Anarres 2 cooperative community

About me

Anarres Two is the idea of a guy named Ed, who is in his late fifties, married and lives in Japan.

I’ve been interested in socialism since I was a teenager.  I was a political science major in college and was involved in the anarchist movement for several years, but have evolved into a democratic socialist/communitarian socialist/Green Party supporter. However, I think that in addition to trying to educate the public about alternatives to the current system, it’s a much better use of our time and energy to create a socialist community for ourselves and to inspire people by example than to try to impose something on people who aren’t ready for it or who are sincerely not interested, even if it’s done through the democratic process.

Before coming to Japan and teaching English, I worked as a food service worker (starting at age 16), a clerical worker at a public university, an offset printing press operator, and a production worker on an assembly line. My primary source of income these days is editing research papers for foreign scholars (just fixing the English). I also do the Progressive News Service website, but it’s just a hobby and doesn’t generate any income, unfortunately.

I think cooperation makes so much more sense than competition, and I’ve wanted to be a part of something like this all my life, but I’ve never really found a good fit or had the resources to do it before. Thanks to a small inheritance, I was able to buy about 20 acres of land in Pershing county, Nevada for about $11,500. Many communities in the past failed because they couldn’t make the land payments, but that won’t be a problem since the land is paid for. True, there are many other expenses which will need to be paid to make this work: we still need a well, a septic system and some kind of shelter, and we need to come up with a way to generate income to pay for the things we can’t make ourselves, but that should be doable. I’m 58, and although I’m still in pretty good shape, I know I’m running out of time and may not see this reach fruition, but I have a long term perspective, and it’s not about me, I just want to get it started. I think it’s REALLY important that people see that there are realistic, humane alternatives to capitalism. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Many people have a negative opinion of socialism because most of them are only familiar with Marxism-Leninism, which is a very bizarre, authoritarian offshoot of socialism – it’s like judging Christianity on the basis of the Spanish Inquisition, or democracy on the basis of the Erdogan regime in Turkey (or our own two-party oligarchy in the U.S.). Leninism doesn’t work because it is imposed on people; it’s a top-down model which scares people into being passive robots without ideas, and there is no safety mechanism when the people in charge go off track. It’s a huge waste of individual creativity and initiative, and definitely not my vision of socialism. On the other hand, the counter-cultural approach, which combines hippie hedonism, unrealistic idealism and dubious ethics, doesn’t seem to be the answer either. The Hutterites have been making this work for centuries, but I’m not into a sexist theocracy either.

I can imagine a community where people work together voluntarily to meet everyone’s needs, and I’d like to help make that happen. I’m interesting in a forming a cooperative community based on a voluntary, egalitarian and democratic form of socialism (like a kibbutz) but which allows its members as much personal freedom as possible (people have choices, and they don’t have to agree on every little detail). There are many possible ways to organize such a community, and it would probably evolve over time.

In a capitalist economic system there are many unmet needs, but there is no reliable mechanism to put the unemployed to work to meet those needs, or to allow people to work to meet their own needs. Everything is oriented on meeting the needs and whimsies of people with money, and the mechanism for doing this is wage slavery. People sell themselves into virtual slavery to business owners, who decide what they will do and how they will do it, and in return they get a cash payment based on the current market value of their labor, which may or may not be enough to meet their basic needs. In a cooperative community there is never unemployment, because there is always work to be done, and that work directly improves the participants’ own quality of life. You can plant a garden, build a solar water heater, raise chickens, make soap, and so on. The more stuff you make, the more stuff there is to share within the community. Excess production can be sold to people outside the community, because you need to earn some “hard currency” to buy the products, services and raw materials that the community doesn’t produce.

The reason more people don’t do this is that the less well off don’t have access to the land and capital they need, and if the economy is functioning normally, talented people can generally make a lot more money in the mainstream economy. On the other hand, they will probably have little say in what they do or how they do it, and they will be pushed as hard as possible to extract as much “surplus value” out of them as possible. If you’ve ever had a job you know exactly what I’m talking about. If you aren’t needed anymore, you get laid off. You don’t get a share of the profits and you don’t build up any equity in the business no matter how hard you work – that all goes to the shareholders or owners.

Ursula K. LeGuin wrote about a highly evolved form of cooperative community in her science fiction novel “The Dispossessed”. Anarres Two would not be an attempt to recreate the society depicted on the planet Anarres in her book, but it’s an interesting vision of a non-hierarchical, self-regulating, cooperative society that can serve as an inspiration – and as a warning about things that can go wrong even in an egalitarian society.

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8 Comments »

  1. I’m sorry for posting this here! I have looked all over trying to find a way of getting ahold of you.
    I am a graduate student (in political science, coincidentally) who is interested in investing some time into looking into ways of intentional, communal living once I finish my dissertation.
    Even more coincidentally, I’ll be doing my dissertation research on migrant labor in Japan starting in september, and I am currently planning on staying in either the northern wards of Tokyo or in Chiba prefecture.
    Was wondering if you would be open to getting coffee somewhere and talking about your vision for Anarres 2! I sent you a friend request on facebook as it was the easiest way I had of tracking you down, if you’d be willing to look into further please do accept my request! ^^ Looking forward to hearing back from you.

    Comment by Tian — August 28, 2019 @ 7:38 pm

  2. Hello Tian, I don’t know what I can tell you that isn’t already posted somewhere here. If you have specific questions, go ahead and post them here, because maybe other people have the same questions. In a nutshell, my goal is to set up an intentional community that is a democratic socialist worker coop. What we would do depends on the skills the participants have or what we agree seems promising. Rather than have a pure communist model, where people do what they can and receive what they need, I prefer a model where people are compensated as co-owners according to the hours of labor they put into the project, by receiving a share of the total profit based on their hours worked. For example, if we make $4,000 in March (after covering our expenses and putting money aside for improvements) and person A, B and C worked 100 hours each, but D and E only worked 50 hours each, A, B and C would get $1,000 each and D and E would get $500 each, which they can spend as they like. That way if someone wants to write a novel or do art they can without being forced to generate income. If the project is a smashing success, someday hopefully we’ll be able to carry aspiring writers, artists, scholars, etc. as a community and move towards a model less oriented on ‘bean counting’ (bean counter: a person, typically an accountant or bureaucrat, perceived as placing excessive emphasis on controlling expenditure and budgets), but that will probably not happen any time soon. I haven’t have much luck finding people who are inspired by this idea AND who are willing and able to invest the money needed to make it happen. But that’s ok, I’m not in a hurry.

    Comment by Ed — August 29, 2019 @ 12:18 am

    • Hi Ed,
      Thanks for your reply. Let me just pick your brain about your plans here, because so far there has been a lot of idle speculation but (as far as I see it) not too much in the way of decisive commitment to a certain path forward.
      First of all, I think there is a lot that is attractive about your plan. I think the general democratic socialist platform is the right way to go, and your proposed shareholder model is a pragmatic way of making it happen.
      However, I think there is a lot of planning about what improvements are absolutely neccesary that is required, and formation of a relatively comprehensive budget to figure out how much “buy-in” and how many residents you are trying to organize to get the community started. Beyond the bare neccesities of the well and perhaps either a grid connection or robust solar setup, I expect the community will require certain infrastructures to allow for productive activities to occur. Are you still thinking of turning the land into some attraction off of I80? (I warn that Unionville is a much more pleasant locale in the Humboldt range, with an illustrious history featuring Mark Twain et al, and even then the single bed and breakfast struggles with occupancy) Could we capitalize on the rush of traffic expected before and after Burning Man (Some unprepared poor souls end up straned on Jungo road every year, or so they say)? Alternatively, do you expect the initial residents to generate income working remotely? In that case, what are the options for internet? Is it close enough to the interstate to have a 4G connection strong enough to tether off of? Is the community stuck with HughesNet or some other awful satellite provider elsewise?

      As for your idea regarding opening a small business in Imlay, it could be welcome both to the remaining townspeople and to the occaisional I80 traveller. Are you willing to commit to the shareholder model and incorporate? I see this as a neccesary precondition before others would be willing to put money into the community.

      Could the land be productive somehow? I was unable to find more information about the topology and location of the current plot. Is it up against the Humboldt range, or is there still a ways to go? What is the general flash flood danger on the property?

      I have much more to ask but lets leave it here for now…

      Tian

      Comment by Tian — August 29, 2019 @ 6:44 am

  3. My approach has been that this will be a long process and that small, incremental steps will be necessary, because there does not seem to be a lot of interest in this scheme, which is probably partly due to the fairly remote location. So the first steps are to put in a well, put in a septic system and build some kind of housing and some kind of business infrastructure for generating income. The well and septic system have to be in before the county will issue a building permit.

    I don’t really want to solicit investors. Another person suggested crowdfunding. I don’t see anyway to pay back any kind of loans in the foreseeable future, so I don’t want to go there.

    Yes, I think setting it up as a corporation and issuing shares would be the best approach, just to give participants some assurance that their money is not going to just disappear, but it’s not primarily a business venture. It’s just using existing legal structures to keep track of what people have invested and providing a legal framework for protecting their investment from being burgled. If the project goes bust however, they could lose their investment. The land and infrastructure could be sold off to a buyer though to recoup some of the money. I’d rather be cautious, slow and avoid a lot of debt than to see that happen. I’m a bit of a pessimist when it comes to business ventures.

    If I understand correctly there is wireless cell phone service, T-Mobile I think, but I don’t known about regular internet. I don’t have a smartphone. When I have to do work there, I go to a coffee shop in Winnemucca or the McDonalds in Lovelock and use their wifi.

    Having a campground or doing yurt camping would probably be possible (we’d need zoning approval), but the road up there is not very good and would require improvement. Some kind of agriculture could be done but the land is not very good and would require irrigation or frequent watering, and it’s very cold in the winter. There are lots of grasshoppers too, so a green house might be the way to go. We could grow strawberries or something. It may be too cold in the winter for a vineyard, but that would be a high value agricultural product if we learning winemaking, but that is another skill that would have to be learned and it requires equipment. A solar panel and solar water heating installation business would be a possibility, but we’d need to acquire the skills to do that. Starting a business in Imlay would require a lot of capital, so I don’t see that happening any time soon. It would have to be mostly based on serving travelers, because the population of Imlay is very small, but it could be a business that serves both, like a restaurant or coffee shop. We could run a shuttle between Lovelock and Winnemucca. There are a lot of things we could look into.

    There is a major power line just across the road, but it would be very expensive to get connected. On the other hand, if we were connected there is enough land to put in a lot of solar panels and we could sell power to the grid. That is a capital intensive business, but one that we could probably get financed. However, NV Energy is not very keen on accepting power from its customers or paying them much I’ve heard. “Although Nevada is one of the sunniest places in the world, there has recently been a dark cloud hovering over the rooftop solar industry in the state. Just before Christmas, Nevada’s public utility commission (PUC) gave the state’s only power company, NV Energy, permission to charge higher rates and fees to solar panel users – a move that immediately shattered the rooftop solar industry’s business model. In addition to the new monthly fee, which will increase to $40 from $12 over the next five years, customers like Stewart will get less back from the utility for energy their solar panels capture and feed into the main power grid. Whereas previously they received full retail value for their surplus electricity, soon NV Energy will only pay a third of that price for exported electricity.” https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jan/13/solar-panel-energy-power-company-nevada They prefer to build their own giant solar projects: “The days of renewable equals intermittent and a headache for utilities to integrate into their systems is now reversed to where this delivers exactly what the utility wants.” https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/nv-energy-signs-a-whopping-1-2-gigawatts-of-solar-and-590-megawatts-of-stor It would be worth looking into though, as their purchasing policies may have changed. It created a lot of political turmoil and I’m not sure how it was finally resolved. Thanks Google, it looks like they were forced to reverse course. “One of the most enticing financial benefits of solar is the net metering programs offered by utility companies. Net metering allows residents who have installed solar panel systems on their homes to sell the energy created by their systems back to the utility companies. NV Energy of Nevada offers particularly generous net metering options, however the consumers of Nevada do not seem to be taking advantage of solar and its lucrative benefits, leaving some leaders in the Nevada solar industry perplexed. Todd Verk, Vice President of Sales at GST Nevada, speaks on the matter, stating, “A few years back, NV Energy ended their policy of paying retail rates for energy buyback and raised billing rates to consumers. This caused many in the solar business to leave Nevada, but we at GST Nevada stayed and rode the waves with our customers providing them the attention and service they deserved, and thankfully NV Energy eventually brought back their net metering program in March of 2017, offering competitive pricing allowances. But unfortunately, the damage to the solar industry had already been done, and while NV Energy’s net metering has come back in full force, the solar consumers have not.” https://finance.yahoo.com/news/nv-energy-net-metering-back-130000672.html

    Unionville: Nice place but not easy to get to. Not really a tourist destination.

    Burning Man: People coming from Reno don’t go through Imlay. People coming from the east maybe turn off in Winnemucca, but I guess they aren’t supposed to go in that way, so maybe there are people coming through Imlay on their way west, but it’s only for a couple of weeks, so I don’t think you could make a business out of it, unless we went with the shuttle idea and expanded service then or something like that.

    The land is below Star Peak, but it’s some distance to the mountain. The land is about halfway between I-80 and the mountain. Flash flooding does happen but not very often. Very little rain most of the time. Grass fires are a bigger threat I think, but so far I’ve been lucky. I’ve seen them nearby though. I need to make a fire ring with gravel or just a bulldozer some day, or a better fence.

    Comment by Ed — August 29, 2019 @ 8:03 am

  4. Thank you for your thoughtful answers! I think there are some huge challenges indeed, especially regarding both the less than fantastic location (pretty area, though) and the significant capital improvements that have to be made before it can generate any revenue or, more importantly, support a live-in community where people can be attracted to resettling.

    Have you considered at all alternative locations and relocating, especially since apart from the concrete shelter there have not been too much improvements or sunk costs made thus far?
    On a similar line of thinking, what motivated you to choose this location when you purchased it?

    Comment by Tian — August 29, 2019 @ 7:34 pm

    • No, I don’t think I would consider a new location. Purchasing the land was actually a lot of work, I was surprised to learn, and it would be difficult to sell without any improvements. I searched a lot before I bought it. The main reasons I chose this piece of land were that it was close to a major road, it was cheap (as my budget was very limited), the climate was not extremely hot or cold and there was an Amtrak station in Winnemucca. The reason the land was cheap is because of the remote location, the poor roads, no utilities and the water table is deep, so drilling a well is expensive. But there is solar energy galore, a fair amount of wind, a dry climate, cool nights, nice scenery and lots of vacant land in the event you wanted to expand (which seems unlikely right now). There is a truck stop about 15 or 20 minutes away too, which has a convenience store.

      Comment by Ed — August 30, 2019 @ 12:56 am

  5. Ed, I am interested in your community but couldn’t find an email to contact you without signing in or up for something, if you have a public email please leave it here and I will contact you through it. I may just not be looking in the right spot for it. I hope to hear from you as you have a lot of info to read. If i don’t get right back to you I will as soon as I can as my internet connection is changing over the next week or so. Thanks so much Nathan.

    Comment by Nathan — June 22, 2022 @ 11:05 pm

    • Hi Nathan, You can just reply here if you like. I assume if people have questions, other people might have the same questions. If you really feel a need to contact me privately, you can reach me at stamm.ed which is through yahoo.com

      Comment by Ed — June 23, 2022 @ 1:44 am


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