Anarres 2 cooperative community

Proposed goals, structure and by-laws

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 cooperative community there would never be 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, skilled and 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” (profit) out of them as possible. If you’ve every had a job you know exactly what I’m talking about. If you aren’t needed anymore, you get laid off. 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 exactly 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.

What follows is a draft of possible articles of incorporation in the event we decide to incorporate in Nevada. This would allow members to buy shares in the cooperative when they become full members and to be reimbursed by the co-op buying back their shares if they leave. Apparently, if you want the corporation to pay taxes on profits instead of each member, you have to set it up as a C corporation. But this is expensive, at about $300 a year, so no point in doing this until we have other people besides me who want to get involved. I used a template for the Articles of Incorporation, so a lot of the technical stuff is just copied from the template. This is just a draft and is open to modifications:

Last updated: April 14, 2016

Proposed Articles of Incorporation

We, the undersigned, do hereby voluntarily associate ourselves for the purpose of forming the Anarres Two Corporation, with capital stock, under the laws of the State of Nevada.

Name

Anarres Two, Inc.

Board of Directors

Business Agent

Address of Business Agent

Mission statement

Anarres Two (hereafter referred to as “the company” or “the cooperative”) was formed to develop a cooperative primitive camping and recreation area for its members. [OR: …was formed to develop a cooperative farm, owned and operated by its members, OR …was formed to operate a commercial recreational campground, etc.] Any profits realized will be divided among the prospective and full members on the basis of hours worked on behalf of the company’s business, at an equal rate per hour worked.

By-laws

Structure

Anarres Two is a democratic cooperative. Decisions will be made by 3/5 majority of its stockholders/members after the cooperative has five full members, after which all full members will then have equal voting rights. However, until there are five full members, voting will be done on the basis of shares of common and preferred stock held in the company, with one vote per share of stock. [I’m not really clear on the difference between “common” and “preferred” stock, that was in the template, but I assume holders of “preferred” stock get paid first in the event of bankruptcy. We would probably want to have one class of stock and only issue it to members, and not issue “common” stock to outside investors, as if that would ever happen…. Voting based on shares invested helps protect investors when the group is still very small and less likely to reach impartial decisions.]

Shareholder meetings will be held annually on a date to be decided by the board of directors at the site of the recreation area. A three person board of directors will be elected (the number of full members allowing), new members will be approved, bylaws can be amended, and general business will be conducted by secret ballot of all shareholders. Issues to be voted on will be submitted to the board of directors at least 60 days prior to the annual meeting. Ballots will be sent to all full members in good standing at least 30 days prior to the annual meeting. Those unable to attend can send in their ballots and vote in absentia (without being physically present) as long as their ballots are received by the board of directors prior to the opening of the meeting.

Membership

There is a trial period for prospective members of at least six months but preferably one year. Once a prospective membership has been approved by the board of directors of the company, a trial period will begin and prospective members can then make full use of the recreation area. If a prospective member wishes to join the cooperative by becoming a full member, they can do so if approved by a vote of the existing members/shareholders at the annual meeting. Prospective and full membership will not be based on race, nationality, sex, religious beliefs, etc., but prospective and full members should be democratic socialists (broadly defined) or believe in democratic cooperativism. This would mean, for example, that Leninists, Libertarians, theocrats, nationalists or fascists would not normally be considered for membership. Other criteria for prospective and full members are personal responsibility, honesty, ability to cooperate with others, willingness to assist in the development of the company/cooperative, and a spirit of kindness and goodwill towards others.

Full and prospective members have the right to camp on and enjoy the land and facilities of the cooperative, under the provisions decided by the cooperative and according to the restrictions of state, county and local authorities. [The land is zoned AMR (Agriculture, Mining and Recreation) by Pershing County, Nevada (see http://pershingcounty.net/images/stories/pc_files/planning/Division_Three.pdf), so a 60 day county limit on continuous camping may apply, after which a camper would have to leave for some period of time before returning (p. 45 – this appears to apply only to commercial campgrounds, so we may be exempt). A 14 day, 4 times a year limit applies to travel trailers and RVs on private, non-commercial land (p. 63). Only one home is allowed on the entire property (or on each 10 acre parcel?) under the current zoning, and this structure could be a mobile home. However, there are allowances for additional employee housing (that would be us). Building permits are required for all housing units. These rules are subject to change by the authorities. “Accessory commercial services” such as a mini-mart, snack bar or laundry could be permitted if the property is developed as a commercial campground (p. 44) but this would require a special use permit (p. 7 and p. 20). There appears to be no restrictions on tent camping or temporary (easily moveable), tent-like structures such as yurts, but high winds, low winter temperatures and the risk of wild fires probably make these undesirable long-term options, unless they are extremely well constructed.]

Prospective members can be asked to leave the property at any time as the result of a decision by the board of directors. Full members can only be expelled as a result of a vote taken by the membership.

Fees

All members must pay a $120 annual fee, which can be paid in installments. This annual fee is subject to change if approved by the members.

Full members must purchase a minimum of 500 shares of stock in the cooperative, at a rate of $1 per share, to help fund improvements. If a full member leaves the cooperative, his or her shares of stock will be bought back by the corporation, either in one payment or in installments, at the discretion of the board of directors.

Finances

The company will issue shares of stock at the rate of 1 share per dollar. Initially, the company is authorized to issue up to 75,000 shares of stock. In the event of dissolution of the cooperative, stock holders will share any proceeds from the sale of the company’s assets which remain after paying the cooperative’s outstanding debts.

All expenditures, contracts, assumptions of debt and issuance of stock must be approved by the board of directors of the company.

Stock will be purchased back from member stockholders, in a manner to be decided by the board of directors, if this is requested, however a minimum investment of 500 shares is required to maintain full membership.

The fiscal year of the company will run from June 1 to May 31 of the following year. The board of directors will keep the membership informed of the detailed financial condition of the cooperative by providing a current report of receipts and expenditures, showing all the company’s liabilities and assets, on demand (sent within a week of the request), and by presenting a full accounting of all receipts, expenditures, liabilities and assets at the annual meeting.

Amendments

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