NEW LIBERTY VILLAGE
ECONOMIC LIFE


Hi.  I'm Rob Kessler. Take a look around. How'd you find yourself back here? Do you produce something we could sell for you? We are always looking for locally made goods, especially the basics.  Some things, like luxuries, we get in from other places, even over-seas, but for food items and other necessities we want to have available at all times, we try to stay local.

If you are looking for a job, here, each of us are our own bosses and run our own businesses.  Each one of us.  I call my business ROK Warehousing, and have a business arrangement with this store as their warehouse man.  We each have worked out our own contracts with David Seals, the originator of this cooperative store, and those who work with me. If we need help, like an accountant, or training, that is available here also.  We stay independent but there are always others around to lend a hand.

I am paid for what I do, not my time. How much is one hour, or 50 years for that matter, of my time worth?  A silly question, really, if one stops to think about it.  It's more realistic to figure out what the service I give, or the products I make, are worth; not my time.  I don't sell my time.  It's worth a heck of a lot more than you or anyone else could pay me!  

I'm here now because this is something I do fairly well,  and I enjoy making things run smoothly.  There are  other associations in New Liberty Village I could work with if I choose to.  Or, of course, I could work at one of the regular stores, or I suppose not at all, its up to me.  I am here voluntarily.  I like working with these people, and we have some common goals, like making some money!  Here's a brochure about our store, and our economic philosophy.  I know you will like the products.  I can personally assure you the food is fresh. That's one of my jobs!  Better get back to it, I guess.  Still some construction going on, but take a look around.  


THE  LOCAL STORE 
ECONOMIC
PHILOSOPHY
 

PRODUCERS

DISTRIBUTORS

CONSUMERS
ASSOCIATIONS


ECONOMICS DISCUSSION GROUP 


Note:
These activities are imaginations of how economic associations can arise, 
and the form they might take.  New Liberty Village is presented as an online reality for educational purposes only.

 






How new and different is this "new way of doing business" that appears to be spreading to other places beyond New Liberty Village?  I came to the "Local Store", one of the town's independent, "privately" operated economic associations to find out.  Is this just another small-town store or cooperative?

I 'm always game for something new, but how different can stores be? Owners and managers make their money by ordering merchandise from ware-housers, charge a margin that brings in enough to pay expenses and employees, and still make some profit. Shoppers come back for cheaper prices, friendly service, and by receiving their money's worth of use from the products they buy. It's all pretty impersonal. Little is known about who or what was used to make the goods. If you don't have a job,  money, or a charge card,  certainly there is little use coming around.  After all, business is business.

When I walked into the store, I saw immediately a Wal-mart, or a Safeway it was not.  Not one familiar brand name was evident.  I saw furniture. I saw  clothes, and a glassed in section with food and produce. There were book displays, and what looked like a hardware section with tools, some new to me.  I didn't hear elevator music playing over loudspeakers, but one counter, loaded with cd's and tapes, had a player, upon which a girl sampled tracks of a local band.  In the distance I heard some muffled pounding and the wail of some kind of wood working tool from down a long hallway, and the banter, coming from an open door, of several women sitting around a table,  leisurely sewing, knitting, and crocheting.

The air carried the smell of baking bread.  The cacophony of  sounds, sights and smells had my immediate attention and curiosity.  I saw no clock-watching salespersons waiting for closing time, wishing they were somewhere else. Apparently, since no one seemed beleagured, everyone worked at their own pace.  

The air of conviviality and camaraderie that arose from the customers and those at store tasks, laughing aloud or quietly conversing,  belied the nature of the business that was being carried on.  The checking out process, the stacking of shelves, or the baking of bread did not seem to suffer from the diversion of labor.  If there was a characterization that could sum up the atmosphere, it would be one of very large family, each at his or her task, maybe preparing for a festival or holiday.  Most everyone that saw me smiled spontaneously, and I felt welcomed.  Few stores I had visited had ever offered such a warm surround.  This was different.

THE PRODUCTS AND THE PRODUCERS

I looked closer at the goods being offered for sale.  An oak table and chairs with handcrafted plates and cups was arranged for a setting of six. The table, the chairs, the rug it sat upon, and each item in the place-setting were marked with a tag, with the name of a different person or company as the producer. Most of the addresses were local, as expected.  But not all ... the silver setting was from England, the dried floral centerpiece from an adjoining State.  

Looking over the large variety of items, I could see that most anything one might need to survive was being offered by this one store. I was later to learn that effort had been applied to keeping necessities locally produced; things nice to have, were available from places further away as well. And scattered everywhere were racks, or stacks of flyers telling about  the products, and their producers, along with brochures about the store and it's principles of doing business.  I noticed the logo of a local printer/publishing company on the backs of the flyers.  "A member of the Golden Association", it said.  It must have kept pretty busy just filling these racks, especially if their were other stores such as this one. 

I ventured into the grocery section. Against one wall, there were refrigerated coolers  with a hand painted "ORGANICALLY, LOCALLY GROWN FRESH PRODUCE" sign on its base. True enough, the vegetables and fruits looked fresh.  Understandingly so, having been grown and harvested practically next door. There was a dairy case and a meat case, the size often seen in a local health food store.  It's items too advertised their organic, chemically free nature, and the humane treatment of the animals who supplied them.  One of the first things that struck me about the appetizing display of goods were the prices.   Apparently the elimination of the middleman, and the lower cost of storage and distribution allowed the prices to be competitive with the mass produced, lifeless fare of the Super markets, unlike most organically grown produce sold in health food stores.

I picked up a head of leaf lettuce tagged "Grown by Sam and Susan Michaels", with a local address I had passed coming into town.  Again I saw a rack of leaflets and flyers at the end of the counter. Each product in the counter was apparently represented.  I found a page with a picture with raised beds of lettuce and other produce, and a word about  Sam's and Susan's operation. There must have been twenty different producers of fruits and vegetables.  

Along with these publications, I noticed a rack of brochures telling how to grow and prepare each of these items oneself, either for one's own use, or for sale by the "Local Store" They also specified how much profit could be expected from growing lettuce for selling in such a store, as well as the risks.  I understood, if someone happened to like the thought of raising an excess amount of lettuce and some cash, next spring, they had not only the instruction on how to do it, but a ready-made market. There was even a record of the lettuce sales for the year, with the fluctuation of prices, which, with cursory study, one could figure that one would do well by getting into lettuce, but not so well by Zucchini squash which had been over supplied. There were even seeds and transplants, greenhouse plans and a stack of kits for cold-frames and cloches.

These concepts of open disclosure, acceptance of responsibility by the producers, and the open invitation and instruction on how to join in on economic activities, became evident in other departments of the store. There were advertised, producer-supported classes on wood-working, welding, car repair, and various types of horticulture.  Seminars on writing, accounting, hair-dressing and animal care were proffered on a large bulletin board. 

Rather than competition, the emphasis here appeared to have swung  towards cooperation and awareness of the communities needs, based on supply and demand.  Anyone coming into the store had access to a wide range of choice in terms of possible employment and vocational training.  I was to learn that when an economic activity grew beyond the capability or desire of the originator to fulfill, he or she could easily serve as an instructors, or an entrepreneurs,  or manager and director  of a whole new branch of associative activity.  The Local Store offered a meeting ground  for persons with needs, and those with something to offer. In the process of doing business all were being benefited. 

The store and the producers, distributors and it's customers had nothing against profit. The success and amount of profit made on their endeavors served to indicate precisely what was in demand, and where more energy could be directed, as in no other way.  This was not a planned economy by persons detached from day to day exigencies.  Persons who were the leaders in their particular activity now led from their knowledge of how to do their particular activity most efficiently and effectively, following cues from the free markets natural supply and demand.  no votes were taken here, or appointments made. It simply became obvious who excelled and knew the most about his field and chosen part in it.

An impression  of  the huge variety of persons that stood behind what I saw before me, began to strike home.  I realized that this store was just a microcosm of a whole village at work. This store itself was just one economic activity, operated and directed by private individuals who were good at, and obviously knew what they were doing, obviously. They knew how to run this type of store. 

People voluntarily brought there products here to be sold  because they thought they got a good deal here. There were certainly other places they could take them.  This was not  a Company store. At least not it the sense of the word normally meant.  Indeed they felt in good company.  Nor was it a Government store in any sense of the word.  It was a free and open economy, with free individuals, at their best.  There were no government or neighborhood committees assigning persons to this or that job, or industry. 

Individuals and associations of individuals, voluntarily met together when the need or desire arose. Resources and expertise were pooled,  and links between associations also occurred.  New activities and new associations often sprung up and branched out from the timely conjunction of need and available resources.  Special individuals or groups  rose  to the top by excellence, not by drive someone else down, or out of business. 

One fact was clear. Aside from the present needs and satisfactions these types of voluntary economic activities provided, how much better off all the participants would be in the event of economic, political, or natural upheaval. A disruption of the complex and delicate far flung networks most of us depend upon would shake this system far less than that of it's neighbors. 

 It was all here, whole in itself.  Experiments with bartering and chit systems based on local exchange had already begun, not in abstract theory, but day-to-day practice.  Now, here in America, the green-back was still used as the medium of exchange.  However If the value of the common currency  were to drop or rise exorbitantly, anything could be used as the medium of exchange. The local economy provided ready access to relative values through records of supply and demand.  The economy of surrounding localities, even foreign countries, or our own, had much less impact on the citizens of New Liberty Village than almost every other town or city who had not already followed it's examples.  Even the most self-sufficient of homesteaders had it better living near here. Ready contacts for barter and neighborly companionship, when desired, was already available and close at hand.

NEXT


April 24, 2000 
Thia, thia@bellatlantic.net
My response to the responses.
Comments on current discussion "American":

My friends, oh but, how you make me want to get down and dirty on these issues. I thought I might open a can of worms, but, wow! The intention of the piece was to show people that though a wage may sound pretty great, it's not necessarily. I didn't touch on the issues you raised, because I knew I could go off on a tangent on any or all of them. But, now I feel I must.

(I'll try to touch briefly on each.)

To address the issues raised by Jerry P.

First, you mentioned personal experience (ie. upbringing/acquaintances). Well, until a couple of years ago, no one I knew made more than ten dollars an hour, and then only my parents, and it took them twenty five years to get up to the range of $15-17 / hour. Personally, when I was finally able to get a job it took me five years to get from $5.25 to $8.50, and that was only because they raised the minimum wage and new people were coming into equal positions and starting at $6 to $7, so that were forced to bump me up a little more from time to time. I grew up being told that for safety and to have something later, you buy, don't rent you must drive, whether it's a piece of "crap" that hasn't run well in ten years or a newer car, public transportation is too limiting and can get expensive if you use it for more than getting to a job (and in the 'burbs it's a little harder to get to) and always save every penny because we are all living on the edge, one or two paychecks from losing everything take the first job you can get and stay with it, forever or as long as you can, changing jobs will drop your pay and affect your ability to get a new one (no one will trust you if you can't keep a job).

Your second point was renting an apartment vs. owning a home. I lucked into an arrangement where I could live in a relatives house and not pay the mortgage as rent... Strictly utilities (which by the way cost the same as the mortgage, and was barely within my means, with car payments and insurance). When the arrangement had to end, I couldn't afford another, and apartments were just too expensive (unless I wanted a run-down efficiency for $250/month, but even with that, I couldn't afford the utilities and food). I had to move back in with my parents.

Car insurance is a whole other issue, and one I hate to mention. A young driver, a car with a loan on it, and other drivers in the household... The rate was more than too high. I got the minimum level of insurance allowed by law, not because I thought that it was all I needed, in fact I would have felt much better having the max., but it was least I could have and the could barely afford that.

As for taxes, anything they take from someone like me, who earns so very little or others who earn even less, is too much when every penny they take could go for food on the table, a rent payment, a car payment, etc.

 As for living expenses and living above your means... I had been struggling for as long as I can remember, pinching pennies, living on a childhood savings account, and trying to establish credit (my father had to co-sign the car loan). And then, I lost that job, as little as it provided, due to injury, and most of everything in the process. I am living on kindness of parents who shouldn't have to pay for me, searching for a job that I can actually physically handle, and there's little I can do that's available for anything over $8.00/hour. I am living on $300 per month, without any income at all and my money is just about gone. I haven't paid rent (which I agreed to pay when I moved back here) for the last six months, as nominal as it is ($200 a month for food and utilities and rent combined) because I simply haven't got it.

I had that time in my life, when I first found a job, of feeling like I worked forty hours I should be able to splurge from time to time on something that would give me pleasure. I would save up for a couple of months and by myself something I'd always wanted. Now I look around at those items that still site here, as money I could get if I hocked it. Thoughts like, if I sold that book shelf and every book on it, I could probably make enough for my car insurance for a month.

Schools... This is a subject I shouldn't even touch.  It is a passionate subject on which I get get up on my soapbox and spew for hours and more.  Everything I know, I DIDN'T learn in school, I learned it from parents who grew up on welfare, eating pb&j, soup, tuna or spam every day for years in cramped little boxes they called low-income housing. I grew up poor and feel it still. Education as a whole sucks! Schools failed us miserably, though I do not blame them. They just never learned to adjust with the times. They do fail to teach the most basic things to us. I dream of replacing the whole system, top to bottom. I'll just leave it at that.

As for credit... I hated to use it, but I knew I couldn't survive without, as much as I know that it will take away everything I've got left. Car repairs, groceries, stupid things, and putting other bills on the card is real tempting. In for an inch, in for a mile. But, I also know, that come hell or high water, as soon as I get a job, the first priority is paying them off and burning them. But, even now, at my credit limit, waiting for them to tear them up, I know, without them, right now, I would have nothing. I pay it down enough to use it again, for groceries, car repairs, stupid things, and putting other bills on, as before.

And finally, you mentioned second and third jobs... I would be happy with one. It's hard to find any job, much less something you can actually tolerate, let alone enjoy. This is a bitter subject for me. And one in which I can go for days. But let me just make a few comments on it, anyway.

* The forty hour work week was decided on some time ago, realizing that it is unfair and unhealthy to work more than eight hours consecutively. People need rest and a break from the work, otherwise they don't produce, they make mistakes, and eventually get ill from the lack of sleep, unhealthy work and living habits that are perpetuated by a harsh and heavy work schedule.

* The more you work, the more you earn, the more they take away in taxes. * Where is it written that "thou shalt work from sunup to sundown (and longer since the birth of electricity) every day of your life or your life should be taken away"?  That's the attitude many people have, or seem to. Workaholics who thrive on working every waking moment cannot understand that most people do it because they have to, not because they want to.

* Although it's not feasible, nor likely to gain any agreement from the general population (especially the "have's" as opposed to the "have-nots"), I still have a firm held belief that equal time should account for something. Fine, some people should make a slightly different wage, harder work for higher wages, but eight hours to one guy equaling $40, and another equaling $120, is a little hard to accept. So, one guy is pumping gas, the other is pushing paper. It's work. It shouldn't be the end all and be all of life. 

To the issues raised by Jerry B.

I realize that people in other countries may read this, and I don't know enough about their living conditions to comment on them. I know they suffer and strive as we do, perhaps more for the simple things like food and water and a roof over their heads. It is more apt to call it the Human Experience than the American Experience.  My intention was to touch on the realities of the economy here.

I feel privileged to live in this country.  I supposedly have the potential for the life others around me seem to have. Yet, I feel pushed out of that loop. I know that I could climb out, if circumstances favor it... But, I also know the reality is that downsizing is causing a larger number of people to fall out of the niches they held themselves in, and now are in direct competition with me for menial jobs and those considered "unskilled". Only, now they have the advantage of experience, training, and age over me. And, the availability of positions is scarce... at least ones that pay a livable wage.

The idea of living off the land, thriving in a small community, self-sufficient... These hold an appeal for me, deep within. To have that blessing of land is a steadfast dream I hold on to. That is what I aspire to have. The ambition and struggle I live with has, at the end of it all, the image of a bit of earth that I could one day acquire... To find sustenance and livelihood out of the purity and gifts of the planet, is the dream that holds me fast. Any fortune I could make would go to finding a plot where I could start my life as I have always dreamed. I do not long for big cities, fancy clothes, a mass of possessions... I would trade all of it for the bit of land that I have seen all my life, my piece of life itself.

As for the comments of Ted (Karma Mechanic)

The land is the most precious commodity, and it breaks my heart to know that it is being poisoned by pesticides. I grieve for those who must try to meek out a living, not on their own land, but for someone else. I believe it should be the responsibility of the land owner who hires out for labor to help tend his land to help the laborers as much as he can. Unfortunately, I know that it is not set up that way... The farmer is struggling to get the crops in and pay for the next crop and enough extra to fill his own family's needs.

The people who cram themselves into hovels trying to collectively earn enough to climb out of their drudgery are losing out, falling through the cracks in society, largely ignored. They strive to find a place and a job to meet their needs, and must come together to help each other, to form mini communities within a small home. America was started around the extended family father worked, often mother did too (out of her own home mending, baking, or helping in the family business), grandmother's helped raise the children (in payment having her needs met), aunts and uncles sometimes living within the same house brought in some income, and the children were raised to the point when they too could earn an income. Alas, the extensions now in households are made not necessarily of blood bonds, but convenience, desire, and necessity... But the incomes, unless somewhat above a minimum wage or barely above a livable wage, are just not able to sustain the extensions, nor able to survive without them.

It is unfortunate that a person cannot live simply on the sweat of his brow these days. It's simply not enough. Often, without a helping hand, we tend to get stuck in a certain place in society, and fortunately, in this country, we are told, with time we can... It just feels hopeless. We have the potential to move up the ranks. Though, as I see so many others teeter up there and fall, I question how long it will take, and when it will all come crashing down around me. --Thia


April 24, 2000
Karma Mechanic, THE_FOCI@hotmail.com
Reply to Lucky America

J.P., J.B., Thia,

That is lively discussion.  Yes, the majority of people are only two months or so from homelessness - from balancing too many desires, not sharing their 'space' of free will, even to some degree the 'work ethic' not being suitable in a camouflaged imperialistic scheme.  People from Mexico will work hard to have things that there is NO MONEY for while working there. T here is food and space to 'live' there though. The gringo misunderstanding is that why thing.  Many of the fields have been and are being sprayed with toxic chemicals (bug sprays or fertilizers {soil leechers}) in Mexico.  By the American gov't via permission of the gov't there.  People can tell you the animals are sick, the food doesn't grow the same, and you can access advertisements for Coca-Cola.  Yes, there is a work ethic - also political unrest at what their gov't has allowed ours to do - to push that usable work ethic north. I'll slow on that for now.

People from other countries who come here can and will work hard and 'do well'.  On the same token, nearly every one that I know from other countries (which is quite many - people and countries) all share the belief that in this country one has to work TOO HARD to have the basic survival maintenance happen in the system and structure that stands here.

Americans have the most items, information access, better 'sick-care' than most, and some small voice in affairs (if the assistance of the media is enlisted). The schema parallels this:

There is not a place in the world that has had more history of 'realized' or 'enlightened' beings than India. There is no place in the world that has more history of persecuting and killing these very same people.

So other than tweaking the 'system' or just plain maneuvering around it - one is welcome to work all hours and labors to get some access to healthy food and shelter (and sex - we are all prostitutes at some time or another) - just be too tired to work in their own gardens with the neighborhood kids or study something that one is interested in gaining a proficiency in and so on (except during that month that tax refunds get back-maybe).

A group of people can share a living space, grow sprouts, work 'under the table', and gather a very large investment to 'decentralize' themselves. Sadly enough, people are not ever really given the chance to learn the personal interaction/living skills to share and cooperate in a environment that requires sharing bathrooms and cooking space and food. Oh yeah, and being supportive in coping with stresses. . .

Say now six adults live in a space that is near a metropolitan area (Granted, that can be near Mt Pilot for Barney). Let's say there is car pooling and bicycles - three cars. Rent of domicile - $550.00 a month. Each person working, maybe one or two in a restaurant or grocery setting- compensating for a lower wage. Let's say two of the people working 10 hours a day at 10.00 a hr under the table, one at 12.00 -same 'tax status'. One at a corporation - through a temp agency. Complicated yet? Count down eight months, and see how much can be saved. Invest this into space that can be incorporated and 501c(3) - education.

Bonding, cohesiveness, and communication about common goals are key.

It is this fostering of egocentric and hedonistic goals that culture creates that keeps this kind of thing from happening.  How do people talk to others, friends, and family. Not usually fully trusting anyone -cause they are all trying to make a buck (for their new jet ski to sit in their garage or whatever).

I've just rambled a little here. I appreciate the acceptance of the input.   From the dawn til dusk, Ted


April 8, 2000
Thia, thia_lynne@hotmail.com
The Lucky American

The average American is living on chump change.  They can barely exist on a single paycheck.  The reality is that Americans are poor.  Though from the outside, people may think we have money falling out of our pockets.

Assuming a person can find that great job, making $12.50 per hour (which is not very realistic, I realize), they would be making $500 per week gross.  How much do they really have to live on?  How much money can they honestly expect to have in their pockets every week? 

So let's look at some lucky man.  He can be an example for us.  A gem for us to study.  This person can be our guide, as we talk about economics.  Not in theory as much as reality, though, we'll make some assumptions that to real people may seem modest, even too good to be true.  So, those of you who know nothing about finance, here is a glimpse.  Not from big business but from the average "Joe" working to make ends meet.

Well, right off the bat, before he even gets the check, the wages are called gross earnings.  They look very good at $500.  But, before the check is cut to him, it goes through the process of taxation and withdrawal.  At least 30% of the check is taken away.  (Those of you who saw it, surely remember the episode of the television show Friends, where Rachel Green, played by Jennifer Aniston, gets her first paycheck.  She asked who FICA was and why he took all of her money.  Or something to that effect.)  This is when the check is changed from gross to net.  Now, this lucky person's wage is $350 for the week.

Even now it seems pretty good, doesn't it, well, hang on a minute.  Let's not forget the person needs health insurance, and if he/she is smart, they will be thinking of the future and want to put something into a retirement fund, as well as to put a little something into savings for the next big purchase or vacation he hopes to take in a few years.  Well, let's just take another 5% of the gross, $25.00 in deductions.  Well, still, that shouldn't be too bad, this person's check that he takes to the bank will read $325.00 or there about.

Well, at the bank, he's going to have to deposit some money into his checking account for his monthly bills for living expenses.  Either rent or mortgage, this person is paying $500 per month, which figures to $120 per week; and then there are the utilities (that is gas, electric, telephone, and water) which, conservatively, run $200 per month total, that's $50 per week.  And we'll assume this lucky man has got a car.  Well that means car payments and auto insurance at an estimated $200 per month, or $50 per week.  So into the checking account goes $220.  So he's leaving the bank with a whopping $105 in his hand.

Well, that looks pretty good, except...  We forgot he's actually living.  Let's see, if the person is alive, they have to eat, at least once a day (although, this is a pretty lucky guy, he'll probably eat two or three meals a day like most people do).  Well, let's put $75 in the grocer's hand on the way home from the bank.  Got to fill the kitchen for the week.  Well, he's got $30 in his pocket, he should be thrilled.  That's more than most people carry.  And, oh yeah, the gas tank is empty, well, he better fill it, that should last the week as long as he just uses it for getting back and forth to work and home, well there goes another $10.  So he's got $20 left.  This is definitely a lucky person.

What, you don't feel lucky?  You want more money in your hand? Well, what about your girlfriend, Mr. Lucky Man?  Ever thought about it, you know, the "M" word?  Well, ask her, you know she loves you, she'll definitely say yes.  So go get married, that should fix it, two incomes, must be better than one.  Well, yeah.  Only a few of the bills will go up, the utilities won't double you know.  Married, that might do it.  And, we'll even give you a break, give her your mother's wedding ring, there's no sense giving you another bill for who knows how many thousands of dollars for some pretty rock.  Hey, your mom left you her wedding ring just for this very thing. 

Married.  That's good, right.  Well, not necessarily.  You're taxes will go up a little (that thing they call the marriage penalty tax in the news will apply to you now).   The savings accounts are accumulating enough to pay for the baby she's expecting, and the water heater that broke on the car.  But, still, more money in those two take-home paychecks.  Except that now, you both need to eat, so the food bill went up to $125, almost double.  And both of your car insurance bills went up a little, because your driving record isn't so good, and she's got a minivan.  With the possibility of both of you driving each other's vehicles, well, that could make for a problem, but because you are married, we'll give you a break, you can just change your policy to get a multi-car discount.  That should help.  But, now you two want to get cable and she's got a credit card payment to make.  And, the roof started to leak, so you've got to get a roofer here to fix it, and replace those items that were ruined from the water.

And, now you find out that she's still paying for a school loan from a few years ago.  And she only makes $10 per hour, which means her gross pay is only $400.  Well she'll have to cancel her subscription to the newspaper and that magazine she gets, that will help.  If you're lucky, and you've always been, you'll both have twenty five dollars a week in your pocket.  Now see, didn't that make it all better?

Yeah, he sure is a lucky man.

You see, the reality, is that we have little to show for the fact that we earn a living.  We're alive and we work.  What we buy or do all comes back to letting us live, or getting us to work.  When we spring some cash for the things we want, we're sacrificing from something else.  And as the cost of living rises, and our pays don't keep up, we'll fall closer and closer to losing even those things.  We're all just a couple of paychecks away from losing all we've got.  So much for us rich, lucky Americans.   Thia Lynn


April 10, 2000
Jerry P. TyTurbo320@aol.com
The American experience

Thia,

In general, your piece on economics is 'the American experience' for many people'.  A lot does depend upon one's upbringing and acquaintances as to what the view of this will be. For example, there are many people who do not personally know others who experience that juggling act on a regular basis. To them, they'll admit that the lower/middle class get squeezed more all the time, yet they'll be quick to point out that the 'average' American wage is currently $13.30/hour. This $13.30 is an average, not a mean i.e, there are many individuals earning in excess of $40-50k per year to bring up the average full of those earning $16-22 per year. The average $500/wk wage earner is priced out of the decent housing market and has been for over ten years now. Thus, those making $500/wk are seldom found living in homes, even very modestly priced ones. Instead, they're either living with others (friends, relatives, dating partners) or, worse still, they're alone in an apartment 'throwing away' $450-750/month on housing that provides no opportunity to build equity, the key ingredient to building/compounding personal wealth.

The lower wage earner also typically is not making car payments (often substituting the absence of payments for the unexpected agony of repairs to an older vehicle no longer worth fixing, but unable to qualify for a new vehicle that at least could provide peace of mind w/respect to repair costs). Quite often, these same individuals become socially irresponsible with regard to auto insurance, leaving everyone else, including many who are really struggling, the increased burden of supplementing their decisions to not carry/drop their policies.

Although it seems bad, the US tax system is among the least intrusive in the developed world. Thankfully, it is also one of the easiest to manipulate, a reward for anyone who climbs above the 'average' level.  Ironically, many in the $40-50+ income range share the same daily concerns that those with half the income level have. Though, these difficulties are self-induced, brought on by that basic part of the human character: wanting more. Thus, many, many people envied from afar by others by what they see are struggling as well because they chose to make commitments that increase their standard/cost of living to such a point that they 'feel poor' as well.

Our educational system fails us all miserably in this regard. School does little to prepare one for life ( for college, yes.....for exercising the mind, yes for those willing to 'participate') Simple tasks like managing a checkbook, negotiating a price, planning/working a budget should be mandatory in our school system. That's just for starters.  Moms, Dads, siblings, friends, books, mag's, now the net can 'teach' us about sexual matters, but those same sources are often unable to instruct us on money management, as they were never taught properly either. As a result, most of these lessons have to be learned by trial and error, with emphasis on 'error'. I won't even go into our nation's addiction to and misuse/abuse of 'easy money' (credit cards). That can be a dissertation in itself.

The key is, what do we as individuals who feel trapped, do about this. Fortunately, we're living in a country which permits us to pursue our dreams ( yes, often you do need to develop a thick skin to criticism-- most great success stories we hear about involving people who came from meager means are the one's who did just that) In addition, sacrificing, working a second/third job often enables one the opportunity to make choices to better their situation (the potential cost on relationships is often a hurdle many choose not to overcome by refusing to go this route)

If we hold on to the thought of being 'poor', less than average even, that's all we'll ever be. Just like you tend to hit what you aim at while driving a car, even if you believe you desire not to. Yet, wishing, positive attitude alone does not make it happen either. It comes from 'rolling up the sleeves', getting out, working, networking with others who can help us get to where we want to be, even if we don't know 'where that is' when we begin! A fulfilling life for any of us can come as a result of goals and achievements. We can rise above the low, the average, the struggle, if we REALLY desire to. Hunger begets action. - Jerry P.

April 10, 2000
Jerry B, gbrit@erols.com
The American Dream

Since this discussion is likely to reach persons living in other countries besides the USA, the thread can be broadened to what it takes to live elsewhere, as well.  While $12.50 may be slightly less than the average hourly wage in the US, that amount might well be a weekly or even monthly salary in other countries. Granted that cost of living expenses are also generally less in “less developed” countries, many aspects of our life affordable on such earnings, make our life styles pretty cushy in comparison. In the area where I live, many persons come from Mexico to work for minimum wages in Mushroom Plants, which allows them to purchase nice used automobiles, live in apartments with running water, TV, and shop in Super Markets, and obtain medical care for themselves and their children. They are quite happy to be here, and live a higher standard of living than back home, at least economically speaking. 

At my age, looking back on a life where I had a choice of being in a profession, earning more than the average Joe, but instead working independently as a tradesman, for about the average wage, then diving way below this to become a homesteader (allowed only by the grace of a small inheritance which enabled us to buy outright an old abandoned farmhouse and four acres) it is not my social standing, or how many things I had, or if I drove a new car, that mattered more than a hoot. It was, however, the joy of living and choosing my own way, relationships with family and acquaintances, and being able to provide food on the table, a roof overhead, and occasional medical care for myself and family when needed. 

Presently, staying with a son and his wife who both work under the daily pressures of executive careers, and together, paid about as much as the president earns, I would not hesitate for one instant to choose the lifestyle where I was my own boss, growing the main supply of my food, and living on bare minimum.  I was connected to the land and nature, responsible for my own fate, and right with the world.  I was even free to think about how other persons in similar, sustainable lifestyles could work together, when they wished, to help produce necessities, rub shoulders and have companionship, avoiding the isolation and loneliness that happens in suburbia or the city, or miles out on a country homestead. 

And all of these varieties of lifestyle were in good times, economically speaking.  In the event of a depression or outright economic collapse, for persons who had not learned to grow there own carrots, with housing requiring fossil fuel based heat, and surrounded by thousands of hungry, frustrated persons, the homestead/ala cooperative lifestyle shines like a huge golden nugget. in this case, persons who are use to making do with little i other countries will more than likely be much better off than us Americans who could not bear the thought of a missed meal or a non-flushing toilet.

My choice, having lived it all, (and I think that is probably the key to being able to make this choice) is down, not up, economically. Trying  to outwit and out-fight the System, to earn the very dubious rewards of the American Good Life, is not my idea of wisdom.  The courage and the spunk is admirable, but it is definitely someone else’s vision of what it means to live, and what is worth having, than my own.  

Persons who have not yet even seen first hand the relative wealth and life style of America should look closely at their own personal values, what is most important to them, how they want to spend their time and their life, chasing after things and false securities, or truly lasting things.  America has had, and has , much to offer to the rest of the world, as the rest of the world has, to offer it. It is easier to think that the large corporations and big government have bought off or stolen the original independent spirit, though the truth is we have given it away. Each individual must decide for himself what he or she is, and wants to be. Sometimes it seems easier to ride with the current than break off in another direction.  If it is waterfall we hear we are fast approaching, the sooner we try to reach the bank, the more likely we are to survive.  I think we need a new American Dream, a new American experience.  Jerry B

May 3,1998
name:  Jerry Collette
jerrycollette@hotmail.com
subject:  economics

Saw your post about this site on the bdnow email group. I liked what you said about being something different than the capitalist/socialist dichotomy, but if you're selling your results for money, it's still capitalistic. I believe that to get beyond that, we have to totally transcend the greed based economy and come from pure service. At that point, there will be no need for money, accounts, or anything like that. It will be a big shift, but it is just what the world needs. I pray for the day it happens and hope to see it in my life.     Yours in Service,  Jerry C
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January 17, 1998 aquimayo@eyheron.net
subject:  I agree, but What to do?
body:  Yes, I agree. But I do not Know where to start.
Maybe, if you don't mind. I could share this page with my neighbors.
Maybe we can begin a discussion about the chance to a "free and voluntary economic
association".    Aquilino Mayo
 
January 17, 1998
Discussion is a good place to start! Every person's situation is different, and the the opportunities offered by one's location,  and one's neighbors and friends vary widely. Generally speaking, one has to come to some insight into what it is one wishes to do, according to one's own interests and abilities, and find a way to pursue it. A place to start might be looking around at what it is needed for survival; those things or services that others need to live. Are you yourself interested in learning what is required to produce or distribute these items? If you have acquaintances that might be interested in working with you in a joint economic project, talking it over might result in down to earth steps that could be taken to begin a cooperative venture, such as starting a workshop, a greenhouse, a nursery, or a garden, whatever. As your own efforts begin to pay off, and more help is needed, you will surely find others that would also like to join in the activity if it also allows them the freedom to be their own boss and gives them a chance to determine their own destiny by helping meet mutual needs of their associates and the persons who consume your products.

Using the principles espoused in New Liberty Village, each person involved will be a part-ner in the business, earning proportionately according to how much he or she puts into the end product or services offered.  Keeping communication channels open, and learning to work out differences, will be one of the most primary tasks from the start. Starting where one is, with who, and what, is at hand, has to be the beginning.  Learning to love your neighbor as yourself, and doing unto others as you would have them do unto you will go along way towards setting out on the proper basis to work with, and do business with, others.  First off, one has to learn something of oneself and respect ones own desires and needs. Then knowing what others require and desire will come easier. I can't expect others to do what I myself would not like to do.  I don't want someone to work for me, but along side me.  I don't expect someone to do the work and me to get paid for what they do, but only what I have myself earned. Together we can hopefully do a job better, and have more fun doing it.

In this imaginary Village, some persons with skills and capital to run such concerns have developed "private" investment companies which work with persons, starting and supporting joint ventures until they become self supportive.  In the future, hopefully economics can work towards the end of the encouragement and growth of  individual talent and ability, not  to just survive while others benefit disproportionately from our efforts and striving.  Having say in how we spend our time and what we do is important to each of us. Education must be available equally to anyone who desires it, and can apply it in meaningful activity. When we see our present surroundings and our own selves clearly enough, and seek out how to change our own and others difficulties, solutions will arise from the immediate facts of our lives.  Doing what I see to do with what I have, and following the principles I believe in, is the start.  No outside program, or someone else's ideas or insights, will take the place of our own judgments and decisions.  Opportunities open up before us as we develop awareness of what we each are looking for.  Hope others have something to add about "where to start?" Jerry B
 
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November 1. 1997
CW writes: One of the first places I went in NLV was to check out your economic philosophy. I really like the idea of per job/product pay, and NOT being paid by the hour. We had a big discussion (almost turned into a fight) in the homestead group a while back about this. A lot of people said that they wouldn't work on their own homestead for anything less than an $x dollars per hour return (as high as $20/hour for some people!). Very few jobs on the homestead offer that kind of return! The obvious implication to this is that they should go get a high-paying job and pay someone else to do their homesteading chores. My argument was that you do what you enjoy and, if possible, make a small profit (or, better still, save yourself some money). Anytime you can prevent cash from leaving the homestead, you are ahead, even if it does cost you a little sweat! People were arguing that because they spend so many hours per day on their chickens, they couldn't sell them for less than $10 per chicken (or some ridiculous price). The fact that NOBODY will pay $10 for a chicken didn't enter into their argument. I'm really fascinated with homestead economics, although I know almost nothing about conventional economics.

I haven't seen anything in NLV about commercial-scale agriculture. Being a farmer, this sort of worries me. I don't think that all people can (or want to) raise all their own food if they also have an outside job. Although I'm against agri-busnesses. there are things that are best grown on a slightly larger scale; grains and corn, for example, are better grown in plots larger than most households set aside for gardening. I also raise animals, and see no mention of (or room for) livestock in NLV.

"Any use of our natural base of food, air, land or mineral substances by one man or company of men means that someone else can not use it. We are becoming increasingly aware that the natural base is not unlimited." This also concerns me. What about the person who uses raw materials in their business? The furniture maker (wood), farmer (land, pasture), the guy who mines limestone for the garden, even the raw materials for your NL house have to come from somewhere! I honestly believe that when people own their own means of production (land, trees, mines, etc.) they are more likely to take care of it and make it sustainable. Even the miner, who eventually uses up his resource, is encouraged to convert the property to some other productive use, especially if there are laws/taxes to encourage him.

Well, I've got whiny kids who want to go out and play in the sleet  t:-(.
I'll come visit again and I'm sure I'll have more comments!   LW
 
NLV  As a homesteader, you are in an enviable position, both for learning to be as independent of the present system of doing things, and to learn first hand  in a very meaningful way the realities of economic life. One of the first things one learns when one tries to do as much as possible by oneself is how dependent we really are on others.  A homesteader soon begins to think of the hundreds of persons involved behind even the simplest of commodities. That toothbrush, the toothpaste, or even the salt and baking soda, or the dentist are never taken for granted again. Try producing some of these things oneself, one soon learns why division of labor, specialization, and industrialization became so popular in the first place. The realization that there is not enough hours in the day, and the sacrifice of other activities one has come to enjoy is too large, makes one reconsider how far one wishes to go towards self-subsistance.

The need for economic activities, some exchange with others, either in bartering or some other means of exchange, such as money. Now, when one raises a chicken, one no longer sees the chicken as a bird that will feed oneself or the kid's, but possibly as a couple of dollars that might buy a blouse or go towards a new CD.

As in many other matters, we at NLV have come to differentiate three aspects of any event into the Individual/spiritual/cultural part/ the Human Rights part/ and the Economics part. The first, Individual/Spiritual/Cultural aspect of raising a chicken involves YOU. Your goals and aspirations, your talents and abilities, your special needs and desires, your will and freedom of choice to do what you wish, and your labor, your effort, and physical work performed by your body, soul, and spirit. You speak of enjoying your work of raising a chickens. Maintaining that sense of satisfaction and enjoyment is crucial in becoming aware of one's individuality and determining how one spends one's time. To be able to freely choose what to do with one's hands and how to direct one's mind according to what one's heart desires is probably one of the healthiest, life giving forces in human existence. Many persons, if not most, never develop their individual spirits to the point they are not mere pawns in the economic or political games of life. Being actively involved in determining one's own destiny is a realm of experience Homesteader's partake in to a high degree.

You speak of doing what you do because you enjoy it. Putting a price on the time you spend might seem pretty silly. If you enjoy feeding the chickens, gathering the eggs, and whatever else the activities mean too you personally, this is not the world of economics.  Putting a price value on the intangible satisfactions you derive, or even the sweat aspect of your labor has no basis in reality...these are qualities beyond comparison, or of immeasurable quantities. If the activity saves you from having to buy eggs of questionable value from the store, if you enjoy the extraordinary taste and nutrition of the chicken or eggs you have produced yourself, how would one put a money value on the experience? These aspects of growing chickens we would term "spiritual" for a lack of a better word. Having to do with your own individuality and identity, your own special being, or spirit.

As long as your labor is being applied to nature base materials making products that you and your own family are using for your own survival and enjoyment, the products do not enter the social economic sphere. Of course, they may maintain an economic worth to you in that you know that if you did not consume the eggs yourself, you might be able to sell them..

If you are producing chickens or eggs for sale, the items become commodities in the economic scheme of social life. Persons who you may never meet will buy the meat or eggs. They care not how much satisfaction or discomfort you derived in the process, only the relative value of the eggs themselves. Because you took special care and knowledge to see the chickens were free roaming, organically raised, fertilized, and guaranteed fresh, persons may pay more than the standard super-market egg, based on the value of the product, the eggs or chicken meat. If you are expecting to receive more than the fair market value because you did not enjoy the work, or did not have the skill or talent to do it in the most efficient manner, your business is not likely to succeed. The persons you speak of might well ask ten dollars a chicken, but they are not likely to sell any chickens.

Economic decisions are made on another order. If the price one asks for eggs and chicken meat does not pay enough above your cost for the feed and all the other factors that go into raising chickens, plus make a profit, one might well look for something else that will bring in the cash one needs. The demand for your particular eggs and chicken meat might well allow you to charge more than for standard, mass produced eggs. It is not likely that you can compete against the animal factory chicken mills unless the buyers can think that the difference in price is worth it to them. Otherwise, you might well decide to limit your production to what you and your family can use. If the day ever comes that the mass production industry of chicken and egg production shuts down, you can be sure your expertise and knowledge about chickens will put you and your family in good stead, and your neighbors as well, if they have not learned to raise their own chickens!

In New Liberty Village there are quite a few persons who raise chickens and other animals for meat and eggs or dairy products who have chosen to work along side one another. They have joined together in an economic association that combines their talents and efforts, and allows them certain definite advantages over producing and distributing their products on their own. The association has better connections for establishing a wide and dependable market for the products, and because they set up their own standards and can educate and work with each individual farmer to produce exceptional products, they can often get higher prices than can the individual farmer who has not established a wide reputation or known standards. When the local farmers are supplying more items than can be consumed locally, their association can even work voluntarily with equivalent associations in other places. This is an example of any number of economic associations one can voluntarily join in New Liberty Village to earn money for survival.

What is it that you do not like about agri-businesses? The things we do not like about agri-businesses as they are now operated mostly involves matters of human rights, such as labor conditions, animal rights, that is the way animals are abused, and deleterious environmental practices. Horticulture that weakens long term fertility of the soil, and pollutes the streams and water table, with pesticides and herbicides, and silt, or otherwise upsets the natural ecology of the earth and our own health, are all matters that we believe are indeed subject to group regulation and enforcement. Because the needs are so great for sustainable agriculture, we do not believe there is anything wrong per se with growing things on a large scale, as long as the negative aspects, such as those resulting from monoculture, are considered, and allowances made for right use of the land.

It is not however, just a matter of passing new laws or prosecuting offenders. Our three-pronged approach to social life, instead of the one-state concept, be it either capitalism or socialism, begins from a different starting point and results in great differences in social attitudes of the citizens who, in fact, not just as a token, have equal voice and vote in determining what persons or groups of persons can, and can not do, in relation to other persons. Because individual freedoms are so clearly delineated as off grounds for group or political action and control, and only those matters that concern every citizen equally are the only business of government, and the people are in fact the government, the general tone and underlying assumptions are radically different than is the present case. Agribusiness, or any business for that matter, starts with and ends with the goal of making money. When money obviously buys influence and representatives, gets them nominated and elected, and then determines which way they vote, there is no way around the reality that the citizens role is only a mime and a sham. The consent of the governed is then an entirely different matter. Today we are inclined to just let "them" go their own way, and we ours, as much as possible.  New Liberty Villagers that have seen new alternatives pretty much have concluded the same thing, in that we do not believe there remains any basis remaining within the present political, one state, economic/political mish mash to make a place for Spiritual/Cultural freedom, nor for the three systems to operate independently from one another and still maintain the proper inter-relationships.

We have decided to build along side the present system. In our limited jurisdiction, the citizens meet together and discuss all kinds of public issues, debate, and vote. Within our present greater democratic system, these processes are allowed for, supposedly even encouraged. Our citizens are intrinsically involved in our town meetings where our local laws are defined and voted upon. The laws are not handed down from above.  Our elected officials are there because we feel they best understand and apply the principles we stand for, not because of  how much money they were able to accumulate for their campaign. Our officials were elected in an extended open forum. A person with little money has just a great of chance of being elected as one who is has accumulated a lot of money, if he has the requisite skills for the particular job. Campaigners who use the media to make a pitch for office are frowned upon, and their chances are actually lessened by such propagandistic attempts. Our governmental positions are considered very serious business, and only the most responsible of citizens are likely to be elected. The limited terms of office, and the stigma that attaches to one who misuses this responsibility is great indeed in our society. Misplaced trust, in our form of government soon becomes evident, and we have established quick and sure measures of recall and impeachment for any form of  influence pedaling.

As it stands now, large corporations carry almost total power in politics and government, and the type of lobbying that occurs within and without the halls of government simply cannot occur in NLV. When everything is viewed from the point of view of economics and money, there simply is no assurance that individual life, or human rights life, will receive their rightful due. When the Individual well-being is the starting point, and relations between individuals well-defined, and mutually determined, then economics assumes it's rightful place as being as important, but not more important than the other aspects of life.

In NLV, individuals who are the experts in a given field, such as our chicken producers, or our grain farmers, freely choose to associate with one another, and make their decisions based on the exigencies of their business. At all times they are fully conscious of the well defined rules and regulations coming from the political rights side of social life. They themselves as humans were involved in defining these laws and guidelines in a true democratic manner, and they know the basis upon which the decisions were made. No special interest group had undo influence, and all sides of the issues were considered well. Representatives of the respective economic associations and individual chicken raisers themselves had their say their say in the debate, but when it came to vote, each man and each woman of voting age determined which strictions were publicly accepted.

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