside of it using alternative markets, barter systems, local cooperatives, and competing currencies, we not only provide a lifeboat to many frightened passengers, but the paddles as well.

Below is my email interview with alternative market activist and founder of Alt-Market.com, Brandon Smith.  He explains the need and benefits of using alternative markets as a form of protest and survival:

EB:  What was your motivation for starting Alt-Market?

BS:  I had been writing for years under the pen-name “Giordano Bruno” on my first website, Neithercorp.us, which is now retired. My original purpose when I began was simply to provide as much clarity as I could for people who were feeling overwhelmed by the wash of mainstream media disinformation, especially in terms of economic analysis. This was back in 2007 at the onset of the credit collapse, and there were a lot of good writers and researchers already doing great work, but most of it was geared towards people who had a pretty intensive understanding of the common terminology. The MSM, on the other hand, was a highly concentrated example of educational dissuasion through obscure linguistics. That is, they talked big and thought small, and the rest of us were left confused and frustrated. . . 

Average Americans believe economics is mind numbingly tedious, and they are right. Primarily, because mainstream financial pundits on your typical FOX News or MSNBC afternoon market show spew vocabulary particular to their field that most of us are not exposed to on a regular basis. They might as well be speaking Sumerian and posting stock quotes in Cuneiform. I really felt this was just a byproduct of the inbred banking and investment world. The complex language makes them appear knowledgeable, almost unreachably superior. In reality, once you learn the terminology of micro and macroeconomics, you begin to discover that these guys actually HAVE been talking gibberish the whole time. It wasn’t you that was incapable of understanding; it was they who were incapable of giving valid explanations. I set out in my own little way to help people realize that they could grasp finance easily, and far better than any talking head on cable television.

Until the past year, I hadn’t really considered taking the reigns of a project dedicated to organizing people around anything. I just didn’t see myself as the “frontman” type. I had written numerous articles on the concept of decoupling from the corrupt establishment system, including pieces on what I call “Alternative Markets”. I figured that launching the ideas and strategies out onto the Web would be enough. “Let some of the heavy hitters in the Liberty Movement pick them up and run with them“, I thought. Some of these guys can jump in front of a camera or a microphone and talk for hours, non-stop about any number of subjects. That just wasn’t me.

Almost out of nowhere I received an email from Stewart Rhodes of Oath Keepers, an organization I have a lot of respect for. Its one of the few that have gone beyond the sphere of education and produced tangible results, and whose members are willing to take substantial risks to their careers and themselves. Stewart was looking for someone to help him with solutions on the economic side of the globalist problem. We agreed that the military, even honorable oath keeping men and women, would feel compelled to participate in a martial law scenario if there was no alternative in place for Americans to utilize during a breakdown. If we were tearing each other apart for food and water, the DHS, FEMA, and NORTHCOM, would have the perfect rationalization for complete lock-down, and a lot of the troops would go along with it.

I brought up my work on decentralization, localization, alternative markets, and barter networks. He basically said “Great, let’s do it. You take the lead.” I was reticent, but Stewart is a Constitutional lawyer, and damned persuasive. It’s almost impossible to dissuade the guy. So, with the help of my good friend and web designer Josh Ogden, Alt-Market.com was born.

EB:  How would you define alternative markets? In other words, what constitutes an alternative market?

BS:  It was all theory based on diametric opposition; the idea that there is an opposing methodology for every political or social strategy, that defuses the effects of that strategy. If you want to fight elitist centralization of a system, for example, you have to develop your own working system based on decentralization. If you want to stop the destructive effects of globalism, you have to turn away from participation in it, and focus more on localism. The purpose of centralization is to remove options from a cultural system until the only options left are those that YOU want people to bow to, and become dependent on. If the Liberty Movement wants to fight back against this, we have to have the determination to create our own options and stop playing by their rules. I feel that an Alternative Market is one of those options.

As for what an Alternative Market is; it is essentially any method of trade outside the establishment-controlled economy. It could be based on the barter of goods and skills, or the proliferation of precious metals to break our dependence on the fiat dollar (or Federal Reserve Note), etc. It could be a network of people across a county or state, or, an agreement between two friends.

The Federal Government would call this “black market trade”, and they have called it that in the past. After the recent Liberty Dollar case was concluded and they railroaded Bernard von NotHaus with the broadest and most ridiculous interpretation of counterfeiting law I’ve ever seen, the DOJ even compared barter groups and sound money advocates to “domestic terrorists”. This was meant to shoo us away from such organization, but, really, all it did was reveal what they are afraid of. They are desperate, and I do mean DESPERATE, to keep us from developing our own private economies. If we are successful, we will no longer be in the position of dependency on the dollar or the sham economy. When it implodes, we will be relatively unfazed, and certainly not tearing each other apart. Meaning, their rationalization for martial law goes straight down the drain. The thought of that possibility really pisses them off…

EB:  Why are alternative markets important? Explain to our readers what the benefits are to supporting alternative markets, barter systems, local co-ops, or competing currencies.

BS:  I went into this a little bit above, but I believe widespread alternative trade and barter will solve a large portion of our problems. We deny the Federal Reserve the ability to collect income taxes to pay off the debt they generate out of thin air to enslave the country. We remove ourselves from dependency on the dollar, a fraudulent fiat currency backed by nothing but more debt, which is on the verge of hyperinflating into oblivion anyway. We rekindle the bonds of meaningful community once again, bonds which we have neglected for far too long. And, we openly declare our independence from a bad system run by despicable people. I see very little downside.

Another thing to remember is that barter networks are inevitable. I pursued a comprehensive study of barter markets throughout history before I even began writing my ideas down on paper, and I can tell you, every single modern economic collapse from the Great Depression on resulted in the immediate and natural formation of barter groups, some of them containing tens of thousands of participants. It’s going on in Greece right now! Alternative markets are a necessity when the mainstream economy falters. They work. Period.

I suppose my project is only original in that I changed the timing. I propose that instead of waiting until the whole edifice comes crashing down, we are preempting collapse by building barter networks now. That way we are insulated from the effects of the disaster before it happens.

Another important benefit is that barter networking is the gateway to other forms of organization. You might trade with each other, but you also might work towards mutual defense if things really go downhill, which I’m sure most of us are aware is a distinct possibility.

EB:  Do you consider them a form of protest of the current system?

BS:  Absolutely. A lot of people naively call America a “free market economy”. This is simply not so. If you have only two options; use the dollar and play the game, or starve to death, then this is not freedom. In a true free market economy, you should be able to participate in a particular system all you want, but also have the choice of walking away at any time. If you can’t walk away, or if you are punished for walking away, then you are slave. That’s the bottom line. Think “feudalism”. The most effective anti-establishment movements are those that create a “third option”; a way of thinking or a means of living outside of mainstream conditioning. This is what really draws the ire of the authorities, because it presents an actual threat to their base of power.

Normal protest in itself is fine and it gives exposure to your ideas, but, really, true protest involves independent action with tangible benefits. This requires nonconformity, and risk. Without risk, there is no chance of gain. Not to disparage street actions, but waving around signs is a minimal risk, and you can see that in the behavior of our government. Nearly 80% of the country was against the bailouts, and many protested admirably, yet they passed the bills anyway without a second thought. They don’t feel threatened by traditional protest. We’re going to have to do much more than that to stop globalization in its tracks, and I think Alternative Markets are a good start.

EB:  What do you think is the major reason for the current system’s failure?

BS:  Oh man! That’s a loaded question. I suppose if I was to go to the very bottom of it all and pick out the primary root from which the whole poisonous vine sprang, it would have to be the establishment of the private Federal Reserve Bank in 1913. It’s funny, because you couldn’t even call the damn thing private four years ago without media sock puppets jumping all over you like feral cats. It’s “quasi-governmental” they used to say. Frankly, I don’t know what the hell that means. Either it is an institution under the direct authority of Congress and the American people, subject to audit and to public scrutiny, or, it is a private corporate bank outside of public control. You can’t be both. Sorry. Them’s the breaks.

Now, Alan Greenspan has finally admitted to the fact that the Fed is private and answers to no one, not even Congress, and the MSM stooges have shut up. However, the reality of that has not set in with the American people yet. Think about it; our entire economy is fully in the hands of a group of private corporate bankers who are almost all open proponents of globalization and the disintegration of national sovereignty for the sake of further centralization under the purview of an unaccountable global governing body. They go to meetings like Bilderberg or Davos along with many of our political leaders in violation of the Logan Act, where no press is allowed, and write foreign and domestic policy which is then implemented without our consent here at home. This isn’t “conspiracy theory”. This is just what’s admitted! Our taxes pay for this monstrosity to exist. We are paying for our own chains.

In terms of the immediate cause of collapse, anyone who has done the research behind the Fed’s activities knows, whether they admit it or not, that the whole nightmare is engineered. I welcome those who are skeptical to read my research papers on the derivatives crisis and the devaluation of the dollar, or the papers of many other alternative economists. It’s all there. The Fed knew it was creating a credit and mortgage bubble all through the ’90s and early 2000s. The Fed and entities like Goldman Sachs knew that the derivatives and mortgage markets were an utter farce and on the verge of meltdown (just look into the writings of Catherine Austin Fitts, the former Assistant Secretary of Housing). The Fed knew that the banks were ridiculously insolvent (it has recently been discovered that Lehman Bros. received $18 Billion in secret Fed funds months before they declared bankruptcy, and they warned no one). The Fed knew it all!

So, the only logical conclusion one can come to is that they wanted a financial disaster to take place. Why? They are globalists! They want a global currency, a global economic infrastructure, a global government. The U.S. is simply being prepared for that transition, whether the American people want it or not.

EB:  We share the belief that a genuine free market is the answer to current global consolidation, but do you think free markets, or underground markets, will be permitted beyond the local level?

Who knows if they’ll be “officially” permitted at the local level, let alone the national level. I guess there will come a point where Americans will have to ask themselves where the line is. In my opinion, the line was crossed a long time ago, but human beings will put up with a lot of trouncing for the sake of “not making waves”. Under a corrupt government, the law is not for us, and it is not “just”. It is not an equalizer for the safety of the citizenry. Under a corrupt government, the law is a weapon to be used to subjugate the public. That is all. Ultimately, if we wish to survive, and if we wish our principles of liberty to survive, we will have to break the law, because it is in direct opposition to our survival. To be quite honest, I would rather be called a criminal or an “extremist”, than be called an “abiding subject”.

My suspicion is that many people feel the same way, and that free markets will spring up everywhere regardless of what is permitted.

EB:  Once local alternative markets are established to weather the transitional storm that is coming, what do you think should replace the Federal Reserve System?

BS:  Not the IMF or some other global central bank, even though that appears to be the plan. Alternative Markets are a shield against the storm, but eventually, we’ll have to rebuild our government, only then can we replace the Federal Reserve with something honorable. The way any transition would naturally progress would probably be through the implementation of numerous decentralized markets which would then take on gold, silver, and maybe copper as a common currency mechanism (being that precious metals are the only practical replacements at this time). The power to create and regulate money would have to be given back to the Treasury as was originally intended by the Founding Fathers. A new paper currency is certainly plausible, but this time its production would have to be limited by a metals standard.

People who don’t comprehend how a metals standard works always blubber about how there’s not enough gold or silver to support a currency anymore. They don’t understand that the value of metals increases with demand, and therefore, it wouldn’t matter if there was only one ounce of gold in the entire country. That one ounce would be worth trillions, and each paper currency note would represent a tiny fraction of that ounce, while at the same time forcing a level of commodity backing. There can still be some inflation, but a metals standard sets limits, and it limits the government’s ability to spend with wild abandon. Keynesianism is a travesty. It doesn’t work (obviously), and Keynes himself was a globalist cretin with aspirations of total centralization. Let’s dump his wretched theories and move on, please!

EB:  Wouldn’t Wall Street have to be completely overhauled as well for a new monetary system to function properly?

BS:  I’m not even sure what Wall Street is anymore. It’s certainly not a representation of free markets or of true Capitalism (in the Adam Smith sense). It’s a kind of nasty bulbous tumor now, leaching off the lifeblood of the real economy. The bull market rally we’ve had over the past couple years is completely fiat driven. If the Fed raised interest rates tomorrow, I guarantee stocks would plummet to 2008 levels or lower. The bailouts and Quantitative Easing are the only things keeping it alive. Fiat injections are like formaldehyde for the Dow; it’s a corpse, but a pretty corpse, with blush and a nice suit. It looks almost alive, but it died a long time ago, and its starting to smell a little. I think speculative markets have a place in any economy, and investment must be encouraged. But, it should be investment based on legitimate performance, not cooked books and fabricated securities. In a new stock market, transparency would have to be demanded with no exceptions. That’s the only way it would work.

EB:  What do you ultimately hope to achieve with your alternative market social network?

BS:  We began with the goal of 50,000 members before collapse escalates towards hyperinflation. Right now we have around 1200 members, so we have a long way to go, though there has been a very exciting snowball effect in membership over the past month. The website itself is just a springboard for local action. I try to impress this on all our members. It’s not enough to merely join the site and start a group in your town or city; you have to leave your freaking house and meet each other face to face. You have to commit to real organization and real trade. You know . . . what people used to do before the Internet. My hope is that through Alt-Market, we can facilitate strong community building across the country and help people to remember that they do have a choice. That they can walk away from the rigged game and play by their own rules. Most importantly, my hope is that it will save lives, and save our country. It’s not a perfect country, but that shouldn’t stop us from aspiring to something better.

We can sit around on our asses and complain about the terrible state of the world, or we can take it upon ourselves to clean up the mess. That’s all there is. If you are afraid to take action, then I suggest you consider what will happen if you don’t. I see far more danger in complacency and fear than I see in defiance and courage.

EB:  Where do we go from here, what can people do to stimulate alternative markets?

BS:  My website is only one way to build a barter network. You don’t have to join to do it, we just try to make the process easier for you. Food production should be a priority for any new alternative market, especially in the face of inflation. Approaching farmer’s co-ops or garden co-ops, or even starting your own and trying to develop a barter plan, would be a good first step. Getting people to meet bi-weekly and discussing goals would be more than what most in the movement do. It’s a lost art form. It’s going to take a little time for us to relearn how barter is done.

Stewart Rhodes and I will actually be driving Alternative Markets even further with our Safe Haven State Project, which will be ready for launch soon. For those who feel the area in which they live is too unreceptive to barter networking, we’ll be building barter communities in states and counties that have a strong existing foundation. The first state we will be focusing on is Montana. We also hope to work with other Free State Projects like those in New Hampshire and Wyoming to give people more moving options. The plan is to set up coordination committees and welcome wagons within certain areas that will make your move smoother, as well as help you to find housing and employment. On top of this, as more people move to these Safe Havens, barter networks will grow until a full bore alternative economy is in place. I will be putting my money where my mouth is and moving to one of these areas shortly.

At bottom, we need to set aside our cynicism and our nihilism and become human again. There is nothing to lose and everything to gain. Honestly, I don’t know many people that have better things to do. There is no excuse for failure. In the words of Carl Jung; we make our own epoch.

Please visit Alt-Market today to begin building your local alternative market connections. And please consider making a donation to their summer fundraiser; the movement needs lifeboats and paddles.  You can reach Brandon at brandon@alt-market.com.

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