"From the Twin Oaks Intentional Community to MMT/FF, Community Centered Economics That Works" by Tadit Anderson
This is a piece of a larger project to present the Community Reserve Exchange as an autonomous economic initiative. Feedback is generally welcomed, Tadit
PS: Regarding whether the Twin Oaks labor credit system could be used as a model toward creating jobs on a local level. I would say "yes," and it would require the amassing of both community wealth and opportunities to spend such credits upon a wide variety of services. There would also need to be a taxation or subscription fee process whereby those could be used to develop and acquire the assets by which people could be put to work. The CRX as a concept already has the capacity to loan what are essentially labor credits that are also available for trade for commodities toward projects such as micro business development projects. I will explore this possibility in a different essay after I do some more research. Various cooperatives already provide employment through their activities. The notion would pivot on the degree to which people could use those credits to sustain themselves. It will probably be determined largely based on the scale of the network. Ithaca Hours has provided a degree of this sort of integration, but typically the use of those credits are/were limited to about 10% of the value of the transaction in a diversified skill/service mix.
The original article follows
Often the best way to create a new approach to a set of problems is to review systems that at a smaller scale seem to work. Scaling up the model is then more likely to preserve the values necessary for the growth of sovereign and communal wealth. Through a friend who is a long time resident at the Twin Oaks Community, I discovered that their community had adopted a community wide labor credit system that was developed and implemented with no obvious economic expertise. Even so, it resembles a currency model described by the post-Keynesian discourse of modern monetary economics. The values that have caused these different efforts to produce similar results are the desire for an economic process that supports a higher level of equality and that they both begin from the assumption that the applied economics needs to be functional toward a higher level of socialization and democratic outcomes. Both assume that people and communities can manage themselves according to their capacities, rather than according to conformity to a dysfunction paradigm.
My primary references for the Twin Oaks's labor credit system has been correspondence with my friend, Dianne Grandstrom and the chapter "Shaping Equality" in the book A Walden Two Experiment by Kathleen Kinkade copyright 1973, which is about the first five years of the Twin Oaks Community. The labor credit system and the external accounting process that Kate described operates to distribute the labor assignments to the residents and pay the expenses of the community in it's exchanges with the external economic context.
In its earliest years it was naively assumed that resources including labor would be provided based upon good will and by the assumption of the values of community. It experienced numerous conflicts and crises of different types to the point of nearly dissolving. This is typical of the separation between naive practice and values. The early residents at Twin Oaks had high admiration for the influence of the behavioral philosophy of B. F. Skinner's behavioral modification as cast in his 1948 utopian novel Walden Two . The important point here is that the behavioral psychology as applied in a real world provided an emphasis upon the capacity of human behavioral to be managed in favor of functionality. It began in part from the assumption that constructive management was possible, and then it proceeded with a requirement of all residents to participate in the work of the community from cleaning, maintenance, food preparation and related kitchen work, to agricultural work, to grounds maintenance, and work in Twin Oaks's various small scale community businesses.
Twin Oaks residents can also accumulate additional credits which can be traded between residents. Medical and dental care are provided through this participation in community administration and management. Residents can also obtain a cash allocation for traveling outside of the community. Effectively the cash brought into the community from the external economy by way of its various production activities is re-allocated for supplies and services from outside of the community.
Twin Oaks operates as a voluntary association and actively manages the economy of the community internally and externally as a participant in the larger community of economic and social interests. Its labor credit system is based upon a tax like process which is applied to all residents and visitors. There is also the allowed capacity for residents to take on additional work for the community as needed and as they chose. This additional credits can then be traded internally. The labor system credit system together with can also take on various internal and communal infra-structure development initiatives such as building new buildings, re-modeling, maintenance, drainage systems, and more.
The Twin Oaks labor credit system represents a very close similarity to the monetary and fiscal priorities of the post-Keynesian monetary, economics, and fiscal policies of what is known as Modern Monetary Theory/Functional Finance(MMT/FF). This was not the intention of the founders of the Twin Oaks community. They merely wanted to have a functional way to organize the activities of the community. MMT/FF is the primary viable alternative to the neo-classical economics which defines the current dominant economic/monetary paradigm. Both the Twin Oaks labor credit system and MMT/FF originated from the desire to have an economic paradigm which was socialized to support the health economic and social health of their target communities.
Neo-classical economics on a national and regional basis and known as neo-liberal economics on a global scale is the primary source of the economic problems that humanity is currently experiencing on a world wide basis. It is these economics and monetary polices that hav been pressed as the political solution under the pretense of various slogans which begin from assumptions of stability rather than instability requiring management, and of acceptance of various assumptions which suppose macro economic practices which are contrary to actual practice. This economic model is by design dysfunctional and qualifies as disinformation. The question "Then why is this model remain so popular?" can be answered simply and bluntly. Because most of the institutions charged with economics related education have been captured by the same interests that are profiting from the dys-education relative to economic literacy. Beyond the info-tainment the economic, monetary, and fiscal system is actually being managed to serve the interests of established wealth and against the principles of the commons and of democratic outcomes.