Trade is the bedrock upon which all civilization is built. It is essentially the practice of exchanging goods and services one has, for goods and services one needs.
This is necessary because no one is an expert at everything. Generally, people are really good at one or two things, moderately good at a few other things, and crap at everything else. So, without trade those who were good at growing corn, wouldn’t have much to eat other than corn, and their farming equipment would likely be made of leaves and twigs, unless they just happen to be good at smithing as well.
Oh, sure, they could also start farming cows for their meat, but they’d probably be terrible at it. Half the livestock would die, and the other half would want to. So instead, the corn farmer would just go to the local butcher, who might be getting sick of eating beef every single day, and exchange a bushel of corn for a nice, juicy steak.
These days we use money, but in principle it’s the same thing. We exchange what we have for currency, which we then exchange for what we need. Currency makes the whole process simpler and easier. Buying stuff doesn’t have to happen at the same time as selling stuff, and the value of an object can be fine-tuned to a much more precise degree.
Of course, there was a time when currency had a lot of value because it was something with a lot of value: gold! We used gold and silver as currency because these precious medals had an inherent value to us, primarily because of their rarity and the fact that you couldn’t just make more of it. Eventually, we started using paper that was backed by gold. Banknotes that represented a set amount of gold stored at a particular bank. This eventually evolved into something called ‘fiat money,’ which only has value because the government says it does. And this has worked pretty darn well for us over the past four decades. We’ve all been using fiat money without issue.
Well… most of us have. Apologies to all those living in Zimbabwe but I wouldn’t have blamed those troubles on your currency, but on your shit President.
Of course, this is something most people already know; or at least, those who’ve taken macroeconomics know. But the point is, currency works. And without it, we wouldn’t have a society.
Which is why I’m a bit perplexed at a recent episode of My Little Pony. It’s the episode where everypony abandons the Equestrian Bit (EQB), and goes back to a traditional bartering system of economics.
What is the nation coming to?
Well, it doesn’t appear as if their economy collapsed, if that’s what you’re wondering. No. The gang has just taken a trip to the Rainbow Falls’ Trader’s Exchange. Basically, a national vendor’s fair/flea market. And Twilight’s arrived because they need a princess there to settle any disputes, even though a dispute has never come up… ever.
So why is she there? No clue!
Signing autographs, that’s probably it.
The entire episode revolves around each of our heroes, as they split off into pairs to begin shopping.
Rainbow Dash, our local Daring Do nerd, is after a first edition of Daring Do and the Quest of the Sapphire Statue. It’s the only first edition Daring Do book she doesn’t own, and with this book, her collection will be complete.
It’s also the only one in Equestria! Wait… what!?
Okay, I get it’s a first edition, which can be pretty darn rare, especially if there was a limited printing. But even then, how can there only be one copy left!? Were there massive book burnings!? Because even if there were only 100 copies printed, that’s a large number of books that just disappeared! Especially given that these books can’t be more than a few years old, since the author is still alive, and quite young, if you’ll remember!
Maybe I’m unique, in that I actually take care of my books. Don’t throw them into fires.
Anyway, as I’ve mentioned, they don’t use currency here, for some reason. So, with this one-of-a-kind item, Rainbow Dash must’ve brought something very valuable to trade for it!
Her lucky horseshoe! And as you can tell, the merchant’s not impressed.
Did she actually think that would work? I never thought of Rainbow Dash as thick! Pinkie, sure, but not Rainbow Dash! It’s just a rusty old horseshoe. It may mean a lot to her, but it means nothing to anyone else. Why would she think it had any bartering value!?
“But how is Rainbow Dash going to get the book she really wants?” Fluttershy asks.
And the merchant gives the best answer possible: “Well she’s not!”
Again, Fluttershy, did you really think that would work!?
But then, for some reason, the merchant takes pity on her, or something, and says she’ll trade for something more valuable, if she can get it. Specifically, this:
I thought we already met Cerberus.
Actually, this is an orthros, which in Greek Mythology was just one creature, rather than a whole species. But so was Pegasus, so I’ll let it slide.
Oh, and by the way, it’s vicious, and it’s teeth are strong enough to chew steel chains. So how that rope is holding it, I have no clue.
But of course, Fluttershy manages to get it to calm down. And as the orthros’ owner emerges from his tent of Lovecraftian horrors, they quickly ask him if he’ll trade the orthros for a piece of scrap metal. Of course he says ‘no.’
But what can they trade for it? Well, since the orthros suddenly breaks one of his lamps, he suggests a new lamp. Yeah, get a new lamp, and get rid of the thing that broke the old one! Perfect solution! So where can they get a lamp?
Okay, what!? They can’t find any normal lamps? Who in their right mind would design something like that!?
Well, this guy:
Again, who in their right mind would design a character like that!? The colours clash horribly!
Well actually, I remember hearing about this a while back. This is actually a character designed by a fan of the show who also provided the voice. Apparently it happened through the Make-a-Wish Foundation, and the kid has a very serious physical illness. Now, I’m not going to argue that the damn charity invaded my show or something, because I really don’t care. I’m actually glad Hasbro went along with it, seems like a noble cause. However he wanted to contribute to the show, and having Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type III does not give you a pass on criticism.
I think the big problem is the purple eyes and hair. It just clashes with the rest of the design. I’m reminded of that jet-black background pony from that one season three episode. But then, it was just in the background. This guy has a speaking role! And most ponies in Equestria are pastel, but he’s of a much darker shade of brown. So he stands out quite prominently among all the other ponies. However, that might’ve been intentional. Maybe he wanted it to stand out. We’ll say he’s from Neigh-pan or something. They can go pretty crazy with hair dye over there.
And as for that voice acting… It’s great! He’s phenomenal! I’m actually surprised he’s not a professional voice actor. I’m going to assume he had a lot of practice, or time to prepare, or the regular cast coached the hell out of him… Or he’s just really good!
Anyway, bit of a mixed bag I guess.
But to the task at hand. He wants an antique chicken.
What’s an antique chicken!? You mean a fossil?
No, it’s actually a statue.
This is extremely random.
By the way, who does this? Who would say, no I won’t sell it to you for the thing you have, but I will sell it for some random thing you don’t have! Sure, counter-offers work pretty well when you’re dealing with currency. But as we’ve already established, they’re forgoing currency here for no reason!
By the way, it keeps going like this, but only for one more merchant. Because apparently, there’s a seller of crystal chalices who really wants a rusty old horseshoe.
But of course, you get what you pay for, and the moment Rainbow touches the thing, it crumbles into dust.
And the merchant doesn’t exchange it for a good one? That’s not on! If I buy something, I’d like it to last long enough for me to leave the store!
Then the rest of the episode continues with them trying to make all the exchanges so they can get the book. But sod’s law guarantees that everything is standing in their way, including a slow lunch line. Which they take over, and speed up.
And eventually, they get the orthros, and are all ready to trade it for the book, but the merchant has since changed her mind.
It’s a viscous fucking daemon dog! Of course she changed her mind!
You know, I thought she was bluffing! I thought she said she wanted the orthros because she honestly thought they’d never get it. She just wanted to get them out of her mane! That would’ve been an interesting twist.
But Fluttershy, refusing to give up, argues that an orthros can be a wonderful pet, if you know how to train him, and have a decent slobber mop. So the merchant agrees, if they throw in a free Fluttershy to train it.
And apparently, Rainbow has no brain, because she agrees. And Fluttershy goes along with this!
Am I the only one who noticed that Rainbow just sold her best friend as slave labour!?
But she immediately regrets the decision, and runs off to ask Twilight to undo what she did! Well, finally, she has something to do!
A trial immediately begins for some reason. And because Rainbow Dash agreed to the exchange, there’s nothing Twilight can do. Then what exactly is her role!? In what scenario would Twilight theoretically play a role, if not this one!? I bring this up because Rainbow sold her friend into slavery! That’s not on! Can’t Fluttershy just say she objects and that would be the end of it?
But no, they have to have this whole trial, where Rainbow makes a cheesy, heartfelt speech, and the merchant decides to undo the deal because it was that emotional. You’d think she’d back down once the trial began, since she didn’t seem that committed to owning an orthros to begin with.
So, now the status quo has returned, the episode is over, and we get a happy ending. But there are still two more tales to tell. Our B and C plots.
Rarity and Applejack decide to check out the vintage antiques. Which is something I can get behind! I’ve been to antique auctions in the past, you can get some really good stuff for really good prices. I once bought a heavy duty antique desk from the 1910s, for $30. It’s going to last longer than time, let me tell you. Sadly it’s impossible to transport that beast, and I had to leave it with my mother about two years ago. Maybe one of these days, I’ll get it back.
But the real point of antiques is that they don’t make them like they used to. These days, most furniture is made with particle board, and designed to last about a week. Which is obviously why Applejack’s interested. She wants her desk to be strong enough for one to use it.
There’s also an appeal in the fashion senses of the past. You have to admit, the Victorians knew a thing or two about hats. Which is obviously why Rarity’s interested.
And their common interest is what motivated them to pool their resources. So if they find some rare, one-of-a-kind item, they can buy it together.
And we all know where this is heading. They both find a valuable item they wish to trade their entire stash for. So obviously they can only pick one item, so let’s analyse this, and find which is the most valuable.
Applejack is interested in a pie tin that will cook pies five seconds faster.
Rarity’s interested in a one-of-a-kind brooch.
… You’re both idiots. And it’s not helped by the fact that Rarity’s wearing an almost identical brooch on her saddlebag!
The rest of the episode focuses on them each trying to settle the argument by insisting the other take all their goods.
I’m the better friend! No, I’m the better friend!
You’re both insane!
In the end, they both decide to spend their half of the stash on a modest gift for the other pony. But how they got to that point from tearing each other’s heads off is left to the imagination since it happened off-screen.
Nice going, writers.
Finally, we have the story of Twilight and Pinkie. Twilight has a large stash of books that she wants to get rid of, and now is the perfect opportunity! Surely someone will want to buy them! And sure enough someone does, because eventually, she gets her first offer.
All her books for a broken pen.
Obviously Twilight doesn’t want the pen, but she really wants to get rid of these books that are collecting dust. And if this little kid can get some use out of them, all the better! In fact, giving her the books would be like inspiring the next generation. If a child shows a genuine interest in the pursuit of knowledge, you should encourage it in any way you can!
And so, Twilight accepts the deal, only for Pinkie Pie to stop her, because the kid made such a terrible offer! And we can’t have Twilight just donate something, can we?
So, at this point, Pinkie decides to hold a pseudo-auction, to try to get someone to offer something worthy enough to exchange for the books that made Twilight a princess!
Twilight insists that the books aren’t special because she’s a princess, and Pinkie says she knows that, but is basically telling everyone that so they’ll offer better stuff. So, she’s lying, basically.
And this whole sequence ends with Twilight being convinced to keep the books, because they mean so much to her! She wants to keep them for sentimental reasons.
You know what, Twilight? Fuck you. I mean, I get it; I love books too! Books are excellent sources of knowledge. But knowledge shouldn’t be horded, it should spread like the breeze! Books are meant to be read, not stared at longingly! And yet, she wants to keep them, despite the fact that she’ll never read them again, because they’re nice!
How is she princess material again?
Come on, Twilight! Give them to the kid with the pen! Or donate them to a library so- Hang on. Doesn’t she live in a library? Well then, wouldn’t these books be part of the public collection? What gave her the right to sell them, in that case? Yeah, Twilight, just give away books you don’t actually own. It’s not like anypony wanted to borrow them or anything!
Yes, it is established that Celestia gave them to her, but I think that just proves my point. She’s the head of state, and she probably assumed the books would stay within the ownership of the state. ‘Yeah, Twilight, I gave you those books, but you live in a library. I kind of assumed you’d put them on the library shelves.’
And you know, that’s the solution: transfer them to the public collection! But she makes no indication of doing that!
Actually, I’m not even sure anymore. Does she live in a public library, or is it just a house with a lot of bookshelves?
Uh, my head!
Anyway, last but not least, there’s Spike, who spent the entire episode in the background, trying to trade his mint-condition comic book, for another mint-condition comic book.
Wow, that would’ve been an interesting tale. If only we actually saw any of it. And you know, I’m pretty sure they wrote and recorded several scenes with Spike trying to trade the comic, but all the scenes were cut. And why am I sure of this? Because the end credits show a name I’ve never seen, credited as ‘Comic Geek Pony’. And I don’t remember hearing any lines delivered by any character that could be described as a comic geek. So that means they went through the trouble of casting a new actor, recording his lines, only to leave it on the cutting room floor! And it was probably a substantial role if they cast a new actor! But it obviously had to be cut to fit in those crucial scenes of Applejack and Rarity acting crazy, and the Make-a-Wish kid!
I am seriously annoyed here. But overall, the episode was really good.
If you focus on Rainbow and Fluttershy’s tale, it’s a really fun story. A comedy of errors of Shakespeare-grade lunacy. I loved it. But everyone else… well, I’ve come to notice something. While each of them have displayed great moments of wonder, the more time they spend on screen averages out to me slowly disliking them. And so far, the only ones who haven’t succumbed to this yet are Rainbow and Fluttershy, oddly enough. But Applejack and Rarity are insane, Pinkie’s a lost cause, and Twilight… please abdicate or something, I liked you better without the wings.
Goddamn it! This Princess Twilight thing had such great potential, and started out really well! But now, she’s slowly turning into… well… an idiot! An arrogant idiot! I mean yeah, she’s sort of always acted like this, but she was also much more humble! Not true anymore! And then there’s the whole, ‘oh this is what made me a princess’ malarkey! Every time she uses that phrasing, it makes me want to punch her!
But ignoring that, this was fun. It had a few missteps, but it was fun. And if there’s one final lesson we can take away from this, it’s simple: Just use money!
It would’ve saved everyone a lot of trouble! ‘Here’s a thousand bits, can I have that book!?’ ‘Oh, sure, thanks. Now, I’m going to go spend this on an orthros, later!’ Isn’t that simpler? Doesn’t that result in less heartache? Seriously, why aren’t they using currency? Even a short throwaway line of, ‘oh, it’s tradition,’ would’ve been enough. But we don’t get that!
There’s something really wrong with the writing staff here. Seriously! I think they’re getting lazy. Yeah, we could explain things, but fuck that, it’s lunch!
Get it together!!!