Making the big labor credits

I live in a world that is slightly inconceivable to most people.  I do a lot of work, almost all of it stuff I am super pleased to do.  And I don’t get paid for it.  Instead the communities I live in (Twin Oaks and Acorn) cover most of the costs of my living: Food, shelter, clothes, education, entertainment, medical insurance, dental insurance, and most of my travel.

solidarity in stars

Instead of getting paid in money, besides the services listed above,  I accrue labor credits.  For each hour I work, I get one labor credit.  My labor obligation is 42 hours a week.  It makes little sense, however, to compare this work quota to most people’s straight jobs.  On the rare cases when I commute (like to a college speaking gig or a craft show) I get “paid” for my time traveling.  I get labor credits for voting and going to the doctor, and some small fraction of the time I spend taking care of my son Willow is labor creditable.  All the time I spend with Willow on home schooling, including the prep is labor creditable.  When I clean our collective dishes, I get labor credits.  If I were to cook for more than 7 people (which I never do) it would be also be creditable.

Working with Tofu

Working with Tofu at Twin Oaks

Some of the stuff I do is hard.  I do mediation between people who are furious with each other.  I work to stop nuclear power plants.  I am trying to start income sharing communities in NYC, where couples committed to each other for life find it easier to not share income.  I help find consensus when there is sharp disagreement.  With some regularity people thank me and appreciate the difficulty of this work.  When I am feeling clever or exhausted by my efforts I say, “That is why I make the big labor credits”, a silly knock off on the phrase “That is why I make the big bucks.”

Silly, because all labor credits are exactly the same size.  One hour is one credit.  It does not matter how hard I work in an hour to the accounting system (though other members certainly appreciate and celebrate anyone’s hard work).  The labor credit I get for an hour of preparing space for a party is the exact same size as the one I get for hour I spend getting a drunk and belligerent guest out of the party.  The labor credit I get for folding mail in the sun while talking with charming visitors is the same size as the one I get for counseling and talking down a manic or suicidal member.

Working in the Gardens

Working in the Gardens at Acorn

I don’t need to get a bigger labor credit for the harder work.  Turns out when my basic needs are met, I am pretty well off.  The communities are poor.  The people who live there have legitimately calculated taxable income below the poverty line (or at least in the case of Twin Oaks–Acorn is higher but still below the national average income).  What this radical sharing we deploy does is to permit us to live like kings (or at least like the upper middle class), while we live in technical poverty.

If you are thinking to yourself “Wait why doesn’t everyone do this?  We could eliminate the awful effects of living in poverty without having to make any more money,” you would be on to something.  Besides stopping climate change, we would be saving millions of lives from the sharp edge of poverty.

What stops us is we don’t trust each other enough to share what we have, almost all of which is sitting idle almost all the time.

Post Script:  I should clarify this thing about traveling, since it has sparked a bunch of questions.  Perhaps half of these trips are paid for by the communities i live in.  These include craft fairs trips with Hawina, college speaking gigs,  hammocks sales trips and almost monthly trips to DC/Baltimore and NYC for the Point A Project, With the possible exception of Ira from Acorn, no one at either Twin Oaks or Acorn travels even close to this much.  And i travel more than this.

I visit my mother at least two or three times a year, often in Florida, and she pays for this travel completely.  I also travel with the Star family (my family of choice) and i pay for this out of money i earn outside of the community.  I am also fortunate to have romantic intimates who pay for me to come and see them in all manner of curious or exotic locations.

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About paxus

a funologist, memeticist and revolutionary. Can be found in the vanity bin of Wikipedia and in locations of imminent calamity. buckle up, there is going to be some rough sledding.

7 responses to “Making the big labor credits”

  1. Keenan Dakota says :

    “we don’t trust each other enough to share what we have, almost all of which is sitting idle almost all the time.” As concise a summary as I’ve ever seen.

  2. Lauri Grigg says :

    I’m in this flow! I hope we can reclaim this earth before they sell her off!

  3. dbmamaz says :

    Idk, i think for my hubby, at least, being around people is just something exhausting to him – he doesnt want to be close to other people in general. and honestly I dont think people would have wanted to live with Orion when he was younger – even my ex-communard friends really did not like being around him. he was a very very difficult kid. heck, he’s still pretty challenging even tho he’s much better now.

    But yes, a lot of people love their stuff – I just think thats not the biggest part. My grandmother used to say “You dont want to know too many people too well” and when I was in a support group for open/multiple relationships, the founder of the group encouraged us to talk about intimate issues in the group – because its something we are only used to doing in pairs behind closed doors, and expanding that is hard work

    I think its the fear of being known and having to put up with people thats a bigger issue, idk

  4. Chloe Everhart says :

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve shared and shown this article. Thank you so much for writing it. I’m starting to wonder if the best solution for my area isn’t to create an alternate currency of labor credits. We could have a labor bank and minimum expected behavior to participate in a system that would cover all of one’s basic needs. I think we have a real chance of selling this. Check out to see the ideas people area throwing around and the issues we’re dealing with. Before I told you we weren’t ready for help, and we weren’t. I think right now we desperately need a master of propaganda and interpersonal relations. Would you please help us? There are three of us ready to make a 501d tomorrow if we can figure it out. There are a lot more people who are thinking really hard about if solutions they never thought of before might work. I’m way over my head. We need you guys.

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