|Re: Cohousing and Economies||<– Date –> <– Thread –>|
|From: Fred H. Olson (fholsoncohousing.org)|
|Date: Sat, 8 Jan 2000 21:48:40 -0700 (MST)|
Stephen Figgins fig [at] oreilly.com FIG [at] ORA.COM is the author of the message below but due to a problem it was posted by the Fred the list manager: fholson@cohousing org To get off cohousing-L, send email with UNSUBSCRIBE COHOUSING-L in the msg body to: listproc [at] cohousing.org Questions? email Fred - addr above -------------------- FORWARDED MESSAGE FOLLOWS -------------------- This is kind of a long piece on my thoughts about economics in general and ideas that cohousers may be interested in, including suggestions on alternatives to just contracting out services. When we lived as hunter gatherer's in tribal structures, our economy was an economy of support. Get support->give support->get support. There was also a trade based economy, but it was small, person to person exchanges of goods. With the adoption of full time agricultural efforts, populations began to grow, and material wealth began to accumulate, for several compelling reasons a redistributive economy emerged, and that remains the fundamental economy of nations today. The money flows to a wealthy elite, who then redistributes the wealth in exchange for labor. As emense power and privledge accumulated for that elite, a class system emerged, the support economy, still there among smaller groups of people took a back seat to the power generated by this system. Agriculture was a lot of work, long hours of back breaking labor. But that labor made it possible to pay other specialists in a redistributive economy. An army or set of guards, for instance, to protect the wealth, a priest caste, to help calm the masses and cement the power of the elite. But it also paid people to build better pots, city improvements, eventually scribes and inventors, etc. This is still the foundation of our economy. All our material wealth flows from the lowest of the underclasses to the elite, who then pay for special laborors. There is some trade of wealth among different members of the lower or middle class. I would place things like a Cohousing group paying some laborers to perform tasks for them (hard physical labor, clean their toilets or care for their lawn) as probably an example of the middle class employing the lower class who could not themselves afford to live in cohousing. The original question was in regards to an aging cohousing group needing to pay others for physical work they could not themselves perform. That seems innoccuous to me. But there is also trade between the middle classes, you pay someone to put in wiring, or to do the construction work, you might pay them what you get paid an hour or more. (on the servant issue-> As a basic rule of thumb, if you value a contractor's time substantially less than your own, I would consider them a servant. Are you willing to pay them what you get paid an hour or more? Then I would say they are not a servant.) Some of the money given to traditional contracting firms is again redistributed to those of lower class by those who employ them. Actually in our economy in the US, a lot of money flows into the country from the labor of those outside the country who live in real poverty, and then once here, bounces around quite a bit between people of higher classes, specialists paid by those importers of wealth and slowly filtering its way up back up to the rich. All of our wealth and privlege rests on the backs of the poor. Someone somewhere is paying with their very life force for the privleges we enjoy. The money in a redistributive economy isn't the only kind of currency and the redistributive economy is not the only economy. There is also an emerging local economy in projects like Ithaca Hours, local currency that represents a somewhat more equal distribution of wealth. An hour is supposed to be honored as an hour, regardless of the work being contracted. It doesn't always work that way, but it is another way of representing the support economy in a culture where we don't really know each other the way tribal members new each other. When we work for the state's money, contract with the state's money, purchase with the state's money, we participate in a system that is innately unfair, can never be fair, will never be fair. Fairness has nothing to do with the redistributive economy, which is about the accumulation of wealth and power, drawing money from compelling the poor to extract the natural resources of the world, and funneling that wealth to the elite. Whether you are directly seeking that or not you participate - that is the redistributive economy. I think many of us are deeply uncomfortable with this. But there are not a lot of other options that we see. So we look for rationalisations or justifications of the system. Sometimes that shows up in our religions. The untouchables of India must have done something bad in a past life -> they deserve what they get. Or in Christianity in the notion that in heaven our roles will be reversed, the first will be last and the last first so rejoice in your opression in life. Sometimes it is justified by revolution - the poor will overthrow the wealthy. Sometimes it is justified like Andrew Carnegie did in evolutionary terms, the poor are not the fittest. This was the foundations of the American dream of building a meritocracy. You get paid what you merit. Merit more, we will pay you more. But there is definitely something there that we are uncomfortable with and feel we must, as a culture justify. This isn't necessarily cohousing's fight. But I think many cohousing people are even more concerned about inequality than are others. Generally they are members of a privledged class, at least privledged enough to purchase into a community, but they also have a stronger committment than some to peace, justice and equality as seen in the wide embrace of consensus. It is something that cohousers might want to think about. Until we find ways to move to the next thing beyond civilization, I believe the injustice issue is here to stay with us. It is systemic to civilization itself. We are compelled to perform most transactions in the coin of the realm. But there are other options that you might want to explore. Is there a local currency system in your area? Could you find people interested in being payed in that system rather than for goverment dollars? Can you find a way to trade for the time, or give an equal amount of support in some other way to those supporting you? You may not have the strength to perform some tasks, but perhaps you can perform others? Would a parent in need of some break from watching children be willing to pick up the work for an elderly cohousing member capable of watching kids? If you have to contract out, is there a cooperative you can contract with, somewhere that your money will be more fairly distributed to the members? Maybe a local business or independent contractor? I encourage people to find ways to build the support economy more than the redistributive economy. Don't just reach for your wallet, find more creative ways to build connections with those both in and outside of your community. Keep the wealth close at home as much as you can. I am sure one day we will find the successor to civilization - a system that works better for us and for our environment. But until then, keep the support economy strong. Cohousing is transforming where we live, we need transformation in how we live as well, and I think there is really a deep connection there between cohousing and that better future. Stephen Figgins Who cannot yet afford cohousing where he lives in Sebastopol, CA.
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