Higgling, Haggling, Swapping, Dickering

The title is a part of Adam Smith‘s description of the flaws inherent in any system of bartering: Once two parties have actually agreed to negotiate a swap of items or services, which is easier described than accomplished, how long will it take to negotiate value or price? Is my horse worth the same as your horse? Why do you think so? You must be hiding some detail. You must be trying to foist a sickly ill nag on me to ride off with my healthy animal. How dare you …

If one party thinks the other is out to cheat him—even if the other party is not out to cheat—he will over sell with the intent to make a profit. Further, if the other party also thinks he is about to be cheated, both parties will attempt to cheat each other in order to think they are protecting themselves. Hence Smith’s description of barter as “higgling, haggling, swapping, dickering.” The two bartering parties run the risk of spending the entire day in fickle negotiation rather than in work.
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