Anarres 2 cooperative community

August 30, 2012

Off to Mongolia

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ed @ 1:45 am

I’m off to Mongolia, and will be there from Sept. 5th to 11th. I’m going to look into the possibility of leasing land (foreigners can’t own land there)  for a cooperative farm in the countryside, hopefully not too far from Ulaan Baatar, and check out the country in general. Many collective farms were abandoned during the transition to capitalism. I haven’t travelled anywhere in Asia during the seven years I’ve lived in Japan, so even if things don’t work out at least I’ll get to experience another country. I’d be very interested in meeting Mongolians or expats who are interested in this idea. It doesn’t necessarily have to be primarily a farming operation, but I imagine we’d do some gardening, so that’s a good enough tag for now. “Cooperative community” might be a little harder to translate.

Results of my visit

Well, Mongolia is a beautiful and interesting country, but it seems like it would be difficult to start an intentional community there. If you set it up as a cooperative business, they require a $100,000 deposit, which I certainly don’t have. Or, you could set it up as an NGO, but then the main focus has to be helping Mongolian people. As far as abandoned cooperative farms, all of that land has been privatized long ago, some of it productively and some unproductively, but it is all leased by someone, and there is apparently no central source of information about what land is available. I was advised that I would need to chose a locality, and then conduct negotiations with the local government, and the goal would be to make lots of money and help the local economy. In addition, there is a serious language barrier. Oh well, it was an interesting place to visit….

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August 21, 2012

Tough decision on location

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ed @ 3:05 pm

Well, I’ve been weighing the pros and cons of locating in Canada vs. locating in Mongolia. If the community is located in Canada, it will be a safer bet long-term, but we will be relatively poor and not have enough capital to do anything interesting. Also, the community will probably attract more serious and ideologically committed participants, which is probably a good thing, but it could lead to hairsplitting arguments over policies. On the other hand, in Mongolia we would have enough capital to have a real farm, factory and/or workshop, which could eventually develop into a Mondragon type cooperative network. On the other hand, if we locate in Mongolia and succeed in attracting Mongolian members, for most of the members it’s probably not going to be about ideology, but about making a living. You could argue that it doesn’t matter if the ideology is there as long as the organization functions in the desired way, but eventually, without a guiding ideology, the movement will go the way of the trade union movement and the socialist parties, and it will lose its way. I was reading the platform of the New Democratic Party of Manitoba (a democratic socialist party) and there is nothing about replacing capitalism with socialism or about economic cooperation instead of private ownership and competition.

Another consideration is that if we locate in Canada, we’re going to be viewed as a bunch of weirdos, and we’ll probably have to fight over zoning and permits. I did actually find a 4.5 acre piece of land in Saskatchewan with a well, electricity, and phone, on a decent road, within 1.5 hours of a train station and 2.25 hours of a major city for an amount I can afford.

If we locate in Mongolia, we will probably be viewed as weird foreigners, but we can offer people jobs, which goes a long way towards gaining acceptance in a country with high unemployment. It will probably be easier to find a good or service that is in short supply, and we can probably afford to provide it without being crushed by well-capitalized competitors.

I still can’t decide what to do, but I’m leaning towards Canada, just because of the language issue. After living in Japan for seven years, I can only communicate in the most basic way, which is often frustrating.

August 8, 2012

Saskatchewan?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ed @ 5:30 am

I’ve been dithering with my planned trip to Mongolia. I found a piece of land for sale in Saskatchewan, but I can’t afford to buy it, repair the old well, have the electricity reconnected, and fix up the house on my own. Plus it’s darn expensive to get to Saskatchewan from Japan! Best option seems to be flying to Minneapolis or Vancouver and taking the train.

I’ve also discovered that if you fly OUT of Mongolia RT, it’s much cheaper than flying in. Hmmm… decisions, decisions.

UPDATE: Well, my decision became a little easier. There was a story about the history of cooperatives in Saskatchewan at a Canadian socialist blog called Next Year Country. I posted a comment asking if anyone would be interested in starting a new cooperative community in Saskatchewan. My comment was deleted….. THAT kind of socialism we can do without.

UPDATE 2: I just discovered that Manitoba has a socialist government now – duh. Well, I’m not Canadian, so how would I know? The land seems a lot more expensive than in Saskatchewan though….

And here’s an interesting article about Mongolia: http://www.rferl.org/content/Mongolian_Democracy_Unless_Your_Life_Improves_Whats_The_Point_Of_A_Market_Economy/1902222.html

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