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barter economy

Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

A barter economy is a cashless economic system in which services and goods are traded at negotiated rates. 

Barter-based economies are one of the earliest, predating monetary systems and even recorded history. People can successfully use barter in many almost any field. Informally, people often participate in barter and other reciprocal systems without really ever thinking about it as such -- for example, providing web design or tech support for a farmer or baker and receiving vegetables or baked goods in return. Strictly Internet-based exchanges are common as well, for example exchanging content creation for research.

Because barter is based on reciprocity, it requires a mutual coincidence of wants between traders. This requirement complicates barter, but in a sufficiently large system traders can be found to supply most wants. According to proponents, the mutuality fosters a sense of connectedness and community among traders.

In recent years, barter has enjoyed a resurgence as a means of countering economic insecurity, unemployment and worker exploitation. The nature of modern-day work, the pervasiveness of the Internet and the rise of social networking have all contributed to its spread. Other examples of alternative economic systems include gift economies, sharing economies and time banks.

These alternative systems are not mutually exclusive, and all can operate within a predominantly capitalist system. However, because these systems operate in terms of reciprocity rather than profit and growth, there are concerns (or hopes) that they could undermine the current economic system.

This was last updated in January 2014

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"Barter-based economies are one of the earliest, predating monetary systems and even recorded history." If they predate recorded history, how would you know they existed? Also, isn't there scant evidence that barter economies without credit systems EVER existed?
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1. Found this amazing app on the app store (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/salt-bartering/id972418947?mt=8) where I traded many of my old stuff with my neighbors. The best part is the app will intelligently and automatically find the best matches for my items. You have to try it.
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is possible to use technology and the internet to create
an economy that shares a few characteristics with a
barter economy?
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