To gain ground against scarcity, build abundance and therefore continuously enlarge the material base of personal decision-space is the objective of the economic activity of an egalitarian community that works.
The big lesson of the twentieth century for commonards was to discover that collective decision-making is a “lesser evil,” a response to scarcity that must be limited to situations in which this is inevitable. It’s not necessary for everyone to vote on a uniform if everyone can wear what they want. It’s not necessary to agree on a menu if several different things can be cooked that will completely satisfy everyone.
That is, where one person’s decision does not drastically reduces others’ possible choices, the sphere of the decision should be personal, not collective. Collective choices, democratic methods and voting are ways of managing situations where, more or less explicitly, there is a conflict in the use of resources. They are a “last resort” imposed by scarcity. The point is to avoid, as much as possible, the homogenization that they involve.
That’s why, in a community committed to abundance, the wealth produced is measured by the extent of the personal decision-space. It’s no good to create more goods and income if that doesn’t have an impact on everyone’s option-space. It’s no good to defend individuality if resources are not created to make it possible without conflict.
To gain ground against scarcity, build abundance and therefore continuously enlarge the material base of personal decision-space is the objective of economic activity of an egalitarian community that works. We want be more efficient and more productive to be more free.
Conflicts between community and business
One of the ways that commitment manifests economically is in prioritizing the needs of the community and its members over the business. It sounds nice, and it is. It’s also difficult, but not for the reasons normally imagined. In an egalitarian community, no one will hesitate to sacrifice opportunities or savings to support members, their families and their surroundings. The problems don’t come from there. The issue is that producing is absorbent. And we tend to forget that the cooperative is a tool that serves the community, is not the objective of the community.
We all know people who needlessly dedicate more hours to work than they should. Many times, it’s a form of refuge. To allow oneself to be absorbed in work is a more or less unconscious way of not confronting insecurities about family, partner, or friends. A similar thing happens to communities as a whole. When a community doesn’t “notice” priorities other than those of business, it’s no different from each of us when we “substitute” time in those life tasks in which we feel most insecure with work hours. By doing it, we are evading part of our responsibilities to ourselves.
That’s why the cooperative “spontaneously” tends to be the central concern and enforce its logic beyond what’s advisable on things that remain instrumental. This is why almost all communities establish principles to detect, as automatically as possible, cases in which collective decision-making would prefer to be “anti-economic” and take on, with different scopes, a rationality that is different from business in favor of their members, family and surroundings. This principle acts on schedules, spaces, time dedicated to children, funds for training on topics not linked to production, and even about the choice of lines of business.
The magic of a community lies in its capacity to make us feel abundance through personal improvement and the enjoyment of sharing. The most everyday way is learning: feeling that we are learning new things, and that this knowledge makes us more autonomous, wiser. The most subtle is coexistence. If a community is functional and its deliberation prospers, their members will shine more and more as they overcome their fears and stand out through their contributions, wherever they are.
But the economy also contributes. The meaning of what we make is not only born of the fact that the knowledge that it incorporates is available all over the world as free software, blueprints or cultural objects. Nor is it limited to the way our products are made being radically different and the human relations that make them possible “bringing a new world.” We have to feel that our work and our contributions ensure the welfare of those we love and improve the life of our surroundings. And that won’t happen if we don’t go out into the market.