Around the holidays, it is common to hear people complaining about commercialization. This is understandable, especially when so many businesses start putting up Christmas decorations and running Christmas specials around Halloween; almost two months before the Christmas holiday. People often don’t think of another even larger downside of commercialization.
Commercializing has a purpose, of course. That purpose is to sell products and services, drive revenue, and make money. It happens every day of the year, rather than just during the holidays. Try to travel in any town without seeing advertising. Try reading a magazine or newspaper that doesn’t contain advertising. People are so used to it that they have a hard time grasping any other way of doing things and usually don’t even think about it, except when they are complaining.
After all, most of the products we buy in a grocery store are “commercial products”. They are produced with the sole purpose of making money. When we need roof repairs, yard work, something built, or so forth, what do most people do? They either look in the phone book yellow pages or online for companies or individuals to do the job. This is all commercialized work.
Is there even another way to do it? Not only is there another way, it was even used for a very long time. Commercialization didn’t really get a strong foothold until around World War II. You might wonder what was done before then if it didn’t almost exclusively involve the exchange of money, advertising, and the like.
It was called the barter system and it was simple to understand. It was even simple in practice.
To simplify the system even more than it already is, let’s say that there are a doctor and a handyman. The handyman has a wife who needs a minor operation but has no money to pay for it. The doctor needs to have roof repairs done on his house but lacks the expertise to do the work.
The handyman and the doctor make an agreement that is mutually beneficial. The doctor will perform the operation, charging only for the medication at the cost to the doctor. In return, the handyman will repair the doctor’s roof, only charging the price of the materials. This works out great for both people because the doctor is an expert in medicine but knows nothing about repairing a roof. The handyman is an expert at roof and other repairs but knows nothing about medicine.
The two people barter their knowledge and labor. Neither person has lost anything. Yes, the doctor went to school to get his degree, but the simple operation takes a half-hour to perform, while the roofing job takes several days.
If the doctor does a good job, the handyman tells other people about how good the doctor is, which increases the doctor’s business without paying for advertising. If the handyman does a good job on the roof, the doctor likewise spreads the word about the quality of workmanship of the handyman.
The barter system worked very well for a long time. People even traded products they had for products they needed. A farmer’s wife might trade a couple of dozen eggs from her chickens to another person for 10 pounds of flour. Again, nobody has lost anything. the farmer’s wife has an excess of eggs and the other person has more flour than they can use, so the trade is mutually beneficial.
A limited amount of bartering still goes on, though not nearly to the extent that it once did since most people today are more interested in making money. The strange thing is that the interest in money is so great that they will often pay many times more for the goods and services they want and need than they could actually barter for at a fraction of the cost.
A big question might be, “What changed between then and now?” The answer is the very thing people complain about during the holidays; commercialization. Commercialization has the purpose of making money and driving revenue, which elevates the importance of money and lessens the importance of goods and services.
Have you ever bartered goods and services you had or could do for the goods and services you needed or wanted?