Ask any Navy veteran about the barter economy, and most of us have engaged in it. We knew it as “comshaw”, which was anything we obtained outside of official channels, generally by bartering items we may have more abundantly, or obtained as something we might use to trade with another division, department, station or military branch for an item we needed. I experienced this firsthand when I was authorized by my department to shop at the DOD/ GSA store at the shipyard for items we needed before deploying. A fellow Petty Officer on a ship across the pier needed an item we were authorized to purchase, but his shopping manifest did not authorize it. We managed to do a little third party transfers with other shoppers to trade up to what he needed. And it came with a guarantee to provide me with something when needed in return. Sometimes, a supply Petty Officer must use forward thinking to anticipate what is a good trade and whom to count on to return a favor.
What brings this to mind many years later is the current state of our economy. It seems that just about everything that homeowners and entrepreneurs may find necessary (or effective) is either prohibited by the State, too costly, or comes with excessive taxes, permits or other fees. A solvent for a barbecue grill, legal in many states, was returned to the shipper, and my purchase rescinded (Amazon). Or another example, a preservative that is effective for concrete in extreme environments is not legal here; however, a less-effective preservative with many of the same “aerosols”, is legal, but requires double or triple applications during the same multi-year effectiveness of the former single application. Sometimes it is just a little difficult to obtain something – the toilet paper or meat and egg supply issues in recent years come to mind- while others may have a sufficiency. Perhaps they might be willing to trade these for another item or service of value? It was not all that long ago that I read about a champion of barter, who had started with an older but valuable item (I think it was a musical instrument) and successively traded up to obtain real estate.
Many years ago, our accommodations in the seaside Mexican town where my buddies and I went scuba diving were paid for with equipment and other goods from the United States that then were difficult to obtain in Mexico. Today, as the cost of maintenance and repair for household or mechanical items escalate, and the government continues to find additional ways to collect sales and income taxes from the middle class, I wonder whether a barter system that circumvents cash and credit transactions will become more popular.
Comshaw may be the way of the future.