Tuesday, March 1, 2016

barter and money

One of the classic virtues of money, as related by Jevons, is the reduction of the "double coincidence of wants" problem; I have noted, in this regard, that good markets attempt to mitigate the remaining "single coincidence of wants" problem.

Today is my grandmother's 90th birthday, and I was talking to her on the phone this evening when conversation turned to the low level functioning of the economy of Iowa in the 1930's.  One of the things she noted was that barter was more common in the rural areas than in town, in part because — very much not her words — a lot of farm products are sufficiently widely of at least some value that the double coincidence problem doesn't have an insuperable amount of bite; chicken eggs might not be your top choice of good to receive in exchange for what you're selling (likely labor), but it's likely to be of some positive use value to you, and, even if it isn't, it is similarly likely to be of even higher use value to someone from whom you would like to buy something, so that you might well be willing to accept it in trade anyway.

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