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Friday, July 17, 2009

Gold Isn't the Answer: Barter Is

It's bad everywhere, I realize that. But it keeps getting worse. Here in Florida, state unemployment is the highest since 1983, and the Unemployment Benefits office is besieged by calls. Their volume is so high, it's making the news.

Everywhere you go, every discussion turns to the economy.

My best friend, Pov, just lost his job.

I still have my two jobs, but the new one may not last long because the owner, Claire, is out of cash and can't even make the current payroll.

The two luxury yacht salesmen I know have lost their jobs. This is truly a bad sign, because (in general) wealthy people keep spending no matter what.

In the thrift stores, signs are posted begging for donations. No one is donating right now because everyone is hanging on to what they've got, putting off replacing whatever it might be.

I recently went to Synovus Bank to cash a check. While I was there, the teller leaned over and confided to me that they had all just had a pay cut but it was better than losing their jobs altogether. I didn't know this woman - she's a total stranger who apparently is on the edge.

I was in the store the other day and a pleasant-looking older woman accosted me, begging me to pass on her personal information if I knew of any jobs out there. "I'll do anything," she emphasized. "Scrub toilets, whatever it takes. I'm desperate." She was a former cosmetics counter manager for a major department store.

This is what networking has come to. We no longer want to find a better job: Any job will do.

You hear shills on the radio encouraging you to invest in gold. Sure! I'll just take that extra several thousand dollars I've got stuffed in my mattress and I'll buy a couple of coins.

Obviously buying gold isn't the answer, but it's unaffordability is only one reason. Here's another:

Gold is not a common currency, so you'll have to eventually convert it into cash anyway. And if cash is worthless at that point, you can't even do that. All you will be able to do is trade it.

At that point, good luck finding someone who is willing to trade for a solid gold coin. You might find the occasional person who will, but they will be very subjective in evaluating what that gold coin is worth to them personally. They will know that it's not an easily tradeable commodity and that will actually devalue your "investment".

If we're returning to the economy of the early 80s, we need to look to the solutions they had in the early 80s. Barter became the solution to many problems, and it probably will again.

What was bartered? Services and items. Couches that at one time would have ended up in thrift stores were bartered for computer services. Haircuts were bartered for home-cooked meals or babysitting services.

There were two types of bartering groups:

1. The kind that directly exchanged services and goods.
2. The kind that converted all services and goods into "Barter Bucks" that could be spent at will among other members of the group.

My ex-husband and I belonged to both types of groups. The second was a much superior idea, but it only works when a large number of people have banded together. This would work, for instance, with Craig's List participants, but Craig's List would have to see a need for this and create it.

It's time to get out some of the old ideas and dust them off once more. It's time to get creative.

8 comments:

Ed Abbey said...

Things here in Iowa have cooled off quite a bit and though they aren't hiring, they aren't laying off either. But then, Iowa hasn't been hit as hard as the rest of the country.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Ed, It's so bad here, it's frightening.

Mission Specialist said...

“ they will be very subjective in evaluating what that gold coin is worth to them ”.

Isn’t that the case of the dollar in your pocket? Today the price of gas in Tampa is about $2.40. A while back about $3.00. How about a house, maybe the worst purchase someone could make in the last year and a half. So what’s a dollar really worth?

“it's not an easily tradeable commodity”.

Pencils would be easily traded against say apples? Pencils will last while apples will rot, but you need 10 apples and he needs only 2 pencils Easily tradable?

There is no difference between “Barter Bucks” and dollars. Neither has intrinsic value. BBs depend on acceptance and are subject to inflation and collapse. Unlike dollars, they’re absolutely worthless outside of the group.

Unofficial currencies, like barter bucks , are illegal. In the 80's, some people used this kind of “currency”. People were arrested. Bartering is legal. Bartering on a private currency is a felony.

Because it:
1. Can’t be taxed.
2. Undermines national economies.
3. Are easily counterfeited.
4. Never last and whoever holds them when they collapse loses.
5. Promote criminal syndicates that control the currencies and the people who use them.

A token is legal. Tokens are issued by a single interest [ e.g. a bus system, casino] but the token cannot be traded as currency outside of that interest.

When you think of trading a gold coin for a tank of gas at your 7-Eleven, it doesn’t make sense. Why would they take your $1000 coin for $25 worth of gas when they won’t even take your $100 bill? Does that mean your $100 bill is worthless?

What would 7-Eleven take in trade for the gas? Your old couch or a promise of future computer services or a ‘home cooked meal’? Not on your life. Gold and silver were the basis of most currencies since the invention money and will remain so.

From 1795 until 1933 the U.S. made circulating gold coins in denominations of $1, $2.50, $3, $5, $10, $20. In 1986 the U.S. started production of legal tender gold, silver coins. Today, they bring many times their face value, even in poor condition. This minimum value is its INTRINSIC VALUE. [Intrinsic value is the value something has regardless of form or condition. A one ounce gold necklace may sell for $2,000, but its intrinsic value is the melt value of the gold].

Anyone can print money but precious metals are limited. Even if you don’t think it’s pretty, it’s rarity and use in industry give it an INTRINSIC value that guarantees it will be accepted anywhere. It’s compact, unlike coal or iron. It’s durable unlike food or cloths. It’s no coincidence that during times of famine, the ones with the gold survived the famine.

As currency is produced, the currency is devalued because the it has no INTRINSIC VALUE. Precious metals do and thus will always be a reliable currency.

You commented on commercials encouraging investing in metals [“shilling” you said]. If you only have a few thousand in the bank or in investments, there is not much point in the current state of our economy to inconveniencing yourself by converting your limited paper currency into hard currency because if your paper currency looks to become unstable, you can spend all you have, while it still has value, on things you can use, in a very short time.

One should have some small denomination hard currency like silver coins or small gold rather than spend your last cent on a large gold coin; and even those who “shill” the gold coins would tell you that. It is kind of silly to buy a gold coin with your last dollar if you have to sell it just to buy a cup of Joe.

But if you have stocks, bonds, and significant amount of cash in the bank, how do you protect you earnings? One can’t go out and spend $30,000 on food and clothes. This is why if you have more than $10,000 in liquid assets, one should invest some in hard currency, the ONLY real barter bucks.

daveawayfromhome said...

If you're worried about your cash becoming valueless, go out and spend most of it on something that will have value should the currency collapse. Gardening tools, seeds, canning equipment, a portable generator, raw materials that can be turned into a still or a methane collection system. Stuff like that.
Dont spend all your money, though, since the worst may never come to pass, and then you're stuck with all that stuff and no money for your mortgage, rent, whatever.
Canned goods, maybe. Those will last for a good long while, and you can eat them when you run out of money.

Dr. Deb said...

I'm a big believer for the barter system. I've used it as has my hubby in his work.

Times are so hard.

The Lazy Iguana said...

I tried suggesting using the barter system on some chick I met at a party. Ill do X if you do Y.

I got a drink poured on me, which was NOT my idea of Y.

Saur said...

Mission Specialist, There's no question that barter is difficult, but it's more difficult when you're dealing with a high priced commodity such as gold, which you've spent a great deal of money on.

For instance: Do you cut out a small chunk of that coin to buy food for your family? Do you think others would be OK with trading for a gold coin that's been chopped up? Maybe, maybe not. But if you do, you devalue the coin. And don't forget, gold coins are more expensive than gold-per-ounce because you're buying something that's supposed to be inherently COLLECTIBLE.

Remember that it's not recommended that you buy straight gold, because in the past the government has demanded all citizens turn in their gold unless it was in collectible or jewelry form.

But coins are only worth something if they're intact and sold to a COLLECTOR. How many collectors are going to be sitting around, willing to barter?

If Barter Bucks are illegal, then I must be mistaken. I had been sure my husband and I had been involved in a group that used them, but maybe they were just contemplating using them and never ended up doing so.

However, perhaps tokens are the answer in some way?

I disagree about the premise that any gold is a good investment. I hear it all the time, but mark my words: It's not going to be practical in times of need.

Daveawayfromhome, Agreed.

Dr. Deb, So very true.

Lazy, ;o)

Jon Williamson said...

"Barter Bucks" are NOT illegal.

In 1982, the IRS declared them equivalent to US dollars on a one to one basis. You pay taxes on them.

If your barter exchange is IRS compliant (they should be), both you and the IRS receive a transaction report.

In fact, I read in a recent article that some US towns are starting to issue their own local currencies to encourage trading locally.