Money is not the “central resource”, is not “all that one needs”. In an autarky-centered economic approach, money is just the means to obtain what one cannot (yet) create oneself. But still, it has to come from some source.

And because of that, here is a concept developed around my experiences on how to get money: there are wells for every type of resource in the world (oil, food, technology, waste, water), but here we cannot use any of these but wells of money. You need to attach yourself to a well of money, to obtain money. At other places it can be found also, but only like crumbs lying on the floor, while a well provides continuous and rich supply. Or perhaps better than the well metaphor is the “pipe” metaphor: money flows through pipes in the social system of society, and you need to attach yourself to a pipe to get your share. Because where money flows in abundance, it is comparatively easy to obtain ones share by economic means; while it is really difficult in any economic area where money is scarce (free services like web portals; economies in developing nations; own inventions, products and other ideas; new NPOs that are not attached to government’s money flow etc.).

Of course, there are different money pipe sizes in the world. The bigger the pipe (the more money flows through it), the better the chance to attach ones own pipe and get a share. Good pipes are: government (like being a teacher or social worker), academia, self-employment in trade (ideally the new, not yet overcrowded areas). We do not include normal employment in capitalist industries, as these want to keep ideally all in their money pipe to themselves: they are quite harsh, demaning a lot and allowing only a small pipe … and the temp work industry is the worst here.

And then, when you have the minimal amount of indispensable money, move on towards autarchy; don’t rest on money, it cannot grant any kind of long-lasting security.

It is not yet clear however what exactly are the best money wells to attach to: Super rich people (owners or large companies) because they are willing to spend unreasonable amonts for luxury, way beyond its worth? Or perhaps rather well-working small companies that themselves are attached to an even larger money well (such as doctor’s offices, connected to health insurance companies)? Or perhaps the automated attaching to all the capillar money pipes of end customers, meaning what is left of the products after they have been bought (e.g. operating an electronics remanufacturing company; because remanufacturing is a not yet overcrowded area)?

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).

In my collection of blog post drafts, a sediment of very short posts accumulated that only contained a link and a note. Too short to post, but combined, they make up a nerdy mixture from interesting to fanciful:

Lifestyle is equivalent with personal culture, which is one instance of a culture. People with lifestyles that deviate from the surrounding culture of any known group in a large degree can be said to have a “unique culture”: just as unique as the culture of an ethnic group, for example.

Now the problem with having a unique personal culture is interoperability with other people: you will be a foreigner to them though you share their origin. However, if you have been intelligent enough to develop your own culture, you can also develop a social “compatibility mode”, which means talking and behaving with automated translation between their culture and yours. However, you will still not get rid of the impression that this is quite a lonely way of being, except if you find people who developed their own off-center personal culture in a direction that has sufficient overlap with yours, so that you can know each other without compatibility mode …

I know what I’m talking about. My personal culture differs quite widely from that of others in these areas: personal accomodation; my job; nutrition; theology; knowledge management; software environment; personal equipment; language use. And also music, poetry, gaming and movies, if you count my total non-interest in these topics as a cultural attribute of its own.

Browsing the Internet, I had an idea.

There are currently prototypes of “3D printers for printing houses“. As an extension to this, and especially interesting for the developing world: how about a robot that can autonomously dig a house underground, consuming just water and electricity and needing nothing in addition to build the full house? It would be able to create no-cost housing anywhere.

Here is how:

The digbot / underground 3D mill will use a water jet cutter for cutting the soil, maybe photovoltaics for electric energy, and be totally autonomous, controlled by a CAD drawing. It will harvest stones from the cutting area, cut them with the water jet also, and use them to build the walls and ceiling (employing a vault for stability). It should be a self-moving tracked vehicle. It should also be able to carry the cut-off material to the outside itself, or this should be delegated to another self-moving tracked robot.

The underground facilities produced that way can be living space in developmnet countries; in many parts of Africa, no inner anti-groundwater equipment is necessary, as the groundwater level is below 30m; else, a waterproof full inner plastic sealing, insulation and pump is the simplest form. The bot also should be able to create its own abrasive for water jet cutting from hard stones it finds, and to create sand etc. from the stones for mixing concrete, and to apply the concrete for connecting stones (only if necessary) and for creating some. It is no problem if the bots operate quite slow, as it is an unattended, unmanned build process.

The first step to realize this invention would be a tunnel-cutting robot, which can be a shield-shaped one using sprayed concrete and transporting the cut-off stuff on a band conveyor, and receiving concrete, abrasive, electricity etc. likewise in tubes.

Oh, by the way: here are some prices for used water jet cutters.

It is a problem that humanity knows only very few facts about God for sure. Some things from natural theology, like that there must be a God. But even if we accept historical knowledge about Christianity as reliable enough to accept it as facts, there are not so many facts. Because one needs to keep away from non-sober, speculative interpretations of the Bible that are employed in most sermons; see also my post on that: “Get sober, Christian fellows“.

This situation is far away from both knowing something factually in detail (as in natural science) and from knowing somebody personally in detail (as in relationships). Not quite satisfying, huh?

Again a post about the group of themes involving society models, autarchy, community, the power community idea, technology for all that, and more. The pieces are coming together now … but slowly.

Here is the problem that has to be solved: it is the one and only, the universal problem of humankind. The problem of how to lead your life. (Of yourse, there is a second, even more important problem: getting to know God; this is tackled in the Second Acts series of blog posts, while we keep here with the earth-bound stuff.) Leading life on earth is quite a difficult thing … for some people it is impossible (those who starve to death etc.), for some it is hard (those in the developing world), for some it is boring and lonely (those in the developed world).

Here is the latest solution idea:

There should be a mid-sized (50-150 people) monastery-style community of hackers anywhere in the developing world. That community gets around loneliness by close monastic living, doing so much together. And it gets around the problems of money-induced captivity, loneliness and mind-dullness (all by the “normal” professional occupation) by being autarchic. Where autarchy is here a quite radical concept, including food supply and even medical treatment. That is because to live freely, one has to avoid close coupling to the captivating, exploiting forces in the rest of society (which is always done by money), and to avoid handling money one needs to avoid also buying food and paying health insurance, pension insurance and the like. It would save some money, however, by community integrated companies, for emergency situations and for buying stuff that really cannot be made oneself. Such a thing has to be started in a developing area, as existing on very little money is possible there because it is the norm (cheap food available, free living space in squatter areas, no complex conditions to meet … perfect for a startup). Another major problem that would be solved by such a community is the ever-increasing complexity of highly-civilized societies, where one regulation (like “overhaul of the financial regulation system”) chases the other, and concepts are stacked in more and more meta levels above each other. On the contrary, this community would be a “basic building block” of society: all the complexity is within it, but society itself (made from multiple such communities) is very simple; and therefore, very stable; it cannot break down like our current society is always in danger to do, last time in the 2008 financial crisis. Ah, not to forget: monastery has nothing to do with celibacy here; the community would embrace romantic relationships and marriage.

Any of the ideas that wants to build society from communities has this insight at its core: essentially all of human activity is directed to “happy private life”, including work in companies (their products are directed to improve private life, directly or indirectly), health care (which in effect wants to improve peoples private life), government etc.. Now the problem in highly civilized societies is that we gradually started to do all these activities in centralized organizational forms, and then these forms developed a life on their own, demanding more from the individual that they grant. For example, working in companies is normally a highly stressful and demanding thing, leaving nearly no room for creativity, and social and spare time activities … and all this just for the sake of some money. The community ideas do invert such a society, because: if the central thing is private / individual life and well-being, this should be at the center, and all other stuff should be integrated into that, to serve that goal. Unlike now, where the the individual serves the stuff in the form of centralized institutions like government, companies, health insurance etc.. In this inverted society, the formerly small elements (family / community) now include and incorporate the formerly large / superior elements (companies, governing people) because living (community, family, well-being, being creative etc.) is much more important than keeping organizations running.

I think that the time is quite mature for starting such a thing, because all the ingredients have come into existence in recent years:

  • The Internet, as the all-encompassing source of cost-free knowledge, so that the community can learn anything it wants to. The Internet, with its current content, is the most important ingredient!
  • A vibrant do-it-yourself community on the Internet, which has created an awful lot of concepts and techniques for producing stuff in autarchy. For example, see my recent discovery of the fab lab idea.
  • Prototype communities with proven concepts, such as hackerspaces; see my blog post on that.
  • Abundant technology of many sorts; for example, cell phones have been produced in such vast numbers by now that they are essentially ubiquitous and cost-free.
  • Medical knowledge all over the Internet, allowing to learn and practice medicine from that, for free.
  • Globalization in general, and of the markets in particular; which enables people to get also very special items in short time, and to sell across the globe for the remaining monetary needs.
  • Technology for computer supported communication. A power community needs computer support to enable its highly efficient work style. (I wrote my diploma thesis about such stuff.)
  • Open Source Software and Open Content. These are the really free resources to build upon as a community that has no money. And it can give back by handing modification results back to the general public.