Americans Turn to Barter

According to a report that went out over the Associated Press wire , “Consumers turn to bartering for goods, services.”

It’s hard to tell whether it’s a real trend, or some data points and anecdotes waiting for a reporter to tell a story about them. But, if true, it’s encouraging. According to the article:

Jim Buckmaster, chief executive officer of Craigslist… said there were more than 120,000 barter posts on the site in  — double the total from . He estimated that the number increased in to more than 140,000.

Buckmaster says he thinks of bartering as “an inherent friendly and sociable activity” compared with cash sales.

“Sometimes people enjoy getting to know somebody else,” he said. “And maybe more ends up flowing out of that relationship than the initial barter would have led you to expect.”

Another up side to barter transactions is that they typically don’t show up on the radar screens of the Internal Revenue Service. This article’s author, though, sees that mostly-full glass as half-empty:

The main downside of bartering — and one that many consumers are unaware of — is that some barter transactions are taxable, according to the Internal Revenue Service.

The IRS describes as an example of barter a situation in which a plumber does repair work for a dentist in exchange for dental services.

“The fair market value of goods and services exchanged must be included in the income of both parties,” the IRS says. That figure gets entered on Form 1040’s Schedule C, which is titled Profit or Loss From Business, it adds.

In , a convention was assembled to amend the state Constitution of New York. Whether that Constitution would exempt Quakers from mandatory militia service, and if so, what if anything would be required of them instead, was an issue in this convention.

Representatives of the Society of Friends in New York, via Samuel Parsons, sent a “memorial” to the convention to make their case:

The memorial of the representatives of the Society of Friends in the state of New-York, respectfully shows — 

That having observed in the recent proceedings of the Convention, that a proposition has been introduced, requiring all persons who, from scruples of conscience, are averse to bearing arms, to pay an equivalent in money, to be estimated according to the expense in time, money, and equipment of an ordinary able-bodied militia man; and as such a measure would, if enforced, be a grievous burden upon the society of friends, your memorialists consider it to be their duty, in behalf of the society, respectfully to invite your attention to the subject.

Since the existence of the society, it has always maintained the doctrine, that war, in all its forms, whether offensive or defensive, is entirely at variance with the precepts and examples of Jesus Christ; and in consonance with this belief, they have uniformly declined to comply with all military requisitions.

We are aware, however, that it is considered by many, that although friends cannot, in conformity with their profession, bear arms, yet that they might and would pay a fine or tax as an equivalent, especially if its amount was applied to purposes, to which, in ordinary cases, they would be willing to contribute. But it must on reflection be evident, that as the original requisition is repugnant to their sentiments, they could not conscientiously agree to any substitute for it, nor make any commutation for an act which they believe to be forbidden by their religious principles. And they apprehend that any application of the moneys, however benevolent in its nature, would not lessen the force of their objections, as it cannot be supposed that a change in the appropriation of a tax can alter the principle upon which it is levied.

The obligation which they feel themselves under, not to comply with any military requisitions, nor to pay any equivalent, is founded, they conceive, not only on the doctrines of the Christian religion, but derived from the undeniable dictates and the unalienable rights of conscience, which can neither be communicated nor controlled by human authority; but which belongs essentially to the relation existing between man and his Creator: And the free exercise of conscience, when it cannot be alleged that it tends to acts of licentiousness, or to the injury of others, is believed to be in accordance with the liberal views of the age in which we live, the republican institutions of the United States, and the spirit of the present constitution of this state.

Such an evidence of national liberality, of public regard to private and individual feeling, as is now sought for, will not be peculiar to the council of this state, as it is understood that under several of the state governments, the society of friends, on account of their conscientious scruples, are entirely and unconditionally exempt from all military requisition.

Your memorialists can have no doubt, that on a deliberate examination of the provision proposed to be introduced into the constitution, it will be seen that whilst it appears to have been designed to give some relief to those who are conscientiously scrupulous in this respect, it results in reducing that relief to the price of a substitute; which, as respects the society of friends, is placing it on a footing with which they can no more comply, than they can bear arms. We therefore consider that it is not asking too much of the convention to request it to pause and deliberate, before a proposition is adopted which cannot be repealed from year to year, when its oppressive consequences are experienced — consequences which will be severely felt by the members of this society, exposed, as they must be, to the exactions of collectors, who in taking their property by distraint, often make the seizure to an extent entirely disproportionate to the sum demanded.

Your memorialists respectfully yet earnestly solicit, in behalf of the members of the society of this state, that the subject may again receive your serious deliberation, and that the constitution may be so modified, as that the religious society of friends called Quakers, may not only be exempt from bearing arms, but from incurring any fine or penalty in lieu thereof.

As it turned out, the convention wasn’t willing to go that far. The relevant section of the state Constitution read: “The militia of this State shall, at all times hereafter, be armed and disciplined, and in readiness for service; but all such inhabitants of this State, of any religious denomination whatever, as from scruples of conscience may be averse to bearing arms, shall be excused therefrom by paying to the State an equivalent in money; and the Legislature shall provide by law for the collection of such equivalent, to be estimated according to the expense, in time and money, of an ordinary, able-bodied militia-man.”

Delegate Erastus Root complained that even this was too likely to let the Quakers completely off the hook:

The patriots of the revolution, in forming our present constitution, exempted Quakers from military service, provided they would pay an equivalent; but our legislature have passed laws from time to time, till they at length came to the conclusion that their services were good for nothing, and that nothing would be an ample equivalent. This law passed both branches of the legislature, and went through the council of revision, constituted in part of the wisest and greatest jurists in our state, without a word of objection, notwithstanding it was in the face and eyes of our constitution. Now, if these wise men, who were set as a guard to prevent the legislature from encroaching upon the rights of the people, could not prevent this violation of the constitution — how are we to expect our governor, who has now the only veto upon laws, to withstand these Quakers, and be conscientiously scrupulous?

And sure enough, the governor could not “withstand these Quakers.”

“The Friend of Peace” was a 19th century peace movement journal. In its fourth volume, the anonymous editor (probably Noah Worcester) discussed the effect of the Quaker war tax resistance lobby on the attitudes of New York’s governor DeWitt Clinton:

“A respectable portion of our fellow citizens, recommended to our favorable notice by virtuous lives, exemplary habits of industry, and their zealous cooperation in all benevolent undertakings, are conscientiously opposed to bearing arms and to the payment of fines imposed for non-attendance in the militia. A complete relief can only be effected by the interposition of Congress, or by an alteration of the Constitution: and that it ought to be granted I entertain no doubt. A sufficient equivalent is already rendered to the state by the exclusive support of their own poor, besides their full participation in the maintenance of the poor in general. In this enlightened age, when the rights of man are fully understood and practically asserted, it is surely not compatible with the tolerant and liberal spirit of the times, to wound the consciences of our unoffending fellow men.” Message to the Legislature, .

How slow is the progress of light! How inconsistent are the professed friends of liberty and the rights of man! Is it not surprising that the governor of New York, at this day, should have occasion to call the attention of the legislature to the sufferings inflicted on peaceable men, who are persecuted by fines and imprisonments, because their consciences will not permit them to spend their time in learning the art of killing their brethren, or in becoming familiar with the work of popular manslaughter? But New York is not alone in this species of cruelty. The Friends and Shakers are indeed exempted from such persecution in Massachusetts; but other people of the same sentiments as the Friends, in respect to bearing arms, are still exposed to suffer.