Jilly D.

Deep economics

In Off-The-Grid Memoir on April 13, 2014 at 3:17 pm

AFCU Class Swenson & Cooper Work 20100521GHIn a small rural community you can’t go anywhere or doing anything without someone you know seeing you and noticing what you say and do. This makes face to face accountability for your actions a way of life. And in a small town, people never forget. It’s a social system based on trust. Trust is earned. It cannot be bought. Trust is worth more than money.

For example, Sam had a business deal I thought went awry and it vexed me for at least five years. He’d rented out a piece of machinery and the man didn’t pay him. Despite several months of effort to collect what he was owed, Sam just let it go. He had no further business dealings with the man and did not contact him further. Years passed. The man fell upon hard times and auctioned off everything he owned. Sam still didn’t get paid. More years passed. One day Sam got a call. The man wanted to sell a piece of machinery and wondered if Sam were interested. They struck a deal. The money Sam was owed was deducted from the final price the man asked. Sam got the machinery, repaired it and sold it for three times what the man had owed him. Things come around.

Bull elk in full velvetSam sold some of our livestock to a rancher in the Catskills with the agreement that Sam would be paid over time set forth in a contract. The rancher made several payments but then stopped. I was furious. Sam would charge him no interest or late payment fees. Sam told him to pay whenever he could. I couldn’t believe this foolishness. No bank or credit card company would allow this kind of consumer behavior.  That was exactly Sam’s point. When a man shakes hands on a deal, it’s his word, his honor. Good business rises and falls on face to face accountability.

Observing Sam work deals every day that involve little or no cash is a lesson in deep economy. Many more good things have come our way; but being on the butt end of raw deals leaves its mark on memory. You never forget lessons learned from mistakes.

Sam taught me how easy it is to trade and barter informally over time. I might have a lot of ruby red swiss chard or spinach that I know my friend Annie loves. I give it to her without any explicit expectation of payment. Next time she visits she has brought something; a book, a recipe or grapes. Sam got paid with a black lab pup on an engine repair job. My friend Sue and her shepherdess daughter, Marie, bring me a fleece to spin into yarn for them to sell and pay me with a fleece to spin for myself. The Gunnings cut the field of clover hay and bale it for us; they keep half and we keep half. Sam traded two nanny goats for a Dalmatian puppy for my birthday. Somehow we ended up with those goats back and Lucy dog.AFCU Class Swenson & Cooper Work 20100521GH

  1. I wish more people operated on this type of economic structure rather than the more widespread itemized, tit-for-tat system; a “deep economics” system shows true natures over time and allows for forgiveness and amends–puts the human right back into transactions.

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