How To: Barter! Featuring Chickens

Remember that Nevada Republican running for Senate who suggested we pay doctors with chickens? She was great. Or at least great for the headlines, and for her opponent Harry Reid, who went on to get reelected:

Phoebe Sweet, communications director for the Nevada State Democratic Party, and a few of her barnyard friends who shall remain nameless stopped by Lowden’s campaign headquarters. “I tried to trade this goat for some health care, and my doctor looked at me like I’m crazy,” Sweet told a receptionist as she carried the 25-pound goat into the headquarters with a local TV crew tracking her. “So I was just curious if you had any information on her barter plan.” “No, thank you,” the unidentified receptionist said politely.

Well, Chicken Lady Sue Lowden (R) may have gone away, but, as Esther Schindler details in this article, the idea of incorporating some bartering into our economy is still with us:

An accountant might do the tax-filing for a company that can redesign its website. Farmers can (and do) exchange tractors for cattle. A landscaping business can work out a maintenance services agreement with the lawyer who’ll do its incorporation papers.

What a fantastic plan! I’ll write you a limerick if you change my lightbulbs. Except, as Schindler goes on to note, assigning value to disparate tasks can present some challenges. Is an hour of legal advice equivalent to an hour of house painting? What if I need my lightbulbs changed immediately but you’re happy to wait a week for a perfect limerick? Who is the ultimate arbiter of what’s fair and what is worth what? I don’t want you dragging me into small claims court because you hate my rhymes and demand a do-over. You know Judge Judy would ultimately take my side, anyway.

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