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Barter system: Application, benefits and drawbacks

[ecis2016.org] Barter is an exchange, in which commodities or services are exchanged directly for other goods or services, without using a medium like money

What is a barter system?

In trade, barter is an exchange, in which commodities or services are exchanged directly for other goods or services, without using a medium like money. Trade in most small-scale societies is characterised by barter or exchanging products and services without using money. In times of monetary crises, such as when the currency is volatile (e.g., inflation or downward spiral) or inaccessible for conducting commerce, barter frequently substitutes money as the exchange mechanism.

When bartering first began, it was strictly a face-to-face process. Today, bartering has made a considerable comeback, using more sophisticated techniques to aid in trading, like the internet.

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Barter system: Application, benefits and drawbacks

Barter system: Benefits

  • When cash is not available and you need to exchange goods or services, barter can work. For example, one business may be looking for help with a project and another business may have the time or resources to complete the task.
  • Bartering is a way to exchange goods and services without using money. The more goods and services one can offer, the better off one will be. With bartering, money is not the only thing that matters. A barter system enables people to get what they need, in exchange for what they already have. 

Barter system: Drawbacks 

  • The barter system has been an essential part of human history for centuries but it is inefficient and often unreliable. Barter does not provide a way to store value for later use and cannot be used as a unit of account, making it unattractive from a commercial perspective.
  • In a barter system, attempts to guarantee fair exchanges can become highly complex. If you are involved in a barter exchange, it is important to remember that while such exchanges are desirable, they aren’t always possible. They become even more difficult if different commodities are exchanged.

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Barter system: Applications 

  • Today, there is a growing trend toward bartering as an alternative to traditional cash-only transactions. Bartering allows you to trade items or services of value with other parties. For example, if your neighbour has extra tomatoes from his garden and you have extra eggs from your chickens, you can trade tomatoes for eggs. This is exactly what happened in ancient times when people in the same area would trade goods directly rather than use currency that may not have had any real value locally.
  • During economic downturns, the money supply shrinks, increasing the value of goods. In such a scenario, people may need to swap items and services without using money, to find a solution. Barter systems are incredibly flexible and can assist people who cannot pay for the services they require.

How does bartering work

Between individuals: When two individuals each have items that the other person wants, they can mutually determine the value of the items and exchange an amount of each item. The aim is to ensure optimum allocation of resources.

Between companies: A company can barter its goods or services in exchange for goods or services from another company. This eliminates currency fluctuations, especially when foreign exchange is involved.

Between countries: A country can export certain goods to another country, in exchange for goods that it needs from the other country. This can help countries to manage debt and trade deficit.

Source: https://ecis2016.org/.
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Debora Berti

Università degli Studi di Firenze, IT

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