Jim's Rant. Looking Forward: Lies; Dreaded Ds; Divorce; Courting; Required Work, Personal Income.
Isn’t the CoOp Village concept just communism? In a nutshell, No. Communism is a strong Central Government in control of your entire life. A CoOp Village is a corporation that the members hold equal shares in. That corporation serves all of the people. You live on its land in a corporate maintained home. It provides your health and nourishment.
If you tire of having boiled okra for daily breakfast you have four choices. You can cook your own breakfast from food you purchased yourself, vote to change the menu, move to an okra free cluster farther over or you can sell your stock back and move out of the Village. You will sell at an established price agreed to by all members before joining. You can then get a free crew and Village truck to help you move your possessions to another Village or into the surrounding region with your nest egg. Now does that sound like Communism to you?
In his book Looking Backward, written in 1863, Edward Bellamy describes the current economic system as one in which everyone is forced to lie in order to survive. To sell our product or services we must hype them as superior to all others, not reveal weaknesses and defects, obscure competitors’ benefits and make recommendations which we know might not be in the buyer’s best interest. Bellamy goes on to say that lying to survive is so rampant that if an angel came to earth and decided to stay and raise a family here he would have to join our economic system, a system that “would even perverse an angel”.
Michael Lerner goes even further in his book The Politics of Meaning in detailing the lies we must tell. He describes a culture based on so many lies that we come to expect them from everybody all of the time. We look each other straight in the face and no longer question the fact that we have just been lied to -- as if it should not bother us in the slightest. We come to expect it. In fact it would be considered rude to call someone on it. And thus our whole culture is based on lies and untruths.
What a terrifying way to base a life on.
Co-op village life should change this as there would be nothing to lie about. No one is trying to sell anything. No one is being forced to take advantage of another. There is nothing to conceal; no money or power shifting. There is only the truth for all to share. Surely creating a culture based on truths is a turn in the right direction. No lie!
The village economy would provide a lifetime shield from the financial impact of the dreaded “D’s”, that being: downsized, divorced, death of a partner, disease, disability, dementia and delinquent mortgage and utility bills.
So how might divorce be handled within the co-op village? First of all divorce might not be as traumatic in the village because the economic stinger would be removed. There would not be any doubt about how the family would survive economically. For them the economics would remain the same. No one would be homeless. No one would lose their job, be in turmoil over child care, have to leave town or move in with family. There would be no near bankruptcy currently associated with divorce. No one in the family would worry about their next meal. What would remain the same is the emotional turmoil of “I’m not loved”. But that should be a lot easier to deal with insulated from the economic upheaval of traditional divorce.
What would change is that one party would move to another home on the other side of the village. If the spouses worked together, one may choose another work group. But in the meantime both parents would be there for the children. The spouses might only see each other at the softball field, and that would be at their choosing.
The big twist might occur regarding court ordered child support. If both parents continue to work within the village, the village might decide to pay the child support on behalf of the paying spouse. This would be done with the expectation of the village receiving that support check back from the receiving spouse monthly. Thus it would merely be a sham to keep the paying spouse from having to work outside the village for wages. These payments would continue as long as both spouses continue to reside in the village. This might even force the spouses to be more cooperative in the breakup so as to not drive the other party out of the village from loss of dignity. Because the work output and well being of each resident is of importance to the entire village all residents close to the divorcing couple would probably assist in the healing and recovery process and helping each retain their dignity.
Young single persons and divorced persons might wish to meet and date outsiders. This might be accomplished by providing transportation for outside schooling or employment. That person also would have the benefit of seeing the outside world in more detail so that they could decide for themselves which culture to live in. The village might even provide housing in the nearest town for these people for a year or two.
Genealogy records would be maintained on all residents so that eighty years down the road inbreeding could be prevented.
Required Work & Personal Income
Of great concern to residents are the questions: “How much time would I have to work?”, “Will everyone have to work the same amount of time”, “Would I have to share my pension” and “What happens if someone refuses to work?”
These issues would be decided by the entire community itself through three of its twelve Focus groups, being:
1. How will we share our abundance?
2. How will we enrich ourselves?
3. How will we coordinate what we enjoy doing?
But in the meantime, simple answers are offered here as to how the Focus groups might resolve these issues in the early startup stage.
However, before these questions can be answered residents would need to understand several factors about the village economics, that being:
Factor #1 Transition Periods: It will take time to get residents to go from “each man for himself” mode of thinking to “What’s in the best interest of all concerned?” mindset. It will take time to go from the current cash culture to a self sustained cashless culture. It will also take perhaps ten years for startup, that being financing the construction and land acquisition and then to payoff that financing, before the village is truly running as envisioned.
Factor #2 Cash Requirements: At startup a great amount of cash will be required to purchase land and building materials. Success of the village will always be at risk as long as outside parties (banks) have a mortgage on the property. Therefore it would be wise to raise as much cash as possible from the residents and at the same time prioritize paying off any third party financing as soon as possible, insuring that the community land trust will be free to manage the property for hundreds of years as envisioned. After startup a small amount of cash will be required for some utilities and other outside services the community simply cannot provide for itself.
Factor #3 Limited Pensions: Some residents will come into the community receiving pensions, annuities, Social Security, or passive business income. It is probable that after 30 years no resident would have these income streams.
Factor #4 Room & Board: Each resident would be expected to provide the cash or cash equivalent to pay for their share of the land, infrastructure and house. Each resident would also be expected to provide the cash or cash equivalent (labor) for their living expenses.
Factor #5 Time Cards: Initially an accounting office would track payments made and time worked by residents. After all property has been paid for and the village has shifted its mindset successfully this function might cease.
Factor #6: The Focus Group “How do we coordinate what we enjoy doing” would attempt to assign jobs in accordance with our personal likes, thus we would enjoy the tasks assigned and not feel like we were working. This Focus group would also do all it could to coax residents to socialize and at the same time perform additional efforts on behalf of the community that only outsiders might consider work.
Possible Solution #1 Purchase Money: The first issue would deal with the “purchase money” needed to pay for a resident’s share of the land, house and infrastructure. Cash would be needed to pay outside vendors for the land and materials. Village Companies could be formed so that residents without the up-front cash could perform outside work. This job might be for 20 hours a week for three or four years until the debt is paid.
Possible Solution #2 Living Expenses: Each resident would have to contribute for their share of food, utilities, property taxes, etc. Because cash would be needed mainly in the formative years, those with cash incomes might be able to provide cash, at a pre-decided rate, instead of performing work. Those without an income would be required to work a village job, internal or external, for perhaps 20 hours a week, forever. This might be in addition to the temporary “purchase money” job some would hold.
Please note that in a short period of time the “purchase money” job would be eliminated. Also note that in time those with outside cash incomes would die off so that eventually no one would be in a position to cash themselves out of performing work.
Some residents may be exempted from work due to inability to perform any type of work. The village may allow an elderly family member in that fits this description, as we all may be in time. However, even physically disabled residents might be able to answer phones or snap peas. Again, all of these issues would be decided by the community through its Focus groups.
Possible Solution #3 Personal Income: If a resident has cash income more than his share of living expenses, he should be allowed to keep that excess. Remember that in time this disparity will go away through attrition.
Possible Solution #4 Work Refusal: In the event that the Focus groups cannot get a resident to perform his required work then the community could decide to refund his purchase money and perhaps provide additional help to get him established to live elsewhere. The refund amount would be as pre-defined in the Community Land Trust Bylaws. This would not be an act of ill-will towards that resident, but rather a recognition that some persons might not adjust to this way of life and would be happier elsewhere.