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Rachael Ferber
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Hey all,
I live in an ecovillage and serve on the HR committee and we are realizing that now would be a good time to really look at the economic system we are using internally here and decide if it is what we want or if it is what happened because it's what we know from the outside culture. I am really interested in exploring some alternative economies and bringing them to our next meeting but I don't seem to know where to start. I had thought there was something called a living wage that depended on how much you needed, so poor people with kids would get more than more established folks or single people for the same job. I couldn't find anything about this on wikipedia and I don't know if it is real. I am also interested in gift economies? What we are looking at is that we already have a super awesome and vibrant alternative currency which we can use for everything, including, rent, food, use of common spaces/internet/electric/water, childcare, healthcare, etc. There is also a really strong informal barterering network that works great and gets a lot of people's needs met. I know a family who got their homebirth with a CPM paid for with a large amount of firewood chopping! What we are struggling with is how to pay people who work for the official nonprofit and the land trust that owns the land (the official corporations that must be legally compliant and that run the general community stuff. Path mulching, accounting, etc.) We are building a huge new community building and need to figure out how to hire and pay people to work on it. We've already decided that some people will get paid more, the project manager for example will get 3x our community base wage. I am interestesd in figuring out a way to pay people that feels good to folks who work outside the community and bring in US dollars to keep this thing running, and is helpful for folks who don't have outside income and enables people to make it work here.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I'm a big booster of the Gift and Sharing economy. Not only because I think that is how humans evolved, but also because gifting is mostly not a taxable activity in the US. One can have a very active and vibrant gifting economy almost completely separate from the $ economy. Gifting is hard for some people to get their minds around because they are used to the idea of barter, which is an exchange of equal value. In gifting and sharing, there is no expectation of equal value because the value is in the people and the relationships, not in the individual gift.

More about gifting from a tax standpoint: http://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed/Frequently-Asked-Questions-on-Gift-Taxes
 
Rachael Ferber
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Hey Tyler,
I like the sound of gift economies a lot. I've got a book about gift culture that I'm working on and I will post my reflections on how I think that may or may not work for our situation here. I think there is a desire for these official positions to be handled/hired/payed/evaluated/etc. in a way that is really transparent and consistent and that would work for when we need to hire people "off-farm" for a position. For the most part people hired here for ongoing positions feel as though they are a part of our community, but we are in the situation right now of needing to hire an accountant and not having any applicants from within the ecovillage and we will likely need to hire someone who is a friend, but not a member. I don't know if a gift economy would work well for that, although there are subcommunities here who use that style and like it very much. I'll read up on it!
 
Matt Grantham
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Location: Napa CA
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I think gift economy may mean different things to different people. I assume folks know that the IRS has 3 main criteria for time banks and the like to remain tax exempt. One is that contracts are not legally binding and another is that the exchange is done in a charitable manner. So in some ways, to qualify under IRS rules, we need to believe we are engaging in a gift economy. In my opinion however , I think much of the movement is trying to engage in local economic activity in a different way and in a sense a different mindset which is indicative of this charity concept. There is something real about us seeing our local economic activities as a gift giving or mutual aid which raises all boats. So I would suggest many of us do still have some degree of expectation in terms of getting something back, but that that expectation is based more upon assumptions about mutualism than not. Finally I think we should also keep in mind that equal exchange is not on the slippery slope to exploitative capitalism and the like. Yes there are problems with a level playing field, how to assist the poor, and power imbalances which put the exchange process in jeopardy. But I do not believe we should throw out the idea of exchange altogther
 
Dale Hodgins
garden master
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I am always one of the most useful and productive members of anything I am involved with. To me, this entitles me to a greater say in how things are done and a share of the spoils commensurate to my contribution. Any formula meant to favour the weak, unskilled, lazy or unfortunate would tend to punish me.

I have developed many useful skills, have access to a wide array of resources, my children are largely grown, I've looked after my health and have no money draining habits. None of these things would put me on the receiving end of any redistribution scheme.

I'm all for cooperative efforts to raise all boats but I am also keenly aware if I'm being used. If I were faced with receiving less payment because I have my health and breeding under control, I would have to leave the group on principle or more likely, never join in the first place. Talented people stay away in droves when advancement is limited or the playing field is tilted against them. We have plenty of provisions in our taxation system to help the unfortunate and I would never sign up for more of it.

This attitude is not uncommon. In everything I do for the rest of my life, I expect to be rewarded based on my contribution and to pay for things based on what I use. If I had six wives, thirty children and no job, that would be my problem and the provincial governments' problem. I think that cooperative organizations would find life much easier if they made it easier and more palatable for highly productive people to join their ranks. So, I'll probably never move to an eco village, although under the right conditions, it would be great. There are currently four people living on my land, so I might have the option of building my own.
 
Matt Grantham
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Location: Napa CA
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I assume we are not making allusions that the present system is especially oriented towards rewarding productive people since their is little relation between economic compensation and productive contribution.
 
Dale Hodgins
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Matt Grantham wrote: I assume we are not making allusions that the present system is especially oriented towards rewarding productive people since their is little relation between economic compensation and productive contribution.


I was assuming that all members would do useful work and that those with professions that are inherently parasitic or worthless would not be admitted. I don't suppose that many futures and derivative traders are looking to join an eco village. In the event that two members produce identical adobe bricks, I would expect to pay the same to buy bricks from each of them. If one has more kids or bad debts, this would add nothing to the value of the bricks. I'd be more interested in ensuring that neither is allowed to monopolize the available raw materials so that each would have the opportunity to succeed.
 
Matt Grantham
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Location: Napa CA
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Dale- I here what your saying and basically agree, though I would imagine you understand their limitations to just how neat or tidy this can be . I do think societies which move towards permaculture and the like can reduce the gizmo factor which have allowed the current marketplace to make chaos out of that which has value. However we are still likely to be faced with problems in establishing objective value, and we are likely to be faced with the deadbeat factor as well. Best example is when a deadbeat, and pardon the terminology by the way since I am not trying to make a moral judgement with the term, has a child and is raising said child in a manner that is likely to make the child poorly adjusted or less productive in the future. In this example there is at least a logic that society needs to step in for its own interests and the marketplace mentality of a brick for a brick may not be sufficient. I am unfortunately not familiar enough with anthropology to know the degree these problems existed in pre industrial or pre agrarian societies, but they are not likely to leave our societies immediately even with a sharp turn towards permaculture
 
Dale Hodgins
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I agree that the child needs help and that we would all benefit. I would also like to see the parent either work more or forfeit any equity or other valuables that they may have in order to pay the group for picking up the slack. By developing obligations beyond his ability to produce, he has shown that he is not my equal and I see no reason to accept this sort as an equal member of what is essentially a financial partnership.
 
Matt Grantham
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Location: Napa CA
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I guess this is where we run into a problem. I think many on the left including myself at least question the welfare state, and look for ways to incentivize those who for whatever reason are reluctant to work in a manner that provides for themselves and their families. But the reality to often is that we do have a percentage of folks who are not willing or are not capable. If we choose to put them in prisons we pay and if we let them stay in our communities we are also going to pay with crime, or loitering or whatever. So in less you are willing to get absolutely medieval in your criminal justice we are going to be paying for these folks. So to me the options are basically two fold. Minimize what folks on assistance get to bare minimums that will hopefully discourage crime and other ostensibly negative behaviors. Or you try to engage them in some way. There is no magic bullet in all of this, and there is no "away" to send them to.

Also want to mention that there is a kind of us and them terminology I am using here which is just an expedient. There are lot of working people who do their best to do as little as possible and there are a lot of unemployed who would make great workers given an opportunity. But in terms of an expedient to get to the heart of the conversation i have chosen the us versus them motif
 
Dale Hodgins
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I fear that we may be getting too political. Remember the the overlords.

You'll recall what the pigs did in Animal Farm. I can't imagine a large group being able to agree on the terms for this sort of thing over the long term. It sounds like something that might work for a while but eventually there would be disagreement. If I were subjected to any sort of equalization plan beyond what the government already imposes, I would feel compelled to even the score, probably by theft. So , there's another mark against it. An increase in crime on principle sort of offenses. The recipient of the help would not be my primary target. I would be more pissed with those who decided that I should have less.
 
Matt Grantham
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Location: Napa CA
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I agree this heading down a road that is perhaps the biggest political dividing line of them all. It may well be that we do not have face suh a dilema for awhile, but if we imagine permaculture in terms of any mainstream future we will at some point face these problems in a more direct manner . I feel compelled to at lest mention the economist/historian David Graber who got a lot of attention early on in the Occupy Wall Street movement. One of Grabers main points is to look at the sociological underpinnings of the contract oriented nature of our economics and how that overriding analytic lens has to some degree made us all forget the things we do without an expectation of compensation. One of the examples he uses is in regard to when tourists ask directions, or perhaps when someone cars breaks down, and how in those instances we are willing to contribute without any expected compensation. Maybe this can be dismissed as only occuring in rare instances and therefore inconsequential. But I think it is just as easy to imagine that it may be a more basic innate reaction and approach than we suspect, and that instead we have been perhaps inculcated with precise nature of contracting nature of the standard capitalist system. I certainly ride the fence on the subject, and i suppose that is part of the reason i like to discuss it

Second point s that we are not participating in approaching anything like from a one to one or barter exchange system, and instead participate in a rather impersonal and complex trade system. and form my viewpoint at least the present system blurs the line of parasite and producer and who is taking from whom. If a system offers a localized more personal exchange systems where some artificialites are impose which favored one side, presumably on the basis of a handicap in productive capabilities of one side, then i would have a closer understanding of your concerns. But at the same time virtually everyone has a story that claims they are somehow getting the short end of the stick, so I guess I believe that requires a little bit of humility and sacrifice from all of of us to compensate for what seems to be a somewhat dysfunctional attitude of humans in general. Yes I do believe in objective standards to which can point to some people claim that they are better producer than someone else, but then there is always the come back that circumstance helped get them there. i do not come here to muddy the waters, nor do wish to discount the idea that we need to develop exchange system which can people can live with, but at the same time I think we all need to take a long look at vall the permutaions of wntitlement

I am not sure we are really getting anywhere, but i do think it is a conversation will be of increasing import when the movement moves forward
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