Not so long ago I wrote a post called Welcome to Bartertown where I discussed the possible future of non cash financial transactions. I made reference to the extreme, but unlikely, development of communities in the future resembling trading posts of the past by way of Mel Gibson’s movie, Beyond Thunder Dome. Set in a gritty, filthy environment, Thunder Dome was a closely run outpost in the Australian outback in the post apocalyptic future. While it was a good movie, there is a lot about the scripting that is wrong for a realistic future.
Looking the reality of what may be the future in relation to the everyday task of making simple everyday financial transactions like buying a gallon of milk, I can see some grave differences between what Hollywood presents and what the trends of finance present. Some futurists present a story whereby bartering may become the way of life after the financial breakdown occurs that we are all waiting for. In the past, if you needed medical attention, the doctor would treat you and you would give him a chicken in exchange. The doctor, needing a new hat would trade it at the general store for a new hat, and the store would sell the chicken to a farmer, or perhaps a homeowner looking for a good supper. If you were a farmer and needed some lumber, you cut some acreage and bring the trees to a sawmill. The miller would cut your lumber in exchange for a quantity of the trees for his own use. The miller would then sell his new lumber to those who had cash to pay for it.
A thousand years ago, bartering was the main method of conducting business in most of the world. Currency was relegated to those areas that were more heavily populated. But as time went by even bartering transactions ended with currency being traded at the end. Today, bartering is a forgotten art, even though it is growing in popularity in some corners. But in the near future, bartering may well become an illegal act.
There are many conspiracy theorists floating a wide range of reasons for the current financial affairs of the world, and especially damning are those who suggest that the economy is being specifically controlled by one faction or another. The fact is, the current financial crisis we are undergoing is hardly the worst economic downturn we have ever been through. While it approaches the great depression of the thirties, it really does not have the same impact. But even before that time was the collapse of the 1850’s, and in fact the worldwide economies suffered declines in the eras of 1825, 1836, 1847, 1857, and 1866. So dips and peaks are nothing new to the world’s economies.
However, what is new is the governments increasing compulsion to draft legislation imposing new, and not really necessary controls over our lives under the pretense of saving us from calamity and financial ruin. But the damage has been done, and there is no going back. We have allowed our public servants to become our masters, and now we have to pay the price.
With the advent of government controlled health care, and soon to be passed carbon legislation which will ultimately result in our energy needs also being doled out by the government, the nationalization of our banking system and other, numerous rules, laws, regulations and controls we will soon find that cash has become useless. While some say that we’ll never have a national ID card, they are wrong. Not only will we have a national ID card, that card will also be our ticket to buying and selling. RFID is on the way, and in fact is being implemented in various communities even now.
At first you’ll see bank issued cards with the RFID chips offered for use as a more convenient way to pay via contactless payment methods called touch and go. You need only place your card near a reader at a point of sale and the transaction is completed. Communities are beginning to use them for convenience of public transportation. Colleges are using them as combination ID and debit cards. It’s only a matter of time before we all use these cards every day without question. And we’ll like it too.
Once we have come to accept the ease of using contactless payment and having RFID chips in our back pocket, it will be a simple matter to combine these cards with an ID factor or component. As the occasions of terrorist attacks increase and security measures become more stringent we will insist upon more and more safeguards to protect our well-being. The latest occurrence with the attempted destruction of Flight 253 in Detroit, and the scurry to increase and tighten airport security after the event only proves that point.
And of course, when we arrive at the point whereby our ID and banking needs are all self-contained in one little plastic card, there will be no need for other forms of tender in financial transactions. The UK has already announced that paper checking will be eliminated by 2018 in that country, and other nations will follow suit. Credit will be our only source of money. Our paychecks will be automatically deposited into our bank account, and bills that we owe will be electronically processed through that same card and account. So won’t our taxes. And we all know how much the government loves to collect taxes.
And here’s the danger to the idea of bartering for our needs in the future. The government will not be able to track these transactions and will attempt to control them, or make them illegal. I believe the government will increase the surveillance and tracking of us to the extent that all we possess will be on record, and any changes to those possessions will ultimately be taxed. We can already see the trend to do so by the way local and state governments tax us through what we call the property tax. Included in that assessment is the value of appliances and other major possessions that we may own. Businesses generally pay a large percentage of taxes on equipment they own year after year, and that tax changes when new equipment is purchased and/or old equipment is sold.
Bartering will be closely watched for as this will be an area for loss of tax revenue by the government. Therefore, if you do wish to include this as a means of getting by in the coming times, you’ll have to learn how to do so without giving any indication that you are bartering. In a sense, you’ll need to learn how to become an income tax evader. The smart way to get ready for financial calamity is to prepare yourself to not need any financial support at all. Of course, property and income tax needs will eliminate your idea to live with no income at all. Unless of course you are willing to live off the welfare dole. But since you are reading this blog I doubt that you will be willing to give your freedom away for free beer and cable TV.
Bottom line here is that no matter what kind of end time scenario you want to believe in, it probably won’t be what you think it will be. If you want to be truly prepared for the coming times, you have to be able to see beyond the hype that many marketers and publishers are pushing today. Examine carefully what you see, hear and read for validity beyond selling some manual or survival commodity. Get yourself out-of-town and onto some rural land were you will be able to grow your own crops and trees for fuel. If you have everything you need, then your need for bartering will be minimized, thus reducing your financial profile.