Electronic Commerce Is Not Generally Better than Bartering
With the rise of globalization, goods transactions have been an issue that virtually all humans have to emphasize on. In the current society, the most ubiquitous transactional approach is electronic commerce, which is even regarded as ‘the perfect combination of commerce and technology’ by many people. However, in my opinion, this apparently advanced transactional approach could have potentially fatal defects compared to the relatively old ways(bartering and monetary transaction)! In the following paragraphs, I will express my viewpoints through comparisons between the features of different transactional approaches.
Bartering is the transactional approach with most fairness and least flexibility throughout history
Concerning the history of commercial transactions, a transactional approach named ‘bartering’ was firstly invented in the ancient agricultural society. This way was aimed to reconcile and compensate the issues around deficiency and surplus of the stuff of different families or individuals. For example, one family produces relatively more cereals but fewer vegetables, whereas the other family is in the opposite situation. In this case, these two families could compensate each other by exchanging their cereals and vegetables with equal values. But how to evaluate whether the cereals and vegetables for exchanging are equally valued? A key point is the psychological measurements of both of the families. Since it is in the circumstance that all the foodstuffs can be directly seen and touched by both sides, all the members of these two families can directly learn about not only the feeling of satisfaction in themselves, but also the quantity and quality of their foodstuffs. Noticeably, under this circumstance, both sides share almost the same levels of autonomy since they both play the roles on the seller and purchaser. Specifically, both sides firstly have the feeling of ‘responsibility’ for their goods for selling. Then, they both get the feeling of ‘gain’ after they have purchased the relevant goods. The feeling of ‘responsibility’ before exchanging and the feeling of ‘gain’ after exchanging could be almost equally valued. So both sides could not only objectively reconcile their stuff fairly, but also subjectively have virtually the same psychological status. Therefore, for both aspects of humans’ psychology and stuff, bartering is undoubtedly the transactional approach with the most fairness.
Monetary transactions have more flexibility but less fairness than bartering transactions
Why has bartering transaction been less and less ubiquitous for most people to use? Because its flexibility is quite limited, especially as the increment of the scales of the market and the variety of consumable items. So monetary transactions were invented in order to improve the flexibility of transaction. Nonetheless, since monetary transactions are the transactional approaches that harder to be directly evaluated in both aspects of humans’ psychology and stuff than bartering transactions, they have accordingly led to many scenes that weaken the fairness of transactions.
For the aspect of humans’ psychology, monetary transaction mode makes either side in a transaction be either a mere seller or a mere purchaser. It somewhat weakens the equal values between the feeling of ‘responsibility’ and ‘gain’ that were previously mentioned. In addition, since human recognition of currencies is unlikely to be the same as their recognition of goods, many people depend more on currencies. Such people are likely to be the money worshipers, which means that they regard the currencies to be even more important than their relevant goods. They are somewhat like the dog in the Pavlov’s experiment, who salivated for the sound of bell no less than the food. In this metaphor, currencies are just like ‘the sound of bell’, and their relevant goods are just as ‘the food’.
For the aspect of stuff, under the background of monetary transaction, it is sometimes hard to maintain the equal-valued relation between currencies and their relevant goods because of the fluctuations of different currencies’ values. Plus, some consequences from the competitions of merchants, such as discounts, big different prices of same goods in different shops, may also weaken the fairness of transactions.
Electronic commerce may intensify the dependence of consumers on internet and merchants
In the replacement of monetary transaction with electronic commerce, the key part is that currencies are replaced with the internet. If we continue to take the metaphor of Pavlov’s experiment that previously mentioned, ‘the sound of bell’ turns from currencies into the internet now. People’s dependence on the internet undoubtedly makes transactions more flexible. But it also leads to some potential harms:
First, internet is even more abstract and fictitious than currencies. So it is likely to make it be harder for the consumers to get the real feeling of touch through transactions, which may also blur the feeling of ‘responsibility’ and ‘gain’ of the consumers. Specifically, the consumers firstly tend to see only the pictures of goods but not the real quality of them, which means that the consumers only get the relatively vague recognition about the goods that they want. Then, the consumers could only wait for the shipments and deliveries from the merchants after they have placed the orders. Thus, the waiting time, the satisfaction of the goods to the consumers, and even the return of the goods, are all somehow controlled by the merchants. For that, consumers possess much less autonomy in electronic commerce than bartering and monetary transactions! Consumers are likely to depend more on the merchants because of the impairment of their own autonomy. So the merchants turn to be the leaders, which further damages the equal statuses of both sides in the transactions.
Second, the dependence on internet may cause more serious social problems than the dependence on currencies. Internet is rather like opium; it could be helpful for humans if it is properly used, while producing disastrously negative consequences if a number of people are addicted to it. The direct consequence of it is that the consumers turn to crazily consume online. It may indirectly make them depend on some other things on internet such as online games, animations, porn websites etc. Then, it may accordingly make the people indulge in the fictitious things online, which would also lead them to have less interest in the real things and be lazier in the reality.
Electronic commerce may make consumers and goods be easily manipulated
As mentioned in the previous paragraph, the autonomy of consumers is largely controlled by merchants in the electronic commerce. In this circumstance, merchants accordingly possess more rights to manipulate the quality, cost performances of the goods, the speed of shipment, and so on. It might not be a bad thing. The merchants might strictly check the quality and prices of the goods and the speed of shipment if they are conscientious. However, no one can guarantee that the merchants would not be incapable or even selfish since nobody is perfect. Because nobody is perfect, democratic nations focus on letting everyone to have the chance to express themselves, which produces the principle of fairness. So in transactions, the sellers possess much more autonomy than the purchasers, which undoubtedly damages the principle of fairness.
Furthermore, a more horrible consequence is happening in a kind of despotic nation with well-developed electronic commerce. In such a nation, the merchants tend to collude with the glitterati, which makes more power-holders be able to manipulate common consumers and goods. These power-holders tend to not only manipulate the prices of the goods to be nearly half of those in the physical stores in order to make more people indulge in online shopping, but also supervise the consumers with Big Data. It is just a more serious consequence of damaging the principle of fairness!
The most proper attitude of current people towards transaction modes
Looking through the developing process from bartering transactions, throughout monetary transactions, until electronic commerce nowadays, business transactions started with the principle of fairness, then has focused on the improvement of flexibility. However, it has gradually attenuated the initial fairness unintentionally. For that, the development of transaction modes apparently equals a struggle between ‘fairness’ and ‘flexibility’. For modern consumers, both fairness and flexibility of transactions seem to be essential. But the pity is that none of the existed modes is perfect in both aspects. Nonetheless, if we talk about some other thing in our society, such as the parties in a pluralist political system, is there a perfect party? Because every party is not perfect, it is just essential for all the parties to exist and mutually compensate. In my opinion, those transaction modes could be like the parties in a pluralist political system: existing of all, mutually compensating, and preventing a single dominance. Practically, bartering could be encouraged to apply to the directly touched transactions with the relatively small scale. Electronic commerce could be helpful for the distant transactions with the huge scale. Monetary transaction modes could be mainly used in the medium-scaled transactions. By doing that, more people might be aware of the importance of ‘fairness’ and meanwhile enjoy the convenience of ‘flexibility’ to the greatest extent.
Moreover, a potential notable point for many current people might be: do not eliminate bartering by thinking it as too ancient and desperately develop electronic commerce by thinking it as so modern. If you insist on it, it would lead to the consequence that more and more people tend to depend on the fictitious surroundings as internet and be aloof from the reality, which would make the society lose vitality.