Re: hiring servants
From: Howard Landman (
Date: Mon, 3 Jan 2000 22:45:07 -0700 (MST)
> I think the whole idea of servants needs a discussion, and we ought to
> have a clear argument to present against it.
> If we are going to have the truely democratic, diverse, and progressive place 
> we keep talking of in cohousing, we need to be clear on this point.
> Otherwise.... here comes that "Hippie Country Club"....again.

Well, as long as someone's taking that side, let me make a case for the
other side (though I can see some of each).

I don't like the word servants here.  It's emotionally loaded, and it's
inappropriate.  Everybody's gotta serve somebody.  That's what makes an
economy.  I specialize and do something for you better than you could do
it for yourself, and you return the favor.  Everybody benefits.

Anyway, let's say person A would like to make some extra money.  Let's also
say person B is willing to pay person A to do some job.  Finally, let's say
person C has a problem with this, and wants the community to forbid A
to work for B and forbid B to pay A.

Here are some questions you might want to think about:

Question 1:
        Does C have the right to do this?  It's an infringement
        of both A's and B's freedom, with no tangible benefit to C,
        except perhaps that C "feels better".  On what possible moral
        or ethical grounds can this be justified?
Question 2:
        Considering this as an ideology conflict, why should C's ideology
        be considered more valid than A's or B's?  Who gets to decide
        what's "politically correct"?  (And if your answer is "the
        community", think about what happens if the community cannot
        achieve consensus on this issue.  So far, we haven't been able
        to.  Yet we have cleaning to do.  What's legal when you haven't
        decided what's legal yet?  We have no idea.)

Question 3:
        The philosopher Durkheim distinguishes two kinds of association:
        one based on similarity, and one based on difference and organic
        interdependence.  Is cohousing "supposed to be" only the first kind?
        I don't think so - we give huge amounts of lip service to "diversity".
        So why do some people see diversity in financial status as wrong?

Question 4:
        Assuming you forbid hiring out of chores, where does it end?  If
        people want to trade off tasks against one another - for example,
        I'll do your weeding if you do my cleaning - is that also forbidden?

Question 5:
        Special situations: Does policy change if B is elderly and *can't*
        perform some task, but wants to discharge their responsibility
        anyway?  Does it change if A is a teenager, or someone who needs
        the supplemental income to make ends meet?  What about if you hold
        a big special event in the common house with 50 guests - are you
        still required to do all the cleaning yourself, or can you get help?

Question 6:
        Some people see cohousing as being like a commune.  Others see it
        as like a condo, but friendlier.  In between there are folks who
        see it as an old-fashioned neighborhood.  As far as I can tell,
        only in the commune model might there be ideological requirements
        that people always do their own share of the work and never hire
        anyone.  Certainly, condos and old-fashioned neighborhoods have
        no such restrictions.  Why should the commune paradigm be the one
        that dominates here?

        Howard A. Landman
        River Rock Commons, Ft. Collins CO

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