I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty fed up with money. It seems like our entire lives are filled with the endless (and somewhat hopeless) pursuit for enough money to survive only for what we have to be taken from us in our old age, and as the saying goes “you can’t take it with you”.
I’m not a fan of capitalism, but it seems like we’re stuck with it for the foreseeable future. So how can we live contrary to the prevailing culture when it is so deeply embedded in the way our nation (and most of the world) work?
I came up with an idea, though. It involves wrapping the more “socialist” community in a capitalist bubble.
Most people who decide to live a counter-culture life find that they need to increasingly remove themselves from the rest of the world, often depending on staying under the radar in order to get away with things that otherwise wouldn’t be allowed. I’m trying to see if there’s a middle ground.
The first part is probably the hardest, but you’d need to buy a collection of adjoining residences (and do so in compliance with planning permission etc). Very occasionally a village goes up for sale, but you might have more luck buying a terrace in a poorer part of the country or perhaps an empty old peoples home or old tower block somewhere. On a smaller scale you could just buy a few houses next door to each other, or buy a house with enough land to try seeking planning permission to build some additional dwellings.
The idea is that all of the property (and its resulting costs) would be owned by a company, which is considered a legal entity. I haven’t quite decided which the best structure would be, but I’m thinking either a co-operative or a community interest company (CIC).
Having purchased some property, you need to take it (or them) as off-grid as you can. Solar, wind, battery storage and rainwater collection can all help. Not only would you pay those companies less, you could also earn some money from sharing your spare electricity.
Another way you could collectively save money would be to share internet and telephone connectivity. One high-bandwidth internet connection shared amongst all the households and VoIP for the households that still want a landline (and not all of them will).
Each household would pay rent based on their ability to pay. So far I’m thinking a set token rent, say £10 per month, plus a fraction of their household monthly income after tax, national insurance and student loan repayments (say 35%). If there are different size dwellings I think there might need to be some sort of bedroom tax in order to be fair. Although if someone has the slightest justification for an extra room then it should probably just be allowed. Whatever rent you pay, it would include everything - electricity, heating, water, internet.
Each household would probably have to pay their own council tax, unless there was a way for the company to negotiate with the council to take it all on. If you are populating previously empty dwellings in a deprived area, the council might be grateful for the extra lump sum - even if it’s slightly less than what they could have potentially earned on all the individual properties.
Importantly, I think there would need to be a community agreement to not claim benefits, except perhaps disability. For one, you’d have to pay rent on those benefits using the above calculations as per the rest of the community; also, you’d have an easier life than most of the other people claiming those benefits. This community would not be about getting rich, it would be about working together to make sure everybody has what they need.
This means that if you want to work in a normal job, you can; if you want to stay at home, you don’t have to worry about the cost. If you’re an artist or creator you can do that without worrying about rent.
On the plus side, it would allow normal people to tax-dodge like the rich people. You can work enough to keep yourself under the tax threshold and still have money to spend. Why should rich people have all the fun? Note that as long as the company made a profit it would be liable for some tax, so some tax would still be paid, just that some members of the community might not pay tax, where they may have done previously. In the case of not paying taxes, paying voluntary NICs should be encouraged.
What would you do if you didn’t need to work so much? I’d spend more time creating, learning things, gardening, playing with my son and being involved in his education. For me this is the dream utopia of a post-scarcity economy, freedom from slavery to money.
I’d imagine each community would have a different focus, depending on the members and the surrounding area, but each one would be able to find ways to make money for the community whilst also doing good for its surroundings. Here’s some examples I can think of:
- Perhaps it is located in a small town that can no longer support a local shop, members of the community could volunteer and operate a local shop - of service to the community (who could buy things at cost and maybe sell some of their own produce) and the town at large (who could buy everything affordably they need without needing to pay to travel elsewhere).
- The community could work together to recycle plastic and turn the recycled plastic into new products which they could sell. It would do good for the environment and be a good outlet for any artists in the community, whilst also acting as a source of income.
- The community could run a small local bus service.
- The community could own a few electric vehicles and operate a short-term rental service (like the 1 hour+ services available in many cities). Free (or extremely cheap) for community members and affordable for others.
- The community could operate a credit union or a bitcoin exchange.
If the community manages to turn a small profit (provided that this isn’t at the expense of the community members) that money could be used to do good in the local area or to help seed other similar communities using low interest loans. If the local area has a problem with private landlords, for instance, the community could become a regular landlord, buying properties and renting them out on standard terms for people who aren’t interested in becoming involved in a weird community ;-)
I may have thought about this a little too much. That being said, it’s still a very early idea and I’m still thinking about other aspects of it.
I’d imagine it would work best either on a small scale (a few families come together and buy 3 houses next to each other, or a house with lots of land and planning permission) or a much larger scale (a dozen families and individuals come together to buy a street, a tower block or a village).
I’ve not heard about anything similar being done before, so maybe there’s a reason for that? A significant barrier would be trust: you would need to trust the members to be honest about their income and for those not earning to do something meaningful with their time.
So am I way off the mark or am I onto something? I’m well aware that this is a very broad overview of an idea, and no doubt I’ve left out some important details, but hopefully you can get my point. You can carry on the conversation with me on twitter or facebook.