Re: Work Fairshare
From: allenbutcher (
Date: Fri, 7 Jan 2000 02:22:58 -0700 (MST)
I would like to tell you my reaction to reading your recent post about
Trillium Hollow's Work Fairshare agreement, in the context of my long
term effort to make that idea reality.  (Hope you don't mind that I share
your note with the list.  And I hope that the list isn't getting annoyed
with my references to other forms of community and their connection to

I lived 12 years in the time economy, and I came to believe that it was
largely that economic system that accounted for the success of Twin Oaks
and communities like it.  Yet today only three communities that I know of
use the labor credit economy, out of thousands.  So as I saw cohousing as
a viable community movement some 10 years ago, I thought that surely
there would be a way to apply the labor credit system to the need for
coordinating work in cohousing communities.  

I eventually joined the Rocky Mountain CoHousing Association, and in 1995
told the RMCA board that I was beginning a project of writing about labor
systems in community, something that I and others recognized as an
important issue in cohousing.  In 1997 I wrote a 40 page monograph on
time economics that wasn't really relevant to cohousing.  Then a year ago
I did some more work on the topic, concentrating on applying labor credit
systems to collective communities (like cohousing), which resulted in the
post on this list which you evidently picked up.  A few days ago, when I
read my words, "time-based economy," "rational altruism" and parts of
whole paragraphs I'd written incorporated into Trillium's Work Fairshare
policy statement, I turned off my computer, got up and took a walk into
the sunshine.    

More than ten years of my concentration and effort was validated in
Trillium Hollow's application of the Work Fairshare program.  It is a
gift returned 100 fold, and if the program is primarily a result of your
proposal, I hope that you feel how appreciative I am for your effort! 
Yet more importantly to me, the Work Fairshare program is an affirmation
that a simple idea of how people interact in community, patiently
redesigned and shared, has proven itself able to be transformed to fit
new, emerging needs.

Of course, Trillium Hollow could drop its exeriment with the Work
Fairshare program, and no other cohousing community may adopt it, so I
could be premature in celebrating.  And although it may turn more people
away from the idea than toward it, I would like to offer a perspective on
the potential significance of your community's experiment.  

The labor-sharing time economy, like Work Fairshare, is the only complete
alternative to the monetary economy, because unlike barter or labor
exchanges, there is no exchange in labor sharing.  Therefore, the entire
value structure of labor sharing is the opposite of the monetary economy,
and I noticed that part of my earlier writing presenting this concept is
included in the Work Fairshare policy.  If this simple idea is accepted
in a growing number of communities, people will begin to have the
experience of something unique: an economic system that provides a
structure to the basic human value of sharing.  A structure that can
maintain the practice of sharing over the long term, and make it both
explainable to others and replicatable.

I often wondered if I was the only one outside of TO and EW and Acorn who
saw how significant is that concept.  Now I find that people at Trillium
Hollow see it as well.  I would love to have a tape recording of the
meetings in which your community debated the proposal!  Of course, it is
possible now that other communities will go through a similar process,
but it will likely be easier as Trillium now exists as a model.

Of course, the application of time economics to cohousing isn't
spectacularly transformational.  Time economics doesn't get really
radical until it is used in the coordination of income generating
businesses.  However, simply the fact that a form of time economics is
used in cohousing will help people to understand the concept, and over
the years it will grow and mutate into different forms.  All that needs
to happen is for people to present how time economics supports the values
of their communities, and facilitates the coordination of basic
activities, and people will gradually recognize some of the potential of
time economics.

Of course, there is yet more to my thinking on this.  (It was a long
walk.)  Although I can only trace the ancestry of this idea of time
economics to Joshua Warren's experiments in his "time store" in 1827, the
inspiration for Work Fairshare is directly from Twin Oaks and B. F.
Skinner's behavioral psychology.  What Trillium Hollow is doing in
managing the Work Fairshare system is carrying on an experimentation with
the labor economy idea that needed to happen.  A totally non-coercive
labor sharing system, that I named "anti-quota" but that now can take on
different names in different communities, focusing entirely upon systems
of positive reinforcement, is a fascinating and important endeavor.  I
hope that your community has fun working it!  I expect that a lot of
people will be watching how it goes for you and your fellow intrepid 
communitarians.  I certainly will be one of them!

On Thu, 6 Jan 2000 14:06:03 -0800 "Victoria"
<victoria [at]> writes:
> Hi Allen,
> I think it was you that inspired our version, wasn't it?  Does it 
> look
> vaguely familiar?  December was our first month counting hours, the 
> totals
> will be posted shortly, I will send them to you when I get them.
> V
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: <allenbutcher [at]>
> To: Multiple recipients of list <cohousing-l [at]>
> Sent: Thursday, January 06, 2000 1:45 PM
> Subject: Work Fairshare
> > Vicky,
> > Would you tell us how many months Trillium Hollow has used the 
> Work
> > Fairshare system you posted and what have been the Fairshare Done 
> Totals
> > or Goals (what do you call them?) for each (or some) months?
> > Allen
> >

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