This is another post in a series on community concepts and innovative society concepts. Some ideas are new, some are repeated from earlier posts … I need to combine these posts, I know … bear with me, for now. The good thing is, these ideas get more and more mature, and practical, from post to post. Just some steps to go, and this whole thing can come into being in the real world! If you are interested to join this experiment, contact me.
The Sovereign Community concept
What is this, a sovereign community? It is a small-scale intentional community that lives in a mostly autarkic way. Be it in a remote region or a city or even mobile. And why do we need this? Because in effect, this community is a small-scale solidarity union, comparable to the extended family concept that has died out, but voluntarily and supported by high-tech. As such, these solidarity communities are especially stable entities, being able to outlive deflation, inflation, state bankruptcy, civil war and the like. And as such, it presents an alternative to state-based social security etc. systems. Which we are in need of:
The current danger of state bankruptcy in Greece shows what a state actually is: a closure (as derived from math). A shell, a self-sustaining area for all interactions. That is, it should be … by making debts, it does instead make itself vulnerable from speculative attacks from all of humankind. And this kind of ubiquitous vulnerability is what makes the world such an instable place to live today. But the problem can be solved even in small scale: make your own closure. If you do not depend on anybody from the outside, esp. not on credits, you are effectively your own sovereign. And a true sovereign, not a pseudo one like a state with debts. A community of the size and style proposed here is a self-closured community, a true sovereign. That is, near to that. A little coupling to the state remains, as one needs some little money for some stuff that cannot be dealth with otherwise, and this leads to dependency, vulnerable to increased difficulties of obtaining money (that is, the state of the economy). Therefore, the community must be able to exist without any money for some time, at least three years. Exchanging goods is o.k. of course.
This idea, this concept of founding something that is in competition with ones state, and is even better, was ridiculous just some years ago. The state (at least here in Germany) was so powerful, so reliable that the very thought of outperforming that was wasted. But then, the 2008-2009 financial and economic crisis came. And then, the debt crisis in Greece came. And there are many more candidates for similar stories, and we will hear these stories. Live through them. And their lesson is, you cannot ultimately rely on the state. And, that it is now possible to for a small sovereign community to be more powerful and more reliable than a state, with regard to its members. So in some sense, let’s be glad that this time has come. This will be the rebirth of the extended family concept, in the shape of sovereign communities. And because these small groups are sovereign (which includes, autarkic), the world would be a way more stable place to live if partitioned into such small groups. No need even for states.
This power community concept does not include families yet. Because it seems that it is not powerful enough for that; and we can be happy if we are able to sustain each other and then die gracefully. And serve the people who also die and have nobody who sustains them, to die more gracefully. Now we could see this as a problem: if it cannot support families, it is no concept for a society. But it is. Humanity will not die out, no danger of that. So this is a concept for peacefully reducing the size of humanity, until the worldwide resources are again sufficient for the people on earth (where sufficient means, even though todays current, awfully inefficient and unjust resource distribution systems are in place).
One of the biggest problems in all these late-stage (“decadent”) industrial societies is, effort is no longer rewarded. The probability to have no reward from taking risk and initiative is very high (also because of high tax and regulation load, and because of market saturation); while the social security systems still provide a living, with much less strain. Which means more and more people choose that. While in early-stage industrial societies, there is much less social security, and a high reward for initiative. Means people are motivated, and the society starts to flourish.
There is one important insight behind this: as long as there are some human beings left who can do anything, there is no reason for humankind to falter, God permitting. The question is, how to collaborate so that it does not, or even better, so that it flourishes. It’s all about this social question; because the difference between isolated one-person societies (which are all distasters, materially) and a flourishing society is the better collaboration of human beings!! Centralist systems like large states are way to unstable in a globalized world, prone to corruption, fraud, bankruptcy, costly military games called war. So they are no alternative any more. Long live the sovereign community!
The main idea how these communities can work and be truly sovereign and autarkic without undertaking what they cannot do (raw material production, large-scale mining, oil drilling etc.) is this: use the waste of industrial societies. All the old metal, plastics and stuff; both as semi-finished products for creating own products and modifications, and also as raw materials. In other words, it should be assumed that the stuff that humankind dug up from the earth until now is enough. And of course, a major means would be using other “surface” materials where possible, including cut stones for building and wood for interior. Also, some kinds of products like computers and mobile phones are seen as “ubiquitous” (just go around and collect them), and so can be used by sovereign communities that want to be autarkic.
Life in a Sovereign Community
Of course, life will be different the sovereign community way. As it will be comparable in all communities, and all important parts are managed by the communities (as they are sovereign), here is how it might look in a near-ideal, flourishing community.
The lifestyle in the community is coined by “community hours”, which is the proportion of hours per day that everybody has to dedicate for working for the community. These are tracked time, which means that breaks, times with heavy distraction etc. are not counted. Six hours a day would probably be a good amount; this will decrease, the more efficient the community gets in delivering its services to its members, which also happens due to the increase in accumulated technology. In return for the work, the community grants the following to every member: a place to live, food, health care, tools and facilities (a “hackerspace“), a social community of friends, and even nursing care when getting sick and old. For practical reasons of attracting members, such a community would not be meant to dominate anything but the six hours of daily work for the community. This leaves enough room for people to enjoy the rest of their life the way they want; they might even get some monthly money for their free disposal.
The main reason for being a community (other than the fun factor of course) is because it enables synergy and specialization. So the community would integrate a lot of different people and facilities:
- Larger house owned (or built) by the community. If necessary, it can also be erected in improvised, squatter style from found materials, plus vehicles. Which would be a wagon place on occupied (unused) ground, like on abandoned industrial space. The good thing is, it is cost-free living place, and if the community gets chased away, there are always more places to occupy. Until one finally finds legally and at the same time affordable housing (and if that means erecting permanent structures oneself).
- A large backyard for agriculture. Or in the first time, guerilla gardening anywhere else. Only plants and perhaps small animals would be used, as everything else is not resource-efficient.
- A super-large hackerspace in the house, which itself includes fab lab style production facilities. Here, all the products for the community are produced. (See also my recent blog articles on the hackerspace and fab lab.)
- Tight integration of a company, offering a broad range of services, organized in agile, power community style. The company products would also be produced in the hackerspace / fab lab. Having a company is necessary to get “foreign currency”, that is, money, as it is used by the surrounding non-communitarian society. As the community needs very little money, getting it has not to be very efficient. Of course, the community is also glad to offer its services, facilities and machines also in exchange for food, raw materials or anything else the community can utilize … which is pretty much everything.
- Some people might have an external job, also to get forex, and the hours they work there simply get counted as community hours. But probably, at least after an initial phase, it is enough that the community integrates its own company. Which would be darn cool, as working in ones own company is freedom, really.
- Permanent optimization of technology and mutual education of the people in the community in personal and technical matters. People would be encouraged to correct each other without taboos, but in good rational manner. This education thing will make people useful for society (i.e. the community) which would be considered worthless in state-based societies. The permanent intensive social interactions and community here perform a character-changing coining.
- Smartphones for everybody, to be used as the collaboration device, with semi-automatic task prioritization and assignment.
- The collaboration software would include time accounts to be able to compensate for stressful times when people cannot contribute enough to the community.
- The community includes a physician, a physiotherapist and the like, who educate themselves via the Internet and internships in various clinics worldwide. So there is no need to pay health insurance, as the community includes its own medical personnel.
- The community also includes an internal education program, closely integrated with the hackerspace as the experimentation area.
- The community is very strong in reuse and recycling, and maybe sucks up much of the waste it can get from the surrounding area, converting it to products, building material, heat, and raw materials, all of which can be partially sold to others. The community operates also its own fuel production, growing oilseed rape. As it needs very little money, it pays very little taxes.
- Production facilities. There is so much one can create from simplest things, and the hackerspace and fab lab movements show how.
- Of course, information exchange is key. For that, the community uses the Internet, and shares all of its experience and inventions on the Internet, as Open Content and Open Source.
Every kind of desperate people will come in. This thing works only, and as long, as the overall workload to survive as the community (with the people currently in it), distributed among members, is less than or equal to the workload one can cope with while also mainly enjoying life. High fluctuation does not matter at all if this condition can be upheld. The only reason to get kicked out would be not working the 6 daily hours, or working under ones personal capacity.
What should also be clear: the standard of living might be lower than the current average in industrial nations. That’s mostly because the sovereign community lacks the infrastructure support and efficient production facilities that our current society relies on. But no problem … much of our “standard of living” is just luxury that can be easily abandoned. (Using bowls to serve food? Eh. Using pots to serve food? Eh. Eating from the pots, that’s the way.) Another good portion of this is compensated by better, high-tech supported collaboration, and by getting everybody to work:
Taxes are contributions to the community, in this case, of the state. So the equivalent to taxes in the sovereign community is the daily hours of work for the community. The difference is that taxes can only be paid by those who have money, while all the other people are termed “benefit recipients”. There are currently 25 million of tax-paying fully employed people in Germany, paying the taxes of 80 million. Which cannot work. The sovereign community idea is superior to this because it makes everybody contribute. It even can thrive upon “benefit recipient” people who are considered a threat or at least liability in states. Because everybody who enters also has to work. And unlike the economy, unemployment is impossible: there is work for everybody, because the community integrates both the home and the workplace, and every time that is contributed is considered of equal worth. Even the old and sick people need to work; and even if somebody thinks he or she cannot work anything anymore, perhaps he or she can peel potatoes. Nobody is overchallenged, but everybody has to work to capacity in his 6 daily community hours.
Founding a Sovereign Community
How to found a Sovereign Community, realistically? It is best founded be inside the church, as the church is the only thing that can be outside the ubiquitous power / suppression fights that we have witnessed through all history. (It can be outside of that, but is only if it is obedient to Jesus …). So a church should include a flat sharing community group that is dedicated to take anybody in who wants to contribute his work time to the community.
It might also be possible to join an existing project (squatter house, wagon place, a churches open house or something) and start this thing form there.
Also, this community could be realized with students (preferably hackers) in cities with universities.
An even better way to start this is by founding a travel group: everybody who joins gets food, travel expenses, housing and health insurance (cheap, as health insurance for abroad is possible). And in exchange has to work 6 hours a day. And has the rest of the day for himself. This includes doing temporary jobs, as the group will stay some weeks to months at places. In my case, traveling would be done in Africa. This group might evolve then into a permanent community, or better, have such a non-mobile community or communities as its offspring in some places, for those that stopped traveling. Starting with a travel group is really good because people accept less comfort and less money without problems, then. Note also that JPUSA was also started as a traveling group. Working to get money can also include using a fab lab that is transported in the group’s truck. Starting that group can be done like this: hand out fliers that offer an application form; people who fill it out promise to join the group wihin a month from that time that the travel group size is reached (probably 5 people); note that this style of founding a movement is done by a libertarian group in the U.S., searching for 20,000 people to move to New Hampshire (see the Free State Project). Travel preparation can also be done in this community style. People can draw back their application whenever they come into a situation that they cannot leave within a month.
Making it a movement
Ah, and here is the way how to make this a worldwide movement. It’s inspired by the words of Jesus, giving a strategy for taking his message to all of mankind (“Jerusalem, then Samaria, then the rest of the world”). For the sovereign community thing it means: start small, with one community, and build new ones in circular fashion around it. Economy in general is largely depending on infrastructure, so even though the communities are autarkic, there is momentum to be gained from synergistic local collaboration and support. It starts with one community, then one house, one street, one quarter, one city, one area, one country, one world. The best thing will be the relaxing effects on the whole of life for all people in the area covered; which will create a marvelous, lovely atmosphere to live: people have what they need, and don’t want more; and especially, they have people they can rely on; and there is not any danger of any large system to collapse, as there is no large system (or at least, none of the communities depends on it).