own land and tools, is something that can't be taken away by a recession or by a corporatedecision to offshore production to India or China (or just to downsize the work force andspeed up work for those who are left). The ability to trade one's surplus for other goods,with a neighbor also using his own land and tools, is likewise much more secure than a job in the capitalist economy.Imagine an organic truck farmer who barters produce for plumbing services or other services from a self-employed tradesman living nearby. Neither the farmer nor the plumber can dispose of his full output in this manner, or meet all of his subsistence needs.But the two of them together have a secure and reliable source for all of both their plumbing and vegetable needs, and a reliable outlet for the portion of the output of eachthat is consumed by the other. The more trades and occupations that are brought into theexchange system, the greater the portion of total consumption needs of each that can bereliably and predictably be met within a stable sub-economy. At the same time, the lessdependent each person is on outside wage income, and the more prepared to weather a prolonged period of unemployment in the outside wage economy.Ralph Borsodi described the cumulative uncertainty produced by the concatenation of uncertainties entailed in an economy of large-scale factory production for anonymousmarkets:
Surely it is plain that no man can afford to be dependent upon some other man for the barenecessities of life without running the risk of losing all that is most precious to him. Yet thatis precisely and exactly what most of us are doing today. Everybody seems to be dependentupon some one else for the opportunity to acquire the essentials of life. The factory-worker isdependent upon the man who employs him; both of them are dependent upon the salesmenand retailers who sell the goods they make, and all of them are dependent upon theconsuming public, which may not want, or may not be able, to buy what they may havemade.
Subsistence, barter, and other informal economies, by reducing the intermediate steps between production and consumption, also reduce the contingency involved inconsumption. If the realization of capital follows a circuit, as described by Marx in
, the same is also true of labor. And the more steps in the circuit, the more likelythe circuit is to be broken, and the realization of labor (the transformation of labor intouse-value, through the indirect means of exchanging one's own labor for wages, andexchanging those wages for use-value produced by someone else's labor) is to fail. Marx,in
The Poverty of Philosophy
, pointed out long ago that the disjunction of supply fromdemand, which resulted in the boom-bust cycle, was inevitable given the large-scale production under industrial capitalism:
...[This true proportion between supply and demand] was possible only at a time whenthe means of production were limited, when the movement of exchange took place withinvery restricted bounds. With the birth of large-scale industry this true proportion had to cometo an end, and production is inevitably compelled to pass in continuous succession through
4 Ralph Borsodi.
Flight from the City: An Experiment in Creative Living on the Land
(New York,Evanston, San Francisco, London: Harper & Row, 1933, 1972), p. 147.