Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Club Economies

Andrew D Atkin

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Big government and big business are at base the same. Both are huge organisations whose primary concern is self-perpetuation - not public service, as such. Both can be described as giant breasts that exist to feed their army of personnel; and so, understandably, protecting "the breast" is their core internal concern.

The independent, small, private, locally owned economy is not what any government or corporation wants to see evolve, because it's a functional rebellion from our dependency on their organisations. So is it any surprise that although technology is driving us in the direction of private economies, political pressures are (and have been) functioning to virtually outlaw their development.

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This concept was born out of the insight that an enormous amount of what we produce and consume only exists to compensate for the inefficiency logistics of modern living. This being relative to what we can now achieve using modern technologies and systems.

By building new residential developments, from the ground up, we can radically eliminate all kinds of otherwise parasitic expenses that we tolerate today. The result is--or can be--a dramatic increase in material living standards. We have the capacity to have so much more and for so much less, with the full exploitation of modern design.

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CLUB ECONOMIES:

Key objective: To greatly reduce the basic cost of living so as to provide superior lifestyle opportunities.

A household is the most common example of a private economy. Whenever you do work at home such as cleaning and cooking etc, you are doing productive work that is not regulated, taxed or even recognised by the national economy. Work done in a private economy can be very efficient because you bypass a multitude of expenses that must otherwise exist in a national economy. Regulatory, administrative, tax, legal, transport, communication, storage, infrastructural, marketing and other costs I haven’t thought of can mostly be eliminated.

The national economy, though riddled with add-on expenses, has the obvious advantage of providing intensive specialisation and economies-of-scale. Whenever a function requires highly specific skills and tools the national economy can be useful. Or whenever a product requires intensive manufacturing/processing to achieve an efficiency optimum, the national economy provides economies-of-scale of which may not be achieved in a smaller economy.

So the question is: "When and where should the private economy end and the national economy begin, to produce an ultimate optimum?"

I believe that within an ULTra-based development (in particular) the private economy can and typically should extend much further than the household. We could turn entire developments, of anything from about 50 - 5,000 populations, into private or should I say ‘Club’ economies. They could operate as a single business using a single highly automated administrative system (think of an extended Wal-Mart that feels more like an expansive public library). The development, being on the city fringe, could support small-scale farming for fresh vegetables and meat etc [that is, food that does not require intensive processing supported by advanced mechanisation].

To learn more about the ULTra system, refer to the following link:

http://www.atsltd.co.uk/

Short YouTube video on ULTra:





[The ULTra system supports highly economical transport to both build as an infrastructure and operate. Guideway costs are as low as a footpath to build (non-elevated), and it can be formed as a one-way network (single-lanes supporting housing clusters). The ULTra system is exceptionally quite and takes up little room on the ground. Hence, it can provide for a true garden city, facilitating mainly of natural sounds and ambiance, rather than the incessant background noise of internal-combustion engines. It also supports short travel-times because it avoids stop-and-go operation, which incidentally also makes it very energy-efficient and low maintenance. As a fully automated system, it can also provide for 'micro cars' that can deliver any odd item from within the development, providing the ultimate in transport efficiency i.e. you can just transport the item in a tiny car, and not a person with it in a full-sized car.]

The following image shows a suggested format for ULTra-based property development. Note that it is a single lane one-way system.


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The Private economy should have the critical option of being self regulatory just like a private economy in the home.

Though a private economy beyond the home must operate with a financial system to keep it fair and economic, it should not be taxed [again, just like the work done within a household where no money officially changes hands, so in turn there is no tax]. This is why we could call it a club economy. It is not based on profit (primarily), as the beneficiary consumers are also the shareholders. Indeed, club-earnings from the individual’s shares should directly subsidise personal club-economy expenses, so there are usually no official earnings for shareholders.

---All I’m really talking about is creating a suburb that functions more like an extension of the home - with more direct person-to-person co-operation, self-regulation, extremely high integrative efficiency, and no national taxation to complicate the process and disincentive broad co-operation (DIY is ultimately a form of tax avoidance - hence, taxation creates an anti-co-operation incentive).

In the same way that we don’t usually buy a house without the land underneath it, you should also buy shares in the Club-economy integrated with the house purchase (as one integrated package). This would make the capital cost of the home rather high, but that is not a concern if you get it all back and more in efficient living and financial return, as of course you should (remember the club-economy services have an essentially captive market - largely eliminating risk), and the banks would naturally respect that when considering people's loans.

Integrating club ownership with the home purchase is extremely important to ensure that the vested interests are pointing in the right direction. If it doesn't work this way you will end up with monopoly effects and unasked for marketing and manipulation. Again think of a pubic library - a public library is only there to serve you, it has no interest in getting you to read its books if you don't want to. The clubs also cannot afford to get too large, otherwise they will begin to suffer from the problems of a national economy where people are too dissociated from their investment to care to provide direct input (to ensure it is kept efficient and progressive). Direct participation with complete transparency is essential to optimise a democratic group-owned economy.

-I will also point out that when multiple club-economies are established, there will be a lot of inter-club comparison and ultimately competition for residence. No doubt this will keep the club managers on their toes, as well-informed residence would surely not tolerate unnecessary inadequacies in operational performance.

Note: With this system you will be left with people in a club-economy paying less tax than people who are not in a club-economy. I can appreciate that we should all pull our weight to cover the need for national taxes, but the people who have the most to gain from a private economy are the very people who are the most dependent on a large tax-base for government support (as opposed to user-pays society). Indeed, it would be the wealthier clubs that are most likely to import labour of which would be subject to national taxes. Another point is that the residence of these clubs would be less dependent on state revenue due to the inherent efficiency (and security) of the club system, so it’s questionable whether or not they should be paying as much tax regardless - that is, if we want a level economic playing field to preserve the efficiency incentive.

Conclusion:

Because our economies are now mostly based on services* as opposed manufacturing and agriculture, I believe that we have an enormous amount to gain by developing ultra-efficient private economies**. The idea should be particularly attractive to poorer people that must otherwise pay very substantial costs to administrations and bureaucracies that do not otherwise need to be in the supply-chain. It also delivers greater economic security for club residence because they can be largely shielded from the impact of variances within the national economy, simply because they are less dependent on it i.e. when you grow your own vegetables then it doesn’t matter what they cost in the national market, you’ll always be able to put food on your table.

Private economies can still efficiently integrate with the National economy. Recent advances in telecommunications technology reinforce this, and as we will see emerging transport technologies will contribute as well. This means that the club-economy residence are free to get the best out of both worlds, and therefore find a natural optimum. Hence, there is no exceptional risk with what I am proposing because any private economy can practically merge into or away from any particular function as it finds the national economy better or worse suited - it isn't "stuck on an island".

The reality is a Private economy can do many -and now maybe even most- things just as or much more efficiently than what can be done in a National economy. In turn, I believe there is a strong argument for national governments to legally empower these developments to evolve as fully autonomous units.

Remember there is nothing specifically peculiar about what I am proposing. New Zealand, for example, has about 1,000,000 private household economies today - I'm only talking about expanding the idea to a greater ultimate optimum.

*The national economy delivers virtually no specific advantage for retail and hospitality as compared to a moderately sized private economy. Because a modern economy is about 80% made up of services (including administration), it makes excellent sense to focus on cutting back on these costs - and nothing, I believe, will do that better than a fully-integrated private economy. This is where our greatest efficiency gain can be achieved.

**I would guess that an ULTra club of about 2,000-5,000-population could be about 80-90% self-sufficient, and still provide a real median living standard much in excess of that which can be achieved in the national economy. With the ULTra system in particular, very little would need to be imported to cover the basic needs to living.

POSTSCRIPTS:
ULTra based:

Our key living expenses are housing, food, transport, health and education for the young. An ULTra-based private economy can reduce all these expenses substantially.

The ULTra system reduces housing costs by removing the need for large supporting roads, driveways and garages. ULTra is an inherently efficient form of transport (about 20% of the cost of cars to build and operate), so makes local transport extremely efficient. As for food, the direct integration with farming will reduce costs very significantly for much of what we eat. As I have shown, all-round operating efficiency would be high so prices will generally be low. ULTra also facilitates a considerably healthier lifestyle for those who wish to have them - virtually no pollution, reduced work and financial stress, easy access to enjoyable physical recreation, and very high quality food (small time-gap between harvest and consumption).

[To be complete on costs, I cannot resist making a personal comment on education. Institutional schooling is a huge cost directly and also indirectly when you factor in the cost of teenagers not working. This is a political issue (unfortunately) but I will make the point that if we allowed children to learn in their own way and time non-institutionally, so with minimal cost (and millions of children world-over do this), and allowed them to mix working (probably within the club-economy) with learning, then financial hardship would become an alien concept for anyone living in a well-designed club-economy. Basically, the option of the club being self-regulatory should also apply to child development/occupation. Institutional education puts a major tax on the family and it is certainly not a necessary way for children to learn. There is a lot to be gained here and besides, the ethical right of the state to control the development of other people's children is thoroughly questionable in itself, especially when you appreciate that compulsion-schooling heavily dictates the nature of family life which also falls out into the parents’ professional life. In my opinion the state's role should, essentially, begin and end with protecting children from abuse. And finally, the club economies would influence working demands maybe very significantly, which in turn would make a flexible (and in practice that means liberal) education system more important in itself.]

--The ULTra system also provides excellent recreational opportunities, as it can give people efficient and rapid access to both natural and man-made facilities - which, again, would be very cheap to use if they are part of the club.

Living can be easy and cheap for all of us; and indeed, I believe the proficiency of this system would show up some humbling truths about our national economies. For example, the fact that so much of our productivity and consumption boils down to compensating for the inefficiency-logistics of modern living. And the fact that a lot of our lucrative businesses [lucrative according to Inland Revenue's tax-take] can ultimately be interpreted as otherwise parasitic add-ons within a highly over-complicated supply-chain. Hence, I think we may see it to be a good idea to do a fundamental re-think on the logistics of modern living, as I believe we now have the tools to make some major improvements.

It simply doesn't make sense to execute functions via an over-complicated/regulated supply-chain when there is no specific efficiency advantage in doing so - that just means paying greater costs for nothing. And we don't need to concentrate large numbers of people into one tiny metropolitan point anymore - we can get the best of worlds as delivered by both independent small-market and big-market economies.

Social advantage:

Another -and maybe even most important- advantage of the club-economy system is social. We can gate these developments to ensure that people can live amongst the people that they want. In fact people can directly choose each other by using a system of pre-recorded on-line interviews; this way you get a more precise discrimination and you avoid the stigma of crudely categorising people into 'rich' and 'poor' types. It can also mean that parents can have confidence that there is no one living in their development with a serious criminal record - because, being a private club, they could/should be able to establish any mutually agreed entry criteria that they choose* i.e. they can demand criminal records to be reviewed for prospective members and in turn respond however they feel appropriate.

I believe that the capacity for effective social discrimination is a sorely missing dynamic in our modern society. We already have far too much forced-association within our schools and work places - more social freedom should be greatly valued by everyone. Greater social freedom also means more cultural freedom, as people have more opportunity to choose and/or create their own sub-cultures irrespective of the national culture.

I think it's fair to say that the ideal living environment simultaneously provides excellent privacy and efficient social access. An ULTra-based club economy can champion that objective. ULTra provides comprehensive privacy by facilitating large sections with substantial plantation boundaries. It can also provide particularly good social access (within the club) because it makes anyone in the development as effortlessly accessible as an immediate neighbour, due to the system's operating characteristics.

Note: I know it might seem to some a little unfriendly to put a strong emphasis on the capacity for social-discrimination and privacy, but I believe it actually leads to the opposite. I think people are more prone to grow to dislike each other when they're deprived of their own space. In turn, I believe that privacy and social-discrimination provides an essential foundation that helps to protect friendships, and also to facilitate the development of new ones.

(There would most likely be greater immediate mutual trust amongst residence, appreciating the common knowledge that all residence have been screened to some degree. This may facilitate a more relaxed and open social atmosphere amongst residence).

Finally I don't think that the value of a good social climate can be under stressed. As most people would agree, I would bet, great material wealth is worth little if you're sharing it in bad company. Ensuring that people can build and preserve the social contexts of their choice is extremely important for the ultimate objective of optimising human wellbeing.

*Again the club should be seen as an extension of the home - you can refuse access to whoever you want into your own home, and for whatever reason you want. The same rule should apply to the club.

Note: In an essentially stable society you would probably find that most gated communities would operate with an "innocent until proven guilty" policy. That is, the gates would be open to anyone unless they have a proven criminal record of concern, or have been specifically instructed to stay away for whatever reason etc. In practice, an individual would swipe an identity card (biometrically linked - most likely using finger-scans) to show that they have no known attributes that may warrant their omission. You could loosely call this "soft gating", whereas a literally fortified community with a strict members-only policy could be described as "hard gating".

Working:

By reducing the cost of living you inevitably reduce work stress, simply because people have more power to abandon a less-than-human employment situation, and because they can option to do fewer hours. This would in turn force the professional world to respect human needs more, because businesses that don't will struggle to retain good staff. So, in turn, increased competitive pressure for staff would naturally lead to better general working conditions.

-Much of the work done within the club can be efficiently outsourced to the home as well. This is because the ULTra system can easily provide fully automated 'micro' delivery cars that function like a physical internet.

-By facilitating more opportunities for home-working we also reduce the need for physical commercial/industrial infrastructure. The ULTra system also makes home-working more feasible in that it provides rapid access to work for the occasional times that a telecommuter needs be at work in person. This especially applies to administrative work.

Not only can a club-economy reduce the need to work in the first place (due to its high living efficiency), but also the work done within a club-economy can be low-stress in itself. To explain: in a competitive market-based economy the dollar must rule for any business (otherwise they risk being undercut by their competition, and therefore going out of business), and sometimes it can rule to the point where human needs are not fully respected, in particular where employees have little bargaining power and therefore have to basically take what they can get. A club-economy does not have to work this way. Though of course it should be focused on efficiency (and no doubt it would be), as a more intimate group the residence can choose for themselves what is or is not an ultimately fair way to relate to its workers. Club-economies are not (necessarily) subject to perform-or-perish capitalism, which incidentally demands opportunistic exploitation.

The club economy, beings so efficient at meeting base needs, also provides greater potential and opportunity for those wanting to get ahead professionally. It facilitates greater personal surpluses in both money and time, which makes entrepreneurial activity more feasible. (Though whether or not a private enterprise could be established within a given club economy is for the given club to decide).

Unemployment advantage:

Working conditions in the club would be regulated by the club - the internal operation of a club-economy has nothing directly to do with the national economy; again, just like the economy in the home.

Because the club could provide protected employment for people that may find it harder to get work, the club can choose to prioritise certain jobs for those more dependent. This is not unreasonable considering that club employees can be paid on a commission bases for their work [as the club chooses to regulate], so it wouldn't be 'beneficiary employment' of which many would probably oppose (forced charity). And also because much of the work in the club would be relatively easy to do, so it should be easy to fit nearly anyone to (real) work.

What this system means is that the more adaptable workers in the club would tend to find work in the national economy so as to leave easier employment opportunities for others who really need them. This is a very 'socialistic' proposal and I don’t know if it would be commonly employed, but my point is the opportunity is there for any club that may choose to embrace it. I would imagine that the less wealthy clubs in particular (that do not generally possess a highly skilled workforce) may have a preference for creating policy that provides employment-protection for its residence. Again, the opportunity is there.

[It seems to me that many of our social and economic problems boil down to macro-economic effects (which can be difficult to manage and predict) that most of us cannot protect ourselves from. We could avoid so many problems and vulnerabilities, I believe, if we simply broke up our national economies into many autonomous units. As I stressed earlier, the autonomous units can still efficiently work together as an effective 'macro' whole so as to give us the best of both worlds - no harm done.]

Voluntary labour:

Some people have idealised the possibility of a moneyless society. Though I consider that to be a somewhat ambitous ideal in todays world, there is still, of course, the possibility of the widespread use of voluntary labour within the clubs.

Because the clubs are highly efficient so that the living is good and easy, many residence should have a substantial surplus in time and energy so that organised voluntary labour could be attractive and somewhat easy to come by.

It is anyones guess as to how people will generally respond to these clubs, so we can only speculate, but the use of voluntary labour, where appropriate, would of course further reduce prices and make living ever easier for everyone.

Voluntary labour can also be a great way to polarise the impact of recessions. (It can keep productivity up regardless of people's immediate access to cash. The 'glut' of production then leads to a rapid price-drop so that relative wealth [or purchasing power] is not harmed. Likewise, the "real" economy does not spiral down from the withdrawl of credit.)

At its best, the use of volutary labour could lead to the clubs becoming ever more detailed, beautiful and scenic, as I would imagine that this would generally become a collective aspiration of the residence.

Food:

I feel I can make a special note on food because eating is a major part of our lives.

The club-economies (ULTra based) would provide particularly cheap meals which can be delivered extremely quickly via 'micro cars'. The meals would probably be so cheap to buy that home-cooking would be reduced to a hobby status, because the difference in price may be negligible and the convenience and quality of delivered food would be excellent.

With a club of about the size of 5,000 persons, we could expect a very large demand for delivered meals produced centrally within the club. This in turn allows us to build advanced economies-of-scale for meal production. For example, we can build a massive kitchen-complex made up of numerous highly specialised stations that provide rapid, ultra-efficient food preparation for cooks. Put simply, the kitchen can lean much closer to a production-line style of manufacturing, where directly productive work is concentrated.

The ULTra system provides a virtually uncompromised just-in-time supply chain (and you really want that for fresh food) which directly integrates with a large consumer demand. The end result is excellent, cheap, healthy food with a broad range for consumer choice.

Being able to provide this meal service may prove to be one of the most significant draw-cards of all to encourage people into club-economies.

[Unfortunately you have build a club-economy first to discover the level of demand to be accommodated. In turn, the first clubs would need to be built with substantial flexibility, so we can modify to the correct ratio between the supermarket and the centralised kitchen. This initial 'playing it by ear' must apply to other facilities as well.]

Retirement:

Lifestyle retirement developments could be a huge latent market for an ULTra-based club-economy system.

The advantage of an ULTra-based club-economy for retired people is clear. The vehicles within the club are fully automated, so old people who lose their ability to drive don't so much lose their independence. Also, the low cost of living is particularly important for retired people with minimal savings. In turn, it can also provide relief for the taxpayer. What's more, retired people can do a lot of their own work within the club* -- remember the work does not need to be high stress. A bit of part-time work should allow many retired individuals to sustain a comfortable lifestyle, even if they lack personal savings.

--With efficient internal transport, it would also make homecare more feasible so only the most debilitated elderly would need to attend a special home.

Considering that our retired population is growing and threatening to be very costly on society, the clubs should provide a great advantage in allowing old people to achieve more independence - for both themselves and everybody else.

*In an age-balanced club-economy, you would probably find that the entire club could be operated by teenagers and retired people alone. (Retired people could take care of most educational needs as well).

Families:

The clubs make having families much easier by reducing both the direct and personal costs of childrearing. It reduces personal costs because the ULTra system can be independently used by children (you don't have to constantly taxi your kids), and many domestic duties can be economically outsourced to the club. Also, by substantially reducing the cost of living there is much greater opportunity for parents to take care of pre-schoolers at home, which is a strong but often unaffordable preference for many parents.

-The convenience and efficiency of the clubs is particularly relevant for solo parents, which represent a large proportion of modern families.

-The clubs can also provide a distinctly fun and peaceful place for children to grow up in.

The ultra-based system can also help to bring back the "tribe" as it facilitates the potential for much more practical inter-family accessibility and therefore integration. I know it's a bit speculative of me to say so, but I believe this can have a very positive effect on child-rearing, as deficiencies in the immediate-family can be better compensated with a more fluid inter-family social base.

The clubs are also extremely secure economically. This is of course for very important for people who want to have children. The clubs offer an important level protectionism for families.

Because we need people to have (enough) kids so there will be a new generation to take care of us when we are old men and woman, the club-economy's pro-reproduction characteristics should be respected as an important advantage. It also promotes reproduction at the much more biologically competent 20's, not 30's. [Difficult and premature childbirths provoke serious infantile trauma, and this does nothing for the child’s long-term physical and mental health. Looking at the modern picture, it makes me wonder if our love affair with career-orientation has gone a bit too far?]

Note: In today's world it appears that many families have to function with two working parents, and many couples cannot afford to have children (without hardship) until they are in their 30's. This seems a little strange to me, considering that both my non-rich grandparents were able to support families of 6 and 8 children after an expensive WW2 and on single incomes. The idea of being able to do that today would seem crazy.

The following are some thoughts as to what may be responsible:

-An economy that has evolved in arguably the wrong directions (partly created by wealth extremes, creating "wrong" demands).

-An explosion of maybe excessive choice which has helped to create an over-complicated supply-chain.

-A growing high-cost retired population.

-Excessive and frequently irrational educational investment (which substantially reduces the worker to non-worker ratio and increases costs).

-A marketing "arms race" which has blown-out (making marketing a much greater social expense than it arguably should be).

-Large R&D expenditures that often serve the creation of marketing-gimmicks ahead of genuinely substantial product improvements.

-Possibly uncontrolled (and maybe uncontrollable?) macro-operational effects that may tend to evolve over-complicated supply chains.

-A lack of effective "price correcting" competition via large-size corporatisation (creating wealth extremes that would not otherwise exist).

-Excessive government regulations (meaning, regulations that do not conform to an ultimate 'cost-benefit' rationality).

-Increasing social dysfunctionality (more crime, unemployment and security costs etc.).

-Artificially-inflated residential property markets (this can create serious wealth disparities and chronic dependency on borrowed money).

-Much greater health costs due to increased service sophistication, and also increased civilian health neglect.

I think a lot of what we call 'sophistication' in a modern economy could be very well better referred to as 'mess'. There is also the fact that a lot of our so-called economic growth must be nothing more than the transfer of domestic duties into the workplace.

Another point is with mass-production, which I believe can be a bit over-rated. In a context with an essentially stabilised population (especially), a lack of mass-production for non-perishable goods can be (and previously was) largely compensated for by simply building things to be highly durable. A society with a stable population saturated in built-to-last goods can, in principle, render mass-production largely irrelevant.

Security:

The club-economy system can provide great security and peace-of-mind for individuals.

In an unrestricted market-based national economy it can be very easy for private capital owners to transfer their enterprises (including your job) to a different location. It can also be too easy for governments to make a mess out of the national economy through poor management, which of course often happens.

By allowing people to directly invest in themselves, autonomous club-economies can help hugely to put an end to precarious affluence. The latter means advanced security in employment, ownership (the capital value of your assets will not be undermined by the development of major over-supplies), and also providing security-of-supply for essential items.

You also achieve better social-security with more effective social 'gating' of the clubs. This may prove to be particularly important for societies with serious social problems, of the likes that we see within the Middle East and Africa.

Environmental Sustainability:
A permanently sustainable environment must mean a "closed-circuit" environment - that is, a totally recycling environment where we take nothing more out of the earth and put nothing new back into it. Though I personally believe that sustainability concerns are sometimes heavily exaggerated, we can still appreciate that ULTra-based club economies are, comparatively, extremely sustainable. Club Economies can dramatically reduce the human footprint on our world.

The following are the key environmental advantages:

-Ultra energy-efficient oil-independent transport (including greatly reduced need for supporting street lighting), and less total transport service required.

-Less resource-intensive infrastructure (construction) required.

-Substantially reduced need to produce and consume (for a given living standard achieved).

-More efficient (less resource-intensive) productivity.

-Minimal environmentally invasive property development (in fact it encourages much greater replantation).

-Supports the opportunity for efficient recycling, in particular with the use of recycling-based packaging (where the packaging itself does not need to be reprocessed - like milk bottles) due to the low-cost fully automated transport system. (The automated transport system also makes hiring much more practical than buying for infrequently used items.)

-New houses can easily be built for greater efficiency, employing solar heating and better insulation etc.

-Domestic duties such as cooking and cleaning can be largely outsourced to the club, where they may be done considerably more efficiently.

-The clubs should generally be large enough to support the conversion of human waste into fertiliser. There may also be opportunities for high levels of independence (for the clubs) for both water and electricity supply, depending on the climate.

-Higher levels of real affluence support greater ecological investment all-round.

Political advantage:
Take the scenario of a society made up of club economies naturally coupled with a 'micro' national government. We can see that the system has the major advantage of flexibility with respect to public policy.

It can take years or even decades to overcome political inertia for positive social-progress to occur - that is, in the circumstance where you have your country being run by big government. The club economy system can all but eliminate this kind of inertia - any given small club can create significant policy changes in a matter of weeks and days, not years and decades. And they can do this not just because it takes less time to achieve communal support, but because negative fallout impacts of any given policy change are much easier to identify, rectify or reverse.

Of course, it also protects against the ever-present threat of corruption, both on the parliamentary and democratic level.

[Democratic-corruption, as I put it, is where one sector of society uses political forces to unfairly take from or control another part of society - basically, where a democratic majority contradicts individual rights. The smaller a society (or sub-society) is, the less prone it should be to democratic corruption, because the members within the society are more strongly identified with each other i.e. it's harder to rip off the guy down the road than some "abstract" person living a thousand miles away, of whom you never even knew existed.]

Another problem with having a society heavily run by a national government is the fact that too few people care to study the political options in any respectable detail so as to achieve an intelligent vote. In principle it is crazy to have politicians making decisions that affect your life hugely, and to be virtually indifferent to who these people and their policies even are. But that of course is how it works. A government that you are highly detached from should, ideally, be an essentially impotent government with minimal responsibility and control over your life.

To conclude, I think the democratic ideal of "power to the people" becomes effectively diluted with size - much greater autonomy can be achieved with reduced nationalism and greater localism.

Communalism:

I would like to make a note to specifically differentiate between community and what I call communalism.

There are political interests that push for a social ideal with the ultimate goal, as it seems, of turning the entire world into some kind of one big happy family. I call that focus 'communalism'.

A well known zoologist, Desmond Morris, once pointed out that human tribes tend to split up like cell-division once they reach the size of about 60 persons, because the people within the tribe cannot really know each other properly (social fragmentation) once the tribe reaches that size. Are communally-focused political interests defying the reality of human nature as opposed to working with it and supporting it, like Morris's insight suggests? It seems that way to me.

When people try to turn colonies into "communities" the result, I believe, is not real community but communalism - big difference! Successful communalism must come with unnatural levels of behavioural and even mental standardisation, because that I believe is the only way you can inter-personally integrate an over-sized "tribe" i.e. rather than people becoming known as individuals, they are forced to make themselves known (in effect) by reducing their characters to the stereotypical.

Arguably, our national society does a bit this 'character standardising' via institutional schooling, and the obvious extremes of communalism can be seen within cults. In my opinion, a colony should function to facilitate real community - not try to substitute or replace it.

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Additions:
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1. Venus Project:

At base, the Club Economy concept is the same as the much better known Venus Project.

http://www.thevenusproject.com/

Both concepts employ the principle of redesigned modern living systems so as to greatly reduce the need to produce/consume in the first place. However, to differentiate, I do not agree with the Venus Project because I consider it to be conceptually outdated.

The Venus Project is structurally conceived from the assumption that full-automation network-based transport does not exist. And this is wrong because we do in fact now have network-based transport.

Some key concerning Venus Project negatives:

1. I feel that the Venus Project is much too prescriptive in its overall suggested design and operational characteristics. Speaking frankly, I find it over-prescriptive to the point where it looks as much like a wanna-be cult as an intelligent system of living. The Venus Project is presented not just as a lifestyle opportunity, but as a "movement".

2. Venus Project stresses the importance of education for people within these developments as though this should have anything to do with anyone other than the individual, and even though advanced formal education is in no way a functional necessity for the operation of these developments.

3. Venus also stresses the need for what they call a "resource based economy", which is a cashless society. Does a monetary system really have to be problematic? Hardly, and certainly not on a contained small, localised scale. Regardless, there is no need to prescribe the relationship between voluntary labour and "free" goods and services relative to a monetised economy. One format can evolve into another when and as people see fit. This is one of the number of things that Venus speaks about that should only be presented as an option and an opportunity - not an idealised operational prescription.

Addition: 20-5-11: Realistically, if you got rid of money then you can only default to either barter or militarisation. Barter is only good on the smallest of scales, so what Venus is really talking about (whether they realise it or not) is a militarised economy. This means compulsory work and strict regulations on consumption. I for one would take the monetised system anyday.

4. The strangest aspect of the Venus Project is their focus on artificial intelligence being used to take over human decisions. Firstly, it is a big leap of faith to think that machines could ever truly substitute humans on the highest levels of thinking. And more specifically there is no need to push this case because automation that moves in this direction is ever-evolving and being implemented anyway. Regardless, with a well organised development overall operating costs with respect to organised decision making do not have to be costly, so this should not be respected as an issue.

Addition: 20-5-11: Maybe Venus wants its super computer to regulate human activity, like just another part of this Brave New World style machine? And would there be a Wizard of Oz secretly hiding behind the computer, telling us all what to do? What a joke!

5. I also believe that the Venus Project confronts the problems of the human condition from an over-simplistic behavioural/environmental perspective i.e. "Change the environment - change the man". And this perspective has had an effect on their idealised design. Venus does not seem to understand that the nucleus of human pathology comes from simple deprivation, mostimportantly from the deprivation that occurs in early childhood [see: Understanding mental sickness].

Changing the monetary system (or other) will not, in itself, have a serious effect on the core problems relating to the status of today's humanity. Venus may find that the changes to our environment and lifestyles of which they promote may only result in the exchange of one problem for another; which, as we know, is a trend of not dealing with the root causes of problems. A true "social revolution" will develop primarily from the focused care of children from within the earliest months and years of their lives.

Addition: 6-3-11:

I must say I was impressed with the following video production by Zeitgeist (Zeitgeist is a branch of the Venus Project). It contains many first class insights/understandings, and the first 40 minutes in particular provided an impressive and important description relating to the "human system". They seem to have redeemed themselves with respect to their [lack of] focus on early childhood!

You-Tube video: Zeitgeist, moving forward

Note: I will note that what they call "implicit memory" in the documentary is basically the same thing as Trauma-Imprints.

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Club Economies are essentially demand-responsive. They are a reasonable base-template to be further developed from, from any given collection of residence (demand) wishes. I believe that Club Economies represent the correct balance between intelligent prescription and choice. An ideal Club Economy Industry would work directly with its customers, fabricating the details of their township to their design. This is how it should be: Club Economies or Venus Projects should be an organised lifestyle option provided through the free market as it stands today. They should not be entire political/commercial movements based on fundamental (and unnecessary) ideologies of how people should live their lives. The politics should be separate.

Political note:

Some of the ideas that Venus holds to are questionable (and unnecessary) to the point where you could speculate that the project might be an act of counter-intelligence. This basically means creating a silly version of a good idea to discredit it...

I don't know; but the development of private economies is a logical response to an economic structure that is collapsing. And this is the reality that the developed world seems to be moving through today. Powerful players will want the status-quo to be preserved - they will not want to see a private economy "rebellion". Indeed, this might also help to explain the devastating urban containment policies that have been implemented throughout much of the industrialised world.

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2. Masdar Initiative:

The Masdar Initiative is also similar to Club Economies. Masdar is a small city-sized development built and designed from the ground up, and utilises ULTra PRT to substitute cars.



The Masdar Initiative could be regarded as the high-density version of my Club Economies system. Masdar is modelled as an ideal environment for extreme desert conditions, whereas Club Economies is basically modelled to a "lifestyle" format, ideal for more temperate environments.
Club Economies are much cheaper to build that Masdar because they do not require intensive construction (for a given contained floor area), and Club Economies are intended mainly as advanced, highly self-sustaining residential developments - not entire cities.
Whereas the Masdar Initiative supports all kinds of sophisticated technological and commercial activity, Club Economies are intended to only support primary operations associated with basic necessities (food, water, power, education etc.). I see no essential advantage or need to have advanced commercial activities supported by the Club Economies system, though of course this possibility can still be applied to any given club economy, if any given club so chooses. I believe that commercial activities that are not directly associated with the essentials can be well taken care of in existing national markets.

2 comments:

  1. Hi Andrew.
    Do you think the ULTra system is perfect or do you think it can be improved?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hello Richard,

    Personally, I think ULTra is bang-on for relatively small-scale and contained applications. And certainly bang-on for contained residiential applications.

    However, as a system for urban transport in general, I think it should progressively expand with the following key characteristics:

    -Heavier duty guideways to support high-capacity platooning and freight, where required.

    -A system of at least 2 vehicle types:
    A multi-purpose vehicle [which is what they have now] and a "bulk demand" vehicle which would support most travel demand. The bulk demand vehicle should be an extra light 2-seater. This can make the system much more efficient and further boosts its capacity.

    -Direct guideway electrification using either electrical conduction or induction, for mainline operation. This will further improve efficiency and practical vehicle range.

    -Expansion into dualmode operation. (I know that ULTra is already planning for this).

    You might like to read my other post "Automated Transportation Network" for my own related concept.

    Sincerely,

    Andy

    ReplyDelete