The Barter System
By Claire Miles - October 26, 2022

Business, and the general trade of merchants, has been a concept practiced since the very dawn of time. In today’s world, business is less physical, leaning towards the majority of operations being carried out in the intangible realm. Many of today’s businesses have chosen to abandon the traditional brick and mortar set up and instead have chosen to establish an online presence in order to reach the far ends of the Earth – bar eateries and clothes shopping stores, most industries have, for better or for worse, shifted completely online. In addition, in the modern world we tend to exchange a good or service not for another one, except in the case that a business offers an exchange policy, but for a sum of money – in the past, this was not always the case.

Getty Images / Image Source / Cultura RM Exclusive/Judith Haeusler

The barter system is a term used to describe the process by which one individual, the consumer, would go to the markets in order to exchange one of their own goods for that of another individual’s. For example, a rather common occurrence in rural areas, or even in urban sprawls, many centuries ago was to go to the market with your five chickens and exchange them for the vendor’s goat – a win-win situation.

Despite the practicality of the barter system, it presented many issues and posed many concerns. One problem regarding the system was that there was no real way to put a value on a good. For example, in one transaction, one goat might have been exchanged for five chickens, but on the same day, another goat might have been exchanged for 8 chickens – the value placed on goods were dependent on the feelings and sentiments of the sellers. Although this seems to be an alluring idea, especially for the vendor, it can lead to extensive issues in the future.

Suffice it to say, the world has come a long way from the exchange of goats and cows. From the ignorance of the past was born the enlightenment of the future.