Back to barter

The origins of all economic activity lie in barter. Barter is the exchange of goods directly without the use of money as a medium of exchange. A barter economy is one that uses just barter to organise economic activity. Many subsistence economies will use barter as the main method of trading. We might be forgiven for thinking that, given the sophistication of a modern economy, barter is a long-dead medium of exchange. As the article below shows, we would be wrong. In fact, ironically, the very sophistication that has brought us this economic growth and technical development may also be bringing barter back into fashion. There is a wide range of web sites dedicated to swapping goods and services. Seedy People may not be a website you would immediately think of visiting, but in fact, it is an exchange for gardeners and allotmenteers to swap seeds. The author of the article (John-Paul Flintoff) may have failed to pay his council tax through bartering, but in these cash-strapped times, there may be lots of other opportunities to bypass the conventional market economy.

Money is dead – long live barter Times Online (11/1/09)


  1. Identify two weaknesses of organising economic ativity through barter.
  2. Explain why barter may be coming back into fashion.
  3. Identify the various functions of money.
  4. Discuss the implications for economic efficiency of more economic activity being organised through barter.