The old man closed his hand around the beans. “Perhaps you’re not the smart boy I took you for,” he said. “Well, it’s no matter.” He put his hand back into his pocket.
“No, wait” cried Jack. “I’ll do it!”
And quick as a wink, the swap was made.
from: Jack and the Beanstalk
retold by Susan Pearson
Illustrated by James Warhola
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 1989
Growing up, it seemed like there was always something to trade. My friend’s doll clothes were cuter than mine. She thought the same, so we’d trade. Sometimes we traded back. I liked red Pop-Sicles best of all. If my brother or sister or neighborhood kid had red, I’d always ask to trade. Sometimes someone would.
Our local library has a coupon swap. It’s on-going. If I have a coupon I know I won’t use, I bring it in and take one that’s useful to me.
My husband just told me some guy down the street offered to do a small job for him in exchange for a small item he needs that my husband doesn’t.
That’s how trading works. Give something, usually that you don’t want or can’t use or doesn’t fit, for something you *do* want or *is* useful and fits like a glove.
And everyone wins and everyone’s happy.
When I was in college, I took a required course in Basic Economics. I didn’t excel and I don’t remember very much, but I was fascinated.
Supply and demand made perfect sense. Rare stuff costs more than stuff that is plentiful.
A society agrees on the worth various items. Some have great value: diamonds, truffles, higher education. Some not so much: plastic, water, farm and domestic labor. (no value judgements, here.)
The guns and butter description of the difference between domestic needs and foreign goods is another important economic concept. Although I hate the terms and what they imply, (of course, guns more than butter!) I do get the gist of the implications.
And so most of our trade involves money these days. Our society determines that even though a $1 bill costs about 5.6 cents to print and stays in circulation for less than 6 years, it is worth much less than a $100 bill which costs about 13.2 cents to print and stays in circulation for 15 years.
In short, money is worth what a society agrees it is worth.
Seems like a fair exchange in the world market would take into account several factors:
The scarcity or abundance of the components (or grain or oil or aluminum ore…)
How difficult or easy something is to produce or provide
Whether (or not) the people producing the items or harvesting the foodstuffs or extracting the ore are paid a fair wage
The cost of transportation
I’m sure much more goes into the final price you and I pay for stuff, but, really, is it that hard to imagine a world where people are paid fairly, resources are shared so no one starves, and new technology is encouraged to promote a clean and healthy environment for our one and only Earth?
I’m not so sure about my own generation, but I do have great faith in the future!
I’m almost finished with Varina (Charles Frazier). He shows an interesting perspective, that of Jefferson Davis’s wife, and moves back and forth through time from just before the Civil War to about the 1870s. I hope his portrayal of her is accurate. It is historical fiction.