Just near to where I live is the Trafford Centre in Manchester, where lots of retail therapy takes place that involves the purchase of items such as clothes, furniture and hi-tech. There are cafes and a cinema where many hours of socializing takes place.
At an early age many of us will have been given a personal ‘piggy bank’ to save those precious pennies with the hope that they would eventually turn into profitable pounds.
Do you remember the opening of your saving account at your local bank and your money being deposited into the vault?
In thinking about the history of trade there a number of economic models that we may refer to that range from the ‘Father of Economics’ Adam Smith to a more different read by David Graeber in his book Debt: The first 5,000 years. When we purchase goods and services human communication takes place. Nations collect taxes to pay for community services and fighting armies. In such activity debt and credit is used that has often involved slavery and political domination.
In worldwide trading coin and paper currency developed such as the Mesopotamian shekel, a stamped gold and silver coin. The Mesopotamian tribes used a bartering system to purchase food, weapons and spices and a version of it still exists today throughout the world.
It is said that King Offa of Mercia introduced the use of the silver penny which is said to be the forerunner of modern coins. It had the King’s name on it and the person responsible for the quality of the coins. Some coins had a portrait of Offa’s wife Cynethryth and they were probably produced in Canterbury.
Today we have the International Monetary Fund (IMF) with a membership of 190 countries that provides funding for world governments to maintain financial stability. This article the History of Investing: From The Beginning of Investing To Current Times (bebusinessed.com) outlines a number of points in respect to the use and investment of money which has formed modern ways of buying and selling alongside the use of debt and credit.
- Early investments were influenced by the Code of Hammurabi which offered a framework on how to use money and trade lawfully which included the use of land as a form of collateral.
- During the Medieval and Renaissance period there existed various types of stock and security trading, alongside banking in Amsterdam.
- One of the results of the Industrial Revolution was that people benefited from a surplus in wages and wanted a safe place to deposit their savings. Many banks, pension funds and financial institutions came into being at this time and continue to trade today.
- The modern internet allows different communication platforms to invest and even lose their investments more freely.
- The history of buying, selling, investing and debt is as old as civilization itself and will change and develop as communication requirements change in the future.
Use and misuse
Different economic systems will produce contrasting results that may promote the rich at the expense of the poor. It is important that any system, which includes the use of interest/usury, promotes the welfare of all its people so as to minimise the excess of greed and inequality.
History bears out that any buying and selling of humans and dubious products will not benefit the whole of society in the short and long term. Any unhealthy ‘love of money is a root of all kinds of evils.’ and will only serve to create an economic, moral and spiritual imbalance in any society.
Relational trade, giving and receiving
During the 20th century the Fair trade movement came into existence to help poorer countries’ develop economically. The idea is that instead of charitable handouts, nations are offered ‘Trade, not Aid’ to enabled them to improve their local environment and distribution of wealth.
Fair trade products are not regulated by one particular organization which means certified prices and standards can be labelled as they see fit.
Relational selling priorities personal contact with customers rather than the price and details of the product or service being sold, with the hope of closing a targeted sale later on. In the early church there are examples of believers selling possessions and sharing the profits for the benefit of the immediate community: Acts 4: 34. Gareth Bale, the Real Madrid footballer, was asked recently the question: ‘Is it better to give or to receive?’ I thought his reply was quite good: ‘Both can be just as rewarding as each other.’
During the past 18 months the finances of many people have increased quite substantially. However, there are lots of people who have experienced the uncertainty of furlough, unemployment and severe financial hardship. In recent months the doors of the Trafford Centre have reopened for retail therapy to continue alongside an increase in the use of online shopping for many months to come.
What can we take from such a short overview around the topic of buying and selling goods and services? It can be said that there are four main aspects to it in the broadest sense? 1) The existence of debt and credit. 2) Relational communication from person to persons. 3) Cash and contactless payments. 4) Ancient and modern barter transactions.
May we be wise and fair in saving our money and concluding financial deals and purchases?
May we be relational and invest for the benefit of all and not at the exclusion of the many.
May we be able to freely receive from others without a sense of pride or self-sufficiency?
May we be able to give random gifts, to those in need with or without an ability to pay, just for the sheer joy of it?