Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The XIII Commandments of Communities that Abide

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Over the past two Thursdays I have run two articles (1, 2) that looked back on and more or less wrapped my efforts at trying to inspire sustainable community-building efforts in the North American context, at least of the land-based variety. I am still hopeful about the possibilities of self-sufficient homesteads, and I am continuing to work on providing a different sort of context—for building mobile, floating communities—based on Quidnon—"A Houseboat that Sails". There will be more on it soon. But to wrap up the theme that I launched over three years ago with the book shown on the left, here is a rather important excerpt from it.

The following list of... um... commandments has been put together by looking at lots of different communities that abide. It is not dependent on what exact kind of community it is: whether it’s patriarchal or apportions equal rights and responsibilities to both women and men, whether it’s religious or atheist, whether it’s settled, migratory or nomadic, whether it consists of farmers or carnival performers, law-abiding people or outlaws, the highly educated or the illiterate, whether it’s rigidly traditionalist or polyamorous, vegan or omnivorous...

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Community: The Final Chapter

If you filter out from the common, mainstream uses of the word “community” all of the obviously non-community-related ones, such as “international community” (a lame euphemism) or “community relations” (a synonym for “public relations”) or “community center” (a synonym for “neighborhood center”) pretty much all that remains is “retirement community.” There are well over two thousand of them just in the US, with close to a million residents.

In comparison, “intentional communities,” including ecovillages, monasteries, communes, survivalist retreats, kibbutzim, ashrams and so on are rather boutique, being mainly aspirational and ideological rather than practical in nature. But added together they present more or less the entire landscape of “communities” within the developed world. And all of them are degenerate cases.

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Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Cryptomania!

There is a lot of attention currently being paid to cryptocurrencies. On the one hand there are those who claim that their rise in value is actually a symptom that conventional, fiat currencies are crashing. This begs the question as to why precious metals aren’t skyrocketing, and the usual answer is that their prices are being manipulated using the futures market that keeps “paper” gold cheap while “physical” gold is growing scarce; at some point these manipulations will stop working and gold will shoot up to $10,000 an ounce. (Sounds good to me!) This also begs the question as to why, if fiat currencies are crashing, there isn’t much inflation at all. Even in countries that have been plagued with high inflation for decades, such as Russia, this is no longer a problem; there, inflation is now under 3%. There isn’t much inflation in the US either, provided you exclude from it all of the local extortion rackets: real estate, health care and education. (Armed robbery usually isn’t part of the basket of products and services used to compute inflation.) Hyperinflation is not hard to find (in Venezuela) but this is not commonly seen as a worldwide, systemic problem.

On the other hand there are those who think that cryptocurrencies are another type of tulip mania or South Sea bubble: just another irrationally exuberant event that will end with a resounding crash. The standard retorts are “Bah, humbug!” and “This time, it’s different!” A more thoughtful retort is that Bitcoin (and other cryptos) are works of genius, based on the innovation of the blockchain (a sort of distributed ledger where every anonymous participant gets to verify every transaction) and the “proof of work” principle by which Bitcoin is “mined” using computers. In essence, instead of putting their trust in governments (which print money) and central banks (which really print money), Bitcoin users put their trust in algorithms, which are open source and defended through lack of public acceptance of any modification that might compromise them.