|Barter economy – Wikimedia image|
The trading of goods without the use of paper currency is not a difficult concept. People all across the country do it everyday. Barter, in its simplest sense, is not dead, and never will be. However, the organized use of barter as an alternative to the mainstream economy; THAT is something America has all but forgotten. One serious problem that I consistently seem to run into is the assumption that barter needs “backers”, meaning, many people believe the existing methodology of business must be the driver for barter to become “big” again. For decades, barter organizations of every shape and size have been so focused on pursuing a centralized corporate profit model that they forget the foundation of success in barter is the strength of the individual participants. This is why we have seen so many false starts and failures in localized commerce initiatives. It is the same reason why many existing barter groups remain in a sort of stasis, unable to grow, frustrating organizers and members alike. Liberty Dollar, for instance, was so centralized that a single federal raid was all that was needed to dismantle Bernard von NotHaus’ accomplishments and his years of effort.
The manner in which many businesses function today is, in fact, abnormal, and rather distorted. We live in a top down pyramid shaped economy in which the masses are motivated not by self sustainability, self betterment, or even profit, but the desire to attain a seat at the top, the peak, where they believe they will finally be safe and secure. This is a delusion, of course. The pyramid itself is built upon unstable ground, where debt and fiat wobble and tremble under the weight of the system, and millions upon millions of foolhearty souls clamor over each other, lying, backstabbing, and sabotaging each other, relinquishing their honor and their dignity for what usually amounts to scraps from the tables of an elite few (how many warped and despondent middle management types do you know?). Transferring this mentality to the world of private commerce and localized barter is a ridiculous notion.
Barter must be based on solid principles, honesty, and the unique strengths and talents of each and every participant. The modern corporate philosophy must be abandoned, and true entrepreneurship must return. Trade relationships based on trust must be placed in the forefront, and the “do anything for a buck, kiss ass to get ahead” mentality needs to be thrown to the curb. Profit will always be an influencing factor, as it should be, but power (centralization) only poisons.
To summarize, we do not need incredible amounts of capital, large numbers of businesses, or a magical money making scheme to establish strong alternative economies. We only need intelligent, independent, and determined people, who are willing to actually take the initiative to make things happen for themselves and for others.
To ensure that end, the Alternative Market Project is here for you. We cannot make people take action, but we can do our utmost to help them once they decide to do so. But where to begin? What if we have immense determination but are unsure how to take the first step? Let’s start there. Below, I have outlined a few very easy projects each Alt-Market member can work on that will put you on the right path, and towards a full fledged barter economy:
1) Join Alt-Market: I know, obvious.
2) Find A Group In Your Area: On the front page of our website sits a navigational map. It was designed to make finding a group in your state or county as easy as possible. Simply click on your state, and check the location dots to see which barter groups are established there. Click on the dot nearest you, and you will be taken directly to that group’s profile page. Join the group, and start talking to other members. If a group does not exist within a reasonable distance from where you live, you can always start your own by going to the group section on this site.
3) Be Patient: We’re off to a great start, but it is just a start. As we work hard to promote Alt-Market across the web, more and more people will join, and your groups will eventually start taking on new members (notice the snowball effect in membership lately? This is how all large grassroots movements begin). If you just can’t stand to wait, then advertise your Alt-Market barter group in your own town or city. We can only do so much today, but with your help, we can do a whole lot more tomorrow.
4) Write Your Alt-Market Resume: Put together a list of skills and goods you are willing to trade or trade for. If you are organizing a group, talk to members about setting up resumes as soon as possible.
5) Set Up Face To Face Meetings: The web is a great communications tool, but a horrible organizing tool. If barter networks are going to ever see the light of day, everyone on this site is going to have to eventually leave their house, and physically meet each other. If you are a group organizer, set up a weekly or bi-weekly meeting time and place. Go to the library, or the park, anywhere! Just commit yourself to making these meetings a priority. If you can’t set up regular meetings, then you probably should not be a group organizer. Hand the job off to somebody that will do it well.
6) Learn A Practical Skill: You’ll probably find during your first meetings that what members actually have to trade with each other is minimal. Don’t let this discourage you. Discuss skill sets and goods that are lacking from your network. Then, figure out who wants to procure particular goods, or learn a particular skill. In this way, you actively strengthen your own economy, instead of waiting around for the right person with the right skill-set to accidentally stumble upon you.
7) Interact With Your Local Farmer’s Co-op: Once you have a semblance of a network going (a half a dozen well prepared people are enough), go to your local farmer’s market or co-op, and discuss barter with them. At the very least, engage them on the topic of trading for silver, instead of dollars. Even the most skeptical co-op could be persuaded to participate in silver exchange. If you can’t get a co-op on board, you may have to organize a garden effort within your group. Or, if you have a few farmers, start your OWN co-op! Barter for food is an essential first step, especially in a hyperinflationary environment where the price of a loaf of bread might jump several percent everyday. Also, if you can get people used to the idea of bartering for food, then it should be much easier to introduce barter for other goods later. (find yours at LocalHarvest.com)
8) Make Your Network Visible: Become a guerilla marketer. Find as many new ways as you can to get the word out on barter networking. I am still amazed at how many barter groups out there have completely neglected the need for promotion. Now, there are some who feel that making your network visible to the public will subject you to risk, or make you a target. Sorry to rain on the party, but we are ALL targets in a collapsing economy already. Private trading is fine, even necessary, but covert networking is silly, and self defeating. We want barter to go NATIONAL. We want every person we know to be involved. Period. Why? Because if barter networking hits critical mass, it will be nearly impossible for federal agencies to shut it down, and, it will be nearly impossible for the establishment to demonize its practice. If everyone is involved in alternative commerce, who’s left to listen to the cronies over at the SPLC? Become a pillar of the community, not the “dark extremist secret” of the community.
The list above is just the beginning, but hopefully, it will assist you on your way to true localism. Time is growing short. Every day that the mainstream system stays afloat is a gift, an opportunity that should not be wasted. Take advantage, do the work, insulate your community from disaster, take back control of your economy, and prosper. From here on out, we make our own destinies. Make yours a good one…
Join Alt-Market today, find a barter network in your area, or start your own. Insulate yourself and your family from economic collapse before it is too late. You can contact Brandon Smith at: firstname.lastname@example.org