Communal Declaration

The Communal Statement

Preamble: “Why?”

Philosophical and moral foundation

We desire that the fundamental interpersonal relationship be one of respect and alliance. We do not claim perfect knowledge of the nature of the universe, and, like all other humans, we base our way of life upon an assumed axiom. The axiom we choose is that we care about the quality of existence of other good-hearted people much as we care about our own. Many people believe a vague, vaporous version of this axiom. We take it seriously. We seek to develop our lives along lines that can be rationally extrapolated from it, rather than relegating it to the realm of easily-ignored sentiment.

We therefore found this commune within our own hearts more so than within these words. The words formalize and explain to others the nature of the relationship we create amongst ourselves; a relationship based upon trust, respect, comradeship, and mutual interests and aspirations. Those who enter into the commune, thus pledging to uphold these values, we shall treat with the same consideration with which we treat ourselves.

In a sense, our purpose is of the utmost simplicity and may not seem to warrant many words; it is merely to establish on a small scale what we believe are the ideal social relations. However, comradeship and like-mindedness do not assure harmony, and disruptions to harmony most often spring from frustrated expectations. Thus we outline here the specifics of our organization, most of which will be unnecessary, that we may all hold clear expectations as to the nature of our communal enterprise.

Though a positive definition is more important than a negative one, we will point out that we find the basic paradigm of capitalism, competition and selfishness, to be the antithesis of the appropriate social relations among humans. The impersonal systemic violence capitalism engenders, particularly in the absurd allocation of resources, is abhorrent to us. We will try to escape both the mental and the material pitfalls of consumer society.

Material benefits

The demolition of the twin ideological pillars of selfish, self-righteous individualism and competitive consumerism opens the way to a communal life based on a higher morality. But the advantages of collective living are not only moral, they are material.

Collective living confers economies of scale. One person’s trip to the store can cover five others’ dinner needs without taking five times as long. Economies of scale producing time benefits are probable in a number of areas of life: child care, household management, etc. Pooled material resources also provide economies of scale producing monetary benefits. It is an economic truism that having few resources leads to suboptimal decision possibilities resulting in increased costs or decreased benefits. For instance, a top of the line computer that will last four years and function well might cost $1400, while a mediocre computer that will last two years and have some problems might cost 700$. The cost to use-life ratios are identical, but one functions better and so is a better value — if one has the resources up front. Economics teaches that scenarios like this are common and generally speaking more capital up front means a better cost to utility ratio. This is a structural property of capitalism that perpetuates poverty. Collective living pools resources and opens the road to better decision possibilities, defeating this trap.

Another benefit of collective living is security. It is the ultimate insurance policy with the best possible premium. Communal work allows someone who has lost their job to avoid idleness; in fact, they will never be jobless. The communal income/resources will not be threatened by such adjustments. Stress, depression, and fear should be kept at bay.

Pooled resources also provide the opportunity for riskier but potentially more profitable endeavors. Wage workers are usually risk-averse and will take safer routes with lower expected values because the marginal utility of dollars increases dramatically on the approach to zero. However, with the rest of the community as a cushion, one could, for instance, take time off from daily wage-work in order to pursue a business idea with great upside.

Besides monetarily profitable endeavors, collective living opens a realm of creative and political activities. Creative self-realization and full-blooded political expression are both desired by many, but achieved by few. The material reasons in general are risk-adversity and lack of time, conditions that are alleviated by the efficiencies conferred by collective living.

We can also enumerate the psychological benefits of collective living. It opens the way to the highest peaks of camaraderie and connectedness. It provides an environment characterized by intellectual challenges and thought-provoking dialogues. Joy is shared without jealousy, pain commiserated without schadenfreude.These benefits far outstrip the pathetic egocentric satisfaction provided by a jaw-drop job-title or the latest pricey status symbols.

Action

The purpose of the commune is to make real the social relations we believe are best on a small scale, but this does not preclude trying to establish them on a large scale. On the contrary, the latter is a priority. The commune is an agent of social change that has already become organized along the lines of the changes it wishes to propagate. It represents its members’ abstract beliefs put into concrete action, and is a symbol of their will. But, dialectically, it is both an end and a means. It is the end product of its members’ effort to establish a comradely social existence, and the means for them to proceed to higher levels of struggle on a broader scale.

To the degree allowed by the material situation, communal funds and energy will be diverted into the struggle for social progress. All members must be willing supporters of this aspect of the commune.

It goes without saying that being a proponent of social progress implies the rejection of sexism, racism, homophobia, xenophobia, jingoism, and religious dogmatism. We can further add a support for progressive labor, enmity towards the greedy captains of industry and their collaborators in the government, disgust at predatory wars cloaked under the aegis of responsibility to protect – in short, opposition to capitalism and its by-products. In terms of the particular mode of struggle or political course to achieve progress, we believe there is no predetermined road to follow, and that proper action is determined by historical and social analysis.

1. Meta-rules

1A Structure
Within the commune, members and their opinions receive equal consideration. Every member is part of the Central Committee (CC). One must agree with this document in order to become a member. Children will be taken care of and raised by the commune until such time as they pass a critical reasoning test. Once they have done so, it is up to them to decide if they agree with this document and wish to stay in the commune; if they do so, they become full members. This document itself is a representation of our current wisdom; and as we hope that with time our experience will bear greater wisdom, so we expect this to be a living document, which will grow with us (See 2D6).

1B Cultural considerations
Harmonious communal living requires a set of values approximating the following: cooperativeness, humility, industriousness, friendliness, consideration. Baneful are vanity, avarice, and rudeness. Communal activities conducive to the desired values are to be maintained. Examples include playing cooperative games, working together on collective tasks, and keeping a jointly recorded communal diary. Similarly, an environment hostile towards undesired values should obtain. We will seek rules which foster the culture we desire.

2. Decision making

2A Principles

Our general premise is that, if educated, the opinion of every individual has a high value. Also that every individual has a right to have a say in important decisions affecting them, insofar as the cost of gathering opinions is not too great. We also believe that when more people are convinced of a course of action that indicates a greater chance that it is a good one. Thus, the basic decision-making principle of our commune is that of democracy. Our two sub-principles are:
– less important/controversial decisions may be delegated in advance to individuals or smaller committees.
– more important/controversial decisions will require higher degrees of consensus.

2B Decision-making Entities

There will be a central committee, consisting of all members of the commune. Each member will have a vote.
There will be sub-committees of 2-4 members, charged with particular tasks.
There will be individuals charged with particular tasks.
Individuals will also have private decisions.

2C Scope of Decisions

The commune’s Central Committee will make decisions on such matters as: entry, departure, or expulsion of commune members; management of the resources and property of the commune; composition of sub-committees; alterations to this constitution; purchase or rental of housing; any large financial outlay (eg. grad school tuition, taking care of loved ones outside of the commune); commune projects/businesses; other decisions of communal importance not delegated to committees or individuals.

Sub-committees or selected individuals will be responsible for such decisions as: purchases of food and household supplies; planning commune events; delegating and accomplishing chores; making investment recommendations to the central committee and managing related day-to-day decisions that may come up; doing commune taxes, including members’ taxes; managing the monthly budget and keeping other members apprised of it; scheduling and administering central committee meetings; administering commune ventures; what movies/entertainment to procure; what books to buy.

Individuals will be responsible for such decisions as: purchasing small items and luxuries for their own consumption; their social life; how they spend their quarterly discretionary funds; whether to be a member of the commune.

While individuals are expected to respect the decisions of the Central Committee, the commune does not intend to make lifestyle decisions for its members. Each member will choose what they do with their free time, what they want to think, etc. Of course whether within this commune or not, humans always live within a community. If someone’s lifestyle is damaging to the community, that community can throw him/her out, and that is how this commune will protect itself from those who are a burden, without enforcing any official lifestyle on its members.

2D Precise Requirements

The Central Committee shall have an official meeting once a month minimum, plus whenever convened by the sub-committee in charge of CC meetings.
Each member of the commune will have a vote in the CC. If a member is absent from a meeting, they can indicate their vote by phone or internet. If a member is unable to be present in any way, they simply will not vote in that meeting. At least 50% of members must vote in some form or other for any decision to be taken on a particular subject. For entry, expulsion, major investments, and alterations to the constitution, a full quorum is required.

Records will be kept of CC meetings, noting attendance, important matters broached, and the vote tallies for all decisions made. Voting will be public unless 1) the issue requires 70% or greater consensus, or 2) any member requests private voting. In the event of a decision between more than two options, multiple votes will be taken, with the lowest vote-getting plan removed from the process after each vote, and with the final vote taking place when two plans remain. Minimum approval percentages will of course apply during the final vote.

Sub-committees may establish their own meeting schedules, as well as their own standards for decision-making. These must however be made clear to the CC, which can, if it sees cause for concern, discuss and change them as in 2D5.

3. Economic structure

3A Principles; General

The two guiding principles of the commune’s economic structure are that: the income of any individual is the income of the commune, and that the living expenses of any individual are the expenses of the commune. The commune is responsible for everyone’s housing, food, medical, educational, legal, some leisure and entertainment expenses, and other reasonable expenses as determined by the CC. At the same time, all individuals’ income will be transferred as expeditiously as possible to commune accounts.

The commune will try to protect, grow, and responsibly invest its capital resources. Our investments will have the purposes of (in order of priority):
– safeguarding our wealth,
– furthering the business of individuals and corporations with integrity and beneficial products,
– and increasing our wealth.

The commune will also encourage its members to found Commune-run enterprises, whose production will be considered the achievement of all, and which should
– be a vehicle towards achieving improvements for mankind,
– create wealth for our commune,
– and give us the pleasure of working together.

3B Normal Arrangement of Funds

Each member will have a 2000$ emergency account. If this money is ever needed and used, the CC will review the situation at its next meeting and then allocate funds to refill the account (see addendum on: Intended use of emergency funds).

Each member will have a discretionary account of $1000 for incidental expenses, personal items, luxuries, vacations, etc. This account will be refilled to $1000 with commune funds on Jan. 1, Apr. 1, Jul. 1, and Oct. 1. Honor will be given to those with high account balances at the time of refilling.

The CC will establish a living expenses fund of an appropriate size for such expenses as: housing, medical insurance, food. This checking account will be usable by any member of the commune, but is only to be used by those who are charged with handling certain expenses by the CC or a sub-committee. This account will only require single signatures. It will be kept to a minimal requirement, so as not to place funds in danger of one person running off with them, and because the account will not bear much interest. Routine monthly transfers will be made into this account from a more secure and higher-yield account.

The remainder of CC funds will be placed in a variety of investments and accounts TBD, which will have the characteristic of requiring any 60% of commune members’ signatures in order to transfer, change the terms on, withdraw, etc. The investment strategy is to be determined democratically (see Addendum on Vote Requirements 2D4). There will probably be one savings fund, into which income goes. From that fund it may either be transferred to the various checking accounts to cover expenses or into new investments.

3C New Entry

Upon entry, a new member will make an accounting of their known financial assets. If they uncover new information later, they will not be censured, but those assets will be turned over to the commune, and our accounting updated. Those assets will then be deemed the property of the commune, regardless of how quickly they may be rolled over into communal investments– indeed in some cases it may be found wise to leave the assets as they are indefinitely. The normal accounts of each commune member shall be established for the new member. A notation shall be made in the Entrant Log Spreadsheet of the date of entry, total assets contributed to the commune, and the total assets of the commune upon that date.

Members entering with negative assets are treated in the same manner as those entering with positive assets: the commune takes on their debt and establishes accounts for the new member. Should this member exit the commune, the assets they leave with will be calculated according to the normal formula, only employing a negative number to describe their initial assets.

3D Exit

When a commune member leaves the commune for whatever reason, the default financial arrangement is as follows:

They shall return their commune-established Emergency, Living Expense, and any sub-committee accounts to the commune. They will receive back the assets they contributed upon entering, adjusted for interest. They will also receive a share of commune income. The commune assets on the date of their entry will be subtracted from the commune assets on the date of their departure, and then divided by the weighted average number of commune members over that period of time.

The formula is x1 = x0(inflation) + (C1-C0)(t)/Sum from t0 to t1 of M
where t1 = date of departure; t0 = date of entry; x1 = sum of money departing member receives; x0 = sum of money they brought at t0; C1 = Commune Assets at t1; and C0 = Commune Assets at t0; and M = members at time tn.

This default situation can be altered by the CC (see addendum on Vote Requirements 2D2).

3E Commune-Run Enterprises (CREs)

Founding a CRE will require the approval of the CC. Interested members can present a brief sketch to test commune interest, and then submit a more detailed business plan to get final approval (see addendum on Vote Requirements 2D8-9). The owner of each CRE will be either the commune or the list of all members.
Commune members engaged in a CRE will find helping hands when other members have some free time!

4. Housing

Co-locationality is one of the key elements of communal living. It enables many of its material efficiencies. At the same time, there is no universal prognosis for the best specific living configuration.

Communes with a variety of living arrangements have succeeded. Some are constricted and urban, others sparse and rural. Some are agglomerations of rented dorm-style units, others are purpose-built commune-owned facilities. This shows that nothing on the question of specific living arrangements can be decided in advance. The best arrangement can only be determined by the contextual analysis of a set of concrete circumstances. The organ for conducting such an analysis is the Central Committee.

Some individuals may choose to live outside of the communal housing on a temporary basis. Legitimate reasons for someone to live outside but remain part of the commune include taking a degree and making a finite-duration work relocation. These individuals will receive a cost-covering stipend, as determined by the Central Committee.

5. Rights and responsibilities of members

5A Rights
The right to an equal share of the commune’s production and wealth
The right to an equal vote in the CC
The right to express opinions and argue without censure
The right to be treated as an equal
The right to refuse work in a limited fashion akin to a workers’ strike (see addendum on: Work refusal protocol)

5B Responsibilities
The responsibility to uphold the values and spirit of the commune
The responsibility to carry out the decisions of the CC
The responsibility to treat others as equals
The responsibility to surrender all wealth and production to the commune, and not to maintain independent financial resources