We know both intuitively and rationally that capitalism is neither logical, nor has it proven itself successful. Capitalism takes a few disconnected parts as the whole ecosystem, the ego for wisdom, and greed as innate.
What’s real is the sanity of connection. Egalitarian economics is fundamental to community, and forms the basis of most intentional and income-sharing communities.
Economics and ecology share the same prefix—oikos, meaning “household.” While ecology tells us about our natural “household,” the environment, economics tell us about managing human households. Currently, a capitalist free market considers these households as individualized, competing units, with each person responsible for their own needs. We’re supposed to take care of those needs by negotiating, trading, and—much of the time—fighting for resources, gladiator-style, in the arena of the market and society. The inevitable message is that you can have whatever you can take and keep whatever you can hold.
This leaves no room for compassion, which is vital to ecological survival at any scale. It pushes out democracy as our highest value except in name alone, and presumes that profit and infinite growth are our underlying highest value.
But have you noticed that for capitalism to work, you need a strong and violent government to enforce all that taking and holding? In capitalism, it is perfectly logical for a person to have three houses plus a private jet and fancy meals prepared for them while others starve to death on the streets.
There is no moral case for private property. Capitalism justifies private property by substituting ego for wisdom, assuming greed is innate, and enforcing these rules with a violent police state. But wisdom is compassionate and sustainable; wisdom acknowledges power and is thus democratic. Egalitarian economies reject private property, and operate with empathy, humanity, and democracy.
Yet we still work within capitalism’s arena—the market. What we’ve done is to carve out an egalitarian economic space within the wider context of the market. Within that space, we can work using different rules and translate ourselves for effective interaction within the market all the while retaining our integrity of wisdom, empathy, democracy, and humanity toward one another.
Egalitarian economies are effective and successful—just see the examples of income-sharing communes within the FEC.
The other transformationally egalitarian thing communes do is provide equal access to resources. This is distinct from equal distribution. Here’s how: a community decides what resources to provide. It makes those things available equally and communally, but it’s not like if we decide to provide rice we buy it and divvy it up equally among all the members. Instead, we buy a bunch of rice, put it in a big bucket, and say, “take what you need.”
Capitalist economists would tell you that this system will not work because people will just make a run on the resources and deplete them so that the system falls apart.
Fortunately, this is not what happens. People’s needs and appetites are finite when the commons are secure and dependable.
Again, we know both intuitively and rationally that the only reason people hoard and over-consume is out of fear that resources will not be available. It’s logical to hoard when you fear insecurity.
Egalitarian communities change this lizard-brain pattern and “lizard-brain economics” to build a long-term, long-lasting abundance and sense of community. This assures people not only that the community will meet the needs of its members but that, selfishly speaking, the very best bet for individual security is to bet on community. If people trust that the community will meet their needs, there is no longer a reason to hoard, and the commons become more robust.
An egalitarian economy also accomplishes other very cool things:
- It acknowledges and supports our innate diversity: everybody is different and has different needs. There is no longer a need for a central coordinator determining what everybody needs and distributing it to them.
- It avoids a bunch of paperwork. You don’t need that level of bureaucracy when you are no longer keeping track of who deserves what or who took what. Capitalism is a huge accounting project to make sure no one takes more than they are due.
Income-sharing reduces economic precarity and instability in the same way that a CSA share does. When you buy into a share up front before the growing season begins, you benefit from the produce raised by your local farmer, and share the risk of the growing. If the growing season is weak, you may have a slightly smaller share, but the farmer doesn’t go under and can continue to produce. Similarly, a bumper crop increases your share of the produce, all for the same up front investment.
Likewise, a sharing economy is more secure and robust. And ultimately, egalitarian economics raise the overall sense of wellbeing and sanity, by bringing economics in line with wisdom, democracy, freedom, and compassion.