RE: Re: more perspective on rules and regs
From: Alexander Robin A (
Date: Fri, 21 Apr 2006 07:46:21 -0700 (PDT)
Couple of points - there are different kinds of rules. The ones I object to and 
call "bureaucratic" rules are ones that are easy to state and enforce but don't 
necessarily accomplish the intended goal. Having worked many years in education 
I am painfully familiar with such rules. We are setting up a new cohousing in 
Madison and had a discussion of rules regarding pets. The first proposal was to 
limit the number of pets to 1 or 2. This is a canonical bureaucratic rule - 
easy to understand, easy to enforce but mostly irrelevant to the implicit goal 
of having pets not be a nuisance. (A similar rule is used in many apartments 
that take dogs - if they are under 20 pounds, say.) One badly behaved dog can 
be much more of a nuisance than 3 or 4 well trained an good natured dogs, for 
instance. We threw out the bureaucratic rule and substituted what we actually 
wanted to accomplish - dogs will be kept on leash in the common areas, poop 
will be picked up, etc.
I think people are more likely to react positively to rules that make sense 
rather than arbitrary or bureaucratic ones. Also, my philosophy is to not make 
a rule unless there is a good reason for it. Some people bring up the example 
of condo rules, which are often extensive and detailed. I propose that while 
condos and cohousing are similar in some senses, there is a key difference. In 
most condos, there is not the intention to live together in some form of 
community. In condos, the set of rules are a substitute for the intention to 
work together constructively to deal with the problems of living in community. 
Cohousers are, or should be, more willing to learn and practice constructive 
conflict resolution.
I don't quite agree with the last statement below. People focused mostly on 
self-interest and egoism, in my experience, won't pay attention to the rules 
anyway. Trying to enforce them on unwilling subjects can cause a lot of 
problems in a cohousing. For "good community members" rules help clarify 
expectations and reduce confusion.
Robin Alexander


From: ken [mailto:gebser [at]]
Sent: Fri 4/21/2006 6:31 AM
To: Cohousing-L
Subject: Re: [C-L]_ Re: more perspective on rules and regs

Hans G. Ehrbar wrote:
> Thank you for forwarding the New York Times article
> reference.  I live at Wasatch Commons in Salt Lake City.  In
> our community we tend to think that one cannot force people
> to be good community members, this must and will come
> voluntarily.  Of course, if we don't enforce rules, this
> makes it possible for parasites to encroach, as the New
> York Times article says.  What can we do about this?
> I teach Marxism at the University of Utah, and from my
> perspective, we should resist the temptation to fall back
> onto a more rule-oriented regimen.  Reasons:
> (1) It is not possible to design rules which, if followed,
> turn you into a good community member.

Rules aren't for good community members.  They're for those who tend
toward self-interest and egoism.

> (2) As long as capitalism is rampant, self-serving parasitic
> behavior is encouraged and even necessary.  People who are
> socialized this way are not necessarily bad.

True.  But neither are those who profess IC visions and values
necessarily good.

> (3) Our economic system is such that most people get robbed,
> oppressed and exploited 8 hours a day on their jobs, and
> they don't seem to mind.  But if they perceive their
> neighbor to act a little selfish, they are all up in arms
> about it, although the damage to them is usually not very
> great.  The greatest damage is that it discourages us, but
> we do have that under control.  We can just laugh it off and
> not be discouraged.  If we can survive capitalism, we can
> certainly survive cohousing.

Setting up, or even just getting into, cohousing requires more time and
effort and perhaps too more money than just buying a single-family house
in the burbs.  The compensation and rationale for enduring these is that
we'll have a better, nicer place to live than what the larger society
has to offer.  So people's expectations for community are higher and, to
my mind, these expectations are justified.  (This isn't to say that we
can't see failures with a sense of humor and a bit of tolerance.)  So I
hope we wouldn't excuse crap here because there's crap there.  This is a
setup for a "slippery slope" argument.

> (4) Participation in the community is fun and very fulfilling.
> People who don't receive the benefits of this will probably
> move out again.
> Hans.

Having read most all of the posts on this thread and having both agreed
and disagreed on both sides of the rules/no-rules arguments, it seems
that rules are necessary at times and so should be in place.  But the
community should strive to live and work together without having to
resort to using rules, i.e., that the community's common values and
vision by themselves should make things work and make people happy... or
at least content.  When values and vision fail-- which we'd hope would
not happen often-- then the hard reality of rules would kick in.  Aren't
more options generally better than fewer?

"This world ain't big enough for the both of us,"
said the big noema to the little noema.

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