Jim's Rant: Forward: Rat Summation; Serve The Serving Ship; Jobs; Caballero and Slap Around.
When I think of rats in a maze, I always visualize them seeking cheese (not unlike we do). Until recently I believed that whenever such a rat traversed a dead end corridor in the maze he made a “false” or “bad” decision. However now I understand that in order for the rat to truly master the maze, he must journey down all of the corridors. This is especially true if he was fortunate enough to locate the cheese on an early foray -- how else will he know if the cheese is all there is?
Most books or articles that purport to offer a new method or insight into an existing problem devote twenty to forty percent of their pages just to outlining the problem. In trying to lay out in my mind a way to describe what a Co-op Village is, I stumbled across some interesting questions. Why is a restatement of the preexisting problem required at all? Is it really necessary to make readers uncomfortable, fearful and maybe a little guilty by reminding them about the economic system we have created and live by today? Is it possible to cut this step out and still get the point across, that is, that the right time for Co-op Villages is now?
In our legal system there is a rule of evidence known as “res ipsa loquitur,” Latin for “a thing speaks for itself.” It is applied when a thing is so obvious that it need not be debated but rather can be assumed to be a fact. Under this rule the driver of an automobile is assumed to be in control of the car’s movement, not someone else. Accordingly, an injured party doesn’t have to prove that the driver ran over him, in lieu of its back seat driver. To invoke this rule, the injured party simply says “res ipsa loquitur,” and then the burden of proof shifts to the driver to prove that it was the back seat driver’s fault.
So what does this have to do with the Co-op Village? What does this all add up to . . . the final summation? I think this. It is entirely possible that 10,000 years ago we made a wrong turn in the maze in building an unsustainable economic system and way of life that have led us to where we are today. That is to say, we have hit the wall. Our social, economic and environmental problems are so obvious that we can now simply rise and shout from the rooftop: “Res ipsa loquitur!”
What we are attempting to do here at The Co-op Village Foundation is to offer mankind a new form of economics; an option out of the existing system. Maybe it will work – maybe it won’t, but at least it is an alternative to continuing to bang our heads against that infernal wall and pretend all is progressing quite well. (i.e. 3% more people are hitting the wall over last year).
As a teenager, I remember reading sea stories of the great square-rigged sailing ships and being enamored with them. What impressed me the most was the utter simplicity of the relationship between the seamen and their ship. The crew served the ship and the ship served its crew. If the relationship ever got badly out of balance, both ship and crew were inevitably lost at sea. It was quite simple.
Using the terminology of the today’s business world, what we are embarking on here at The Co-op Village Foundation is to take the essence of a corporation to a new level. Traditionally corporations are crewed by three classes of people: the investors, management and line workers. What we are attempting to do is make all three classes the same persons. And then on top of that we need to make the corporation serve that one class totally in all areas of life and forever!
I am not aware of this ever having been done. We are creating a business whose only purpose is to provide wealth, security and leisure to all involved with it. Instead of how it pays cash dividends, it would be judged by the amount of happiness it pays out.
I recall reading two historical books that dealt with the D-Day invasion: The Invasion Of Northern Europe and The Longest Day. They both chronicled the extraordinary amount of detailed planning that went into the assault. The thought that kept occurring to me throughout the reading was this: If this same amount of planning went into living instead of killing, how much better off the world would be! Why don’t we do this kind of “planning for the living”?
The Co-op Village is an attempt to create a corporation whose business is to mind our own business. This corporation would balance our collective checkbook, prepare our budget and manage it, shop for us, monitor our maintenance schedules, help educate our children, research our legal problems, look out for our well being, etc. We, the members, would use our collective skills to ensure everyone’s welfare instead of each of us managing our own personal affairs, as we are now inadequately prepared to do in some areas and suffering accordingly.
The traditional view of a corporation dictates that it squeeze the maximum production out of the line workers in order to reward the investors. When an employee can no longer produce at maximum level he is discarded laid-off and left to fend for himself. Under our new vision of a corporation the interest of all concerned would be the deciding factor. This is because the members are both the employees and the investors. In this scenario that same employee would still be laid-off, but the corporation would then have to find another suitable position for him, otherwise it would be failing in its mission to provide wealth (in the form of well-being, security and leisure) to all involved.
The traditional view of a corporation also dictates that it grow X% each year. If it doesn’t, it and its management are deemed failures. This pushes corporations to a higher degree of risk each year -- and closer to bankruptcy. For what? Forcing a corporation towards its ultimate doom seems a reckless business plan. Under our new vision of a corporation, growth is unnecessary. Security and leisure would be the driving motivators, not growth.
The traditional view of a corporation dictates that it discard an employee who produces at a slower rate. To retain him is to reward him — in effect to pay him more for underachieving. For example, if it takes him two hours to perform a one-hour job, he draws twice the pay per job of other employees who perform efficiently! Therefore he must go.
The Village is a cashless environment. The employee, as a member, does not draw pay, but instead receives dividends in the form of well-being, security and leisure. This system recognizes that not everybody produces at the same rate. It allows the employee to take as long as he needs to complete the assigned job. He is not penalizing the investors (including himself) if he takes longer. Here everybody gets what they want and the job gets done.
The traditional view dictates that businesses run at around 80% capacity. When events cause production to increase closer to 100% companies begin to get into trouble. Our new view allows the Village, as a business, to run at around 30% – 40% capacity, leaving plenty of safe fumble room.
To return to the sailing ship analogy, this “new-vision” corporation will serve all collectively to the degree that it is served. Simple as that. It’s in the best interest of both the Village and its members for everyone to serve this “serving ship” to the best of their ability.
Because the village is a cashless society, 80% of the jobs typically found in an economy will no longer be needed. Such unfilled jobs might include cashiers, sales, marketing, truck drivers, advertising, security, payroll clerks, bankers, bookkeepers, etc. The village must fill only those jobs that directly benefit the village, such as constructing and maintaining buildings and raising and preparing food. With fewer jobs (only 20% of the usual number) the need for the standard 40 hour workweek will be eliminated. Assuming most members want to have village jobs, a typical member might work 20 hours per week or less. Job sharing would be the rule rather than the exception.
Training for some jobs might be provided through on the job training received from those already skilled. It might also require some additional classroom time, in the village and/or at a local vocational school, with the costs born by the village. Because members might not sell their trained services outside the Village, typical certifications might not be required. With this in mind many requirements could be ignored, such as a plumber having to take a general education class in order to obtain certification.
Some members might choose to keep their outside jobs. The Village would support them in this endeavor by maintaining those constants in their home life such as home repairs, preparing meals, babysitting and maintaining the car and lawn. In exchange the Village might receive an agreed-upon percentage of the employee’s wages. All would be happier and less stressed.
The Spanish word for gentleman is “caballero” from the root word “caballo” meaning horse. Thus a gentleman is a man with a horse, a nobleman that can afford a horse and mobility, much the opposite of a peasant.
Wouldn’t it be more honest if the English language had such a word for a high classed single parent. Such a word would differentiate him/her from a peasant single parent, that being one with no car or an undependable car; no permanent dependable baby sitter; no ready supply of cash for commuting to work or for gas – and therefore one without the possibility of ever having a steady job. Maybe its time that we can be honest about the hell our current economic system puts some people through. Lets call it what it is.
During the time of the great square-sail ships, sailors of the British Navy took joy in playing a game I dubbed “slap around”. Their huge warships carried 500 men and a dozen or two young cabin boys. Invariably on each voyage there were at least half a dozen new boys around the age of nine venturing to sea their first time. Once at sea the sailors would get bored and initiate those first timers.
A short piece of rope was tied to each boy’s left wrist with the other end being lashed to the mast placing the boys in a circle facing each others back. Their right hand held a board. There were only two rules to the game. When you were tapped by the boy behind you, you had to tap the one before you. You could hit as hard or soft as you wanted; you were free to choose.
After several rounds of slightly tapping each other someone would always feel that they had been tapped too hard and would accelerate his blows. Before long the sailors would be roaring with laughter at the sight of the boys beating the hell out of each other. What was so funny (or sad) was that all that was needed was for one boy to choose to go back to tapping, but they couldn’t comprehend that what they did was a delayed version of what was coming back around to them. All they had to do was to simply stop!
We are playing in an economic game of slap around that is also torturing us. All we have to do is to simply choose to stop playing it.