Variable: Commerce (business & industry)

All societies require a system for exchanging goods and services, and the institution of commerce is central to this exchange (Durkheim 1933). Commerce includes not only the exchange medium, but the organizations that manage exchange such as banks, markets, warehouses, and retail outlets. Modern industrialized societies (including their rural regions) rely on a mix of exchange styles; the typical U.S. rural community usually conducts its commerce through a mix of cash, credit, and barter (Machlis and Burch 1983). Commerce can be measured as capacity (such as the percentage of production capacity utilized, or the number of banks) or as a flow (the number transactions, or the dollar value of a gross regional or local product). Commerce in rural areas, particularly in the West, is largely dependent on local natural resources (be it water, energy, timber, scenic or other values [West 1982]). A change in commerce can create a cascading set of impacts on other social institutions (such as sustenance), the social order (shifts in wealth or power), social cycles (as in a recession), and critical resources (such as land or labor).

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