Greece has been at the forefront of economic news recently because of their financial crisis. While politicians sit around lavish tables endlessly discussing the theories and options, the folks back home need solutions. And they need them now!
The town of Volos is a good example of a Greek community that has taken the bull by the horns in seeking a way to keep living in spite of the failed national economy and high unemployment. Their solution: Barter — trading goods and services in exchange for something else. That is, after all, exactly what we do — trading our goods and services for a piece of paper (money) that we can then trade for other goods and services.
In Volos, residents are exchanging their chickens and eggs, or homemade bread, or used clothing and jewelry, or carpentry skills. The residents have come together in a cooperative enterprise, establishing what appears to be a cross between a flea market and a farmer’s market, with stalls displaying fresh produce and other wares.
The people have come up with an alternative currency that they use as a substitute for the euro. When members of the “co-op” sell their goods or services, either online or at the marketplace, they collect this new currency into an account that can be tapped to buy stuff from other members. Virtually anything can be purchased, including yoga classes.
This system has developed into a comfortable and stable substitute for the national economy. One resident, a school teacher named Irene, said, “It’s very nice, I think. I don’t have stress. When you have to buy something in euros you’re always in stress. But now I’m okay.”
Could there be something in all this for us to learn? In the event of a financial meltdown, here is a model that shows how we can keep things going. Barter of hard goods, or working though an alternative currency are two options that can be made to work.
But it will work only if the community comes together in an organized way that is acceptable to everyone. Something like this could be done in smaller scale, say with the population of a neighborhood, a church group, or people of like mind. It doesn’t have to involve an entire city, necessarily, although the more variety of goods and services that are available, the more functional the system becomes.
Barter — it's a possible solution to tuck into the back of our minds as we prepare for an ever more doubtful economic future.