Free trade – the real thing

This post was written earlier but not published due to the unfortunate interruption of the server over the past few days.  It may seem that something should be written about that inconvenience but, honestly, it was just silly technical crap that took too long to resolve.

Scene one.  Act one.  Neighbour enters from stage left. 

“Need a small compressor?”

“Unh, not really………….why?”

“Well, you know that big ol’ creosote timber ya got tied up on the beach?  I’d like to have it.  Like to trade this small compressor I got for it.”

“Oh, you don’t need to give me anything.  But let me think.  Do I really need it?  ………..Nah…..probably not.  Got enough projects to keep me busy.  Go ahead, take it.”

“Well, I think you need a small compressor so I’ll bring it over for you.  Can’t just take a guy’s wood, can I?  Wouldn’t be right!  Just wanna go measure that timber now that I am here.”

“But I don’t even have any air-tools.  Why would I need a compressor?”

“Well, I got air-tools.  You can always use mine.  Anyway, everyone needs a compressor.”

And so it is around here.  Rural economy.  Unstructured business. Illogical deal-making that is well, kinda logical in the micro-context sense in which we now live.

People almost always make an effort to ‘pay back’ and keep the ‘books even’ but they don’t use money with which to do it.  Since there is no real monetary-type currency with which to measure, we have to use an ad hoc currency, as it were.  We call it ‘in kind’.  Which we interpret as: ‘Ya just have to kinda keep it even……’

Even if the item or service being requested is of more significance or no significance for you, they’ll pay you something that they deem fair – ish.  In some way.  At some time.  Probably, they will, anyway (memory is a factor).  It’s pretty good.  But weird.

And there is little to no negotiation.  You either ‘go for it’ or you don’t.  And, anyway, it is not like the fellow can say, “Oh, you think the timber is worth more than a small compressor?  OK, I’ll make it one and half small compressors or give you a medium sized compressor”.  He can’t do that!  He’s got what he’s got.  To try and fine tune the deal is considered gauche.  It is also impossible, really.

Sometimes it seems really out of whack.  Especially if you think like you did in the city.  I might rewrite a contract for someone or successfully get a settlement from ICBC for a neighbour for whom such work is like learning a foreign language.  “I’ve got two salmon here for you and a whole box of Jane’s strawberry jam coming next week.  Hope that squares us?”

“Yeah.  Of course.  Great.  Thanks!”

That seeming disparity is because what I do is a foreign language to him.  And two salmon and a box of jam is not small potatoes, ya know?   

When I worked in the city and did a contract or service or mediation or negotiation, I would charge for that service.  I’d get paid a commensurate amount for the result and I was always OK with that.  Whatever it was, it was sufficient for us to live our lives.  But, out here, that same compensation method can’t possibly work.  What I might charge $2,000 for in the city gets a few salmon or a piece of old logging equipment out here.  Or just the knowledge that I have a favour I can call in.

It is not that the service is not appreciated, it is just that service out here is reciprocated in kind, not money.  Well, sometimes it is reciprocated in small compressors, lumber, salmon, prawns, crab and the like.  Filthy lucre?  Not so much.

“But isn’t that unfair to you?”

Not really.  Say I needed to have a tree topped.  My neighbour comes over, has lunch, climbs the tree and tops it.  Then he comes down, has a beer and leaves.  Eight months ago, I maybe had to write his submission for a small construction contract – something he wasn’t comfortable doing.  So, we are ‘square’.  If I had to have a tree topped in the city, it might cost me $500.00.  If he had to hire me at city rates to write his contract submission, I might charge $500.  But neither of us live in the city so the question is really hypothetical.  He does tree-tops.  I do contracts.  That’s all there is to it.

Like the tree falling in the woods when no one is around to hear it making (or not) noise, it’s a question of philosophy, really.  When work gets done in the forest and there is no accountant, money or paperwork, how does one measure the value?  Answer: you don’t!

It is the Wilderness Free Trade Agreement.


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