Monday, October 25, 2010

Let's trade crap!

You know what sucks? Advancements in technology. Paper money is totally evil, and we should probably do away with it because, as far as I'm aware, there was no such thing as evil before currency reared its ugly head right around 2000 BC.

Luckily for me, some folks in Durham, NC (shoutout!) are throwing a helpful event where I can just bring my junk, drop it off, and pick up someone else's junk. What a relief, as I usually have to rely on the dump for that sort of service.

Is "Free Market" a play on the fact that they're all hippies?

Sadly, I expect the organizers will just end up with a bunch of trash at the end of the day. (Helen, if you're reading this, I'm sorry I stole it off your Tumblr and am now totally ripping on it.)

In truth, it does sound like a fun enough event. Going back to a barter economy is something like participating in a Renaissance fair without dressing up like an idiot; you get to spend some time really understanding why we don't live that way anymore.

In fact, if I've got my economic history right, marketplaces like this - but with less worthless crap - were the way modern banks were sort of born in Venice. (Aside from pretty much all of China, Venice was the evolutionary capital of financial systems around the 14th century.) Instead of lugging around their giant sacks of gold and whatsuch, uber-rich Venicians would make a stop by the bench (in Old Italian, banca - hence "bank") where exchange counters hung out, drop off their gold for a deposit slip, and pay sellers with what was essentially a check on their account. Awesome, no?

In any case, people found it much easier to carry little slips of paper instead of, say, a bunch of goats or something. Funny how that idea caught on.


Becky said...

Speaking of the Law of Unintended Consequences (bad currency, bad!), maybe we should avoid future housing crises by going portable on housing (Mongolian yurt, anyone?) -- we can minimize the evils of conspicuous consumption and avoid the next mortgage crisis at the same time. This Richard Koo guy has some thoughts on that, sort of tangentially:

Robert Fisher said...

@Becky I've seen this Lost Decade comparison before -- Paul Krugman has said that low aggregate demand despite a zero interest rate is justification for more stimulus as unemployment keeps on keepin on. But some throwback Austrians think the non-growth has some purging effect on the more overblown parts of the economy. It's tough to argue either way without knowing the future, or at least without finishing my degree first...

Becky said...

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