A Post That Will Get Me Labeled As A Communist

Obviously, I’m a bit distracted consumed by whats happening with The Economy. I was talking with The Missus the other day at our elementary school fundraiser, and she told me something I already knew, that everywhere you go, people are talking about high prices. I know I hold a minority opinion about gas prices…I think they need to keep pace with what the rest of the world is paying. The Age of Cheap Readily Available Gasoline is over. Period. Get used to that. But that isn’t what I want to talk about today.

But I have been kicking something around for months in my head, trying to shape it into a coherent possible solution for American working families. Actually, I started thinking about this almost three years ago, when The Missus’ husband, a man I admire greatly, casually remarked to me that it seemed ridiculous for each of us to own so much equipment. We both own zero-turn mowers, weed-eaters, saws, to name just a few. We live 10 minutes away from each other. I own a piece of property that used to be a working farm that supported multiple families. Tractors, tools, and food were shared out of necessity.

Now, I know that eventually, the multiple family working farm model of living will be embraced on a large scale. It may have to be. But, for now, it occurred to me that one way for working families to cope with runaway inflation is to share domiciles. Remember when 1200 sq foot was the average home? People had to wait to use the bathroom. Kids bunked in together. There was more room outside, so people actually, you know, went outside.

We have over-built in the suburbs. Before long, the cost of heating and cooling these 5000 sq ft faux rancheros will be prohibitive. Local services will be cut, and/or property taxes will rise to the point of forcing many people out of their homes.

What if those costs could be shared by two or more families? What might happen if we figured out a way to find compatible families and shacked them up? Split the mortgage or rent, share the upkeep, share the chores. I mean, it seems to me that the Amish and Mennonite families are well positioned to weather this economic crunch, as they are pretty much self-sustaining and embrace a communal style of living.

I know it won’t come easy. There will be logistical problems, legal problems, (after all, we are a Nation of lawyers) but none that I see as insurmountable. I think it could actually be beneficial to this country for a generation or two to learn a little about shared responsibility, and I would think we’d learn a little about patience, diplomacy, and courtesy.

I think it can be done. In fact, I’m betting that before long, we will see Craigslist ads and websites devoted to matching up families.

If you were to list yourself on such a website, what skills could you offer? Or, if you prefer, what would you look for in a compatible family? “Family’ doesn’t necessarily mean there are children, though i imagine those with children would benefit the most from this type of arrangement.

I’ll be looking for a family with a Wii.

Edited to add:  Expect more of these stories, and thank your personal God for the internet.

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19 Comments

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19 responses to “A Post That Will Get Me Labeled As A Communist

  1. Commie.
    ;) Been there, doing this already.

  2. You are a pregnant teenager away from getting raided by the Feds.

  3. This sounds like a fine idea.

    If you wish to compel ME to do it, then we have a quarrel.

  4. My brother is already doing this. His family and another family down the street decided to cast their lot in together. It’s not all beer and skittles — there have been some problems with establishing the difference between a landlord/renter and a co-tenant relationship — but overall it’s been ok. Neither family has any kids under the age of 20, though, and they knew each other for twenty-five years before they started this.

    My extended family has preserved the old “everyone up the holler” social organization where a big farm in the 19th century got split up into progressively smaller bits until it made sense for everyone just to work their land in common. We own a small greenhouse business that we all work at a few days a year (I’ve got about 600 cousins, near-cousins, second and third and shoestring cousins, no lie, so the work gets done and it’s not that hard to make up baskets or split up day lilies). The modest profits from that support the older people in the family and supplement the family members who have for one reason or the other fucked up their lives and need some help getting back on their feet. If you have enough people with their heads on straight, you can do such things. There has to be some sort of durable affinity (dare I say love or sense of community) to make it work.

  5. Pingback: A Post Perhaps Too Meta « Tiny Cat Pants

  6. You are a pregnant teenager away from getting raided by the Feds.

    Boy, that must be an damn expensive Wii expansion pack…

  7. Slarti, please point out where I even suggested compelling people to do this. I think if it is thought-through, it could really help some folks get a leg up.

    Bridgett, yup, I’m sure this will only appeal to people who already long for community cohesiveness. As a strictly business arrangement, it is probably doomed.

  8. woody

    As a young man in the sixties I lived in communes. I brought my daughter up in one and I think the experience was wonderful. We learned about sharing and discipline and tolerance and equal responsibilities. We also learned how hard you had to work to maintain those qualities. Expecially tolerance.

    I think my daughter gets her liberalism and tolerance and compassion from living in these communes. She loves a show on HBO called “Big love”. It’s a show about polygamy, but I think more than that it’s a show about people pulling together and sharing skills, ideas, and assets for a common good. (I am not advocating polygamy here, because my wife would kill me). I am saying these early memories of communal living have had on impact on us, and think mostly a positive one.

    It is not for everyone however. You must sacrifice some individual freedoms and learn to live with a loss of privacy. However, for me, it was a great experience and one I enjoyed as a young man..I don’t think I could do it today as an older man. I am too set in my ways and not as flexible in thought or deed as I used to be. Hell, I can’t even carpool now because people don’t let me listen to my oldies on the radio.

  9. Well, don’t confuse “communism” with “communalism.”

    I’m all for “communalism.” When you think about it, this kind of communal sharing is how human society started thousands of years ago, and it’s how we did things until relatively recently. It makes sense on a lot of levels.

    There are lots of different communal living models, and many communes have been quite successful.

    Slarti, please point out where I even suggested compelling people to do this.

    I don’t know why but whenever a liberal has an idea, conservatives’ knee-jerk reaction is to assume we’re going to pass a law and FORCE people to do it.

  10. …don’t confuse “communism” with “communalism.”

    That’s exactly what I was thinking, SoBeale. Mack’s post didn’t cause me to think “communism” at all…or anything negative for that matter.

    I’ve told this story before, but when we dedicated my daughter to the Lord at church (sort of like baptizing as a baby, but no water is involved…the church is non-denom.), what I loved is that the pastor turned to the congregation and asked “Do you promise to be fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, and friends to this child and to help these parents in the raising of this family?” and then the congregation would answer back, “We do.”

    When I read your post, that is what I thought of. How wonderful it would be to have a group of folks who could live on the same land and pitch in their talents to the betterment of all involved, especially in giving the children a more well-rounded upbringing.

    Is it a pipe-dream? I don’t know. I’ve always been rather idealistic, so it sounds great to me.

  11. Sorry Mack – when I say you, I don’t mean you, personally. I was using my southern bad English again, because it sounds uppity to say ‘one’ as a personal pronoun.

    I think what bridgett describes is something to aspire to.

  12. nm

    Communal agriculture and artisanship built the Gothic cathedrals. In fact, if you draw a line on a map through southern France and northern Italy and extend it eastward, all agriculture north of that line was carried out communally from c.1000 until around 1550 in the west and 1900 in the east. It’s not that foreign to our society.

  13. Communal agriculture and artisanship built the Gothic cathedrals. In fact, if you draw a line on a map through southern France and northern Italy and extend it eastward, all agriculture north of that line was carried out communally from c.1000 until around 1550 in the west and 1900 in the east. It’s not that foreign to our society.

    Bookworm.

  14. I think you can get Fedear commune exemtion and stuff…

  15. nm

    Knowing how 80% or thereabouts of the population of an entire continent lived for a period of half a millennium or more isn’t trivia, Mack. We have myths about who we are and who are parents are that lead us to closes off certain paths of action without examining them closely. Now, just because we had ancestors who did thus-and-so doesn’t mean we shouldn’t go down their paths without examining them, either. But we should be aware.

    The economy of much of Europe in the middle ages was a fascinating mix. Land was owned privately but distributed communally; tools were owned communally (actually piece-meal — individuals owned an ox, which was part of a communal ox-team, for instance); communal decisions were made about how to use the tools on the land; private profits were based on the success of communal decisions and on effort expended.

  16. heartbreaktown

    Hi Mack – I think you asked a question about what kind of skills we could offer. I don’t see any responses that specifically address that and I wonder if it’s because modern suburban and city living (where most people live) don’t require (and don’t reward) “hard” and self-sustaining skills. Most of us have some kind of specialized technical skills or people skills or office skills where the most dollars can be made.

    As Woody stated, we did take part in a communal living situation (3-4 families under one roof) when I was teenager. We did share chores and assets. We learned to deal with eachother’s idiosynchrasies. It was a clothing optional atmosphere so we learned that every body is NOT beautiful but we coped. :-)

    Certainly, I didn’t have any skills then…Aaaaaaand, I still don’t have any! At least not any hard domestic skills. I have skills of organization, I suppose. And decent people skills – I seem to play well enough with others and I have a mild disposition.

    But I have “felt” my lack of domestic talent in recent years and it is something I would like to correct. Just as soon as I can work less overtime at the office.

  17. democommie

    Mack:

    Mi casa es su casa and vice-versa (yours is nicer, anyway–can I ride the horsies?). Communalism is not inherently bad but it does take a very different set of people skills than living alone or with one’s own kin.

    I can do most of the things that are required for me to get by. Cooking, cleaning, growing, shooting, etc. , but the thing that none of can do on their own is have community. One of the reasons we don’t conserve energy is because so few people want to ride mass transit and be with folks they don’t know.

  18. Bravo, Mack. And everyone else. This is a fascinating post and thread. My first thought was of James Kunstler’s constant warnings of the impending death of the cheap energy society. What you’re talking about here is happening as we speak.

    Anyway, I’m with democommie. We all have skills that we may not think about, and these skills will be adaptable to a more communal style of living. I live in a work in a firehouse every third day or so, and that’s a form of communal living: chores are divided, idiosyncrasies must be tolerated, etc. I grew up in a house with seven kids, and that house wasn’t much larger than 1200 sq. ft. (if that). My wife and I now share a similar home with our one little giblet.

    I could go on and on, Mack, but the point is kinda made. If we can live leaner and meaner in our homes (no more mini-McMansions), then we can probably live with less non-renewable energy. Of course, as Kunstler points out, we’ll also have to adapt to much shorter supply lines, less recreational travel, etc. The real trick will be surviving the political upheavals that will accompany such massive changes. The combination of a me-and-mine-first, landfill mentality society with a burgeoning reactionary police state doesn’t give me much faith that the U.S. will give up its ‘blessed’ imperial excess without a self-immolating fight.

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