As the government tightens its grip over the economy, more and more private transactions between U.S. citizens will slip between Uncle Sam’s fingers. We are, of course, referring to the growth of the so-called underground economy in the United States.
Historically, the rise of so-called “black market” (read: free market) transactions grow in direct proportion to several key trends:
Now, we would never advocate breaking the law! But in the event the United States continues down the path of total government control over the economy, private citizens will increasingly rely upon “off-the-grid” dealings.
Here’s a basic primer on flourishing in the emerging U.S. barter economy:
Great for Private Street Trades
The chances that you will actually need to use a foreign currency as spending money in the United States may seem at the moment to be slim. But the chances of foreign currencies rising in value against the U.S. dollar are pretty good. So holding foreign cash in limited quantities can be a good way to stay liquid without being tied to the dollar.
Widely recognized, easily exchanged, relatively stable currencies suitable for hoarding include the Canadian dollar, euro, Japanese yen, and Swiss franc (arguably the world’s most sound currency).
If you live in a state that borders Mexico and/or live in an area with a large Mexican immigrant population, you might even keep some Mexican pesos, as they may come in handy at some point. (But don’t put too much in any currency, as all currencies are depreciating.)
A Computer with an Internet Connection
No, a computer won’t in all likelihood be a very useful item with which to barter. After all, even in inflationary times computers depreciate in value.
Yet a computer with an Internet connection can nevertheless be a highly useful tool for bartering. There are countless places on the Internet where you can go to offer goods or services or to seek out goods or services, either in your local area, nationally, or even worldwide.
A huge underground economy on the Internet connects people not just electronically, not just through the shipment of goods, but face to face as well. For example, on Craigslist (www.craigslist.org) millions of people post classified ads offering everything from old dishwashers to help with yard work. Major U.S. cities have their own Craigslist pages. You can search an entire metropolitan region (e.g., all Los Angeles) or focus on a specific area (e.g., Long Beach).
Craigslist has a “barter” section under the “for sale” heading. Here, individuals and businesses can describe goods or services they are willing to offer and make requests for what they would like in return.
Even if you’re not currently looking to barter, you should go ahead and browse your local Craigslist’s barter ads. You’ll be fascinated by the array of things being offered. And you just might find something you didn’t know you wanted or get an idea for something you could offer.
Other useful bartering web sites include:
If you own a business, consider joining the International Reciprocal Trade Association (www.irta.com). You can connect with other businesses interested in swapping goods or services. Legally speaking there is no tax advantage to bartering (the IRS will tax barter exchanges based on the implied dollar value of any “profits” reaped from them). But some businesses find there is a privacy advantage.
Acquiring Barterable Skills
One of the most important investments you can make to secure your financial future is to develop a set of skills with which you can generate cash flow or barter into old age.
Millions of Baby Boomers are going to find out the hard way that retiring with nothing to fall back on except under-funded pension programs, undeliverable promises made by government, and investments in shaky financial markets won’t sustain their lifestyles for long.
Those who have marketable skills they can fall back on well into old age – whether it’s tutoring, consulting, writing, designing web pages, arts and crafts, eBay, or some other service they can provide at their leisure – will be best positioned to survive an economic collapse and the bankruptcy of U.S. “retirement” and healthcare programs.
Doctors, carpenters, and handymen of all types will continue to be in demand during a period of social and economic chaos. Regardless of what you do for a living, you can be creative in marketing your skills to fit the particular exigencies of the moment.
Just food for thought, which is quite frankly in short supply in the late, great United States of America right now.