Hail, internet travelers! It’s been awhile since I last posted anything here. I suppose I was waiting for the time and inclination to write something. I got some inspiration at work earlier, so I guess I’ll dive right in: today I found myself pondering ways in which people might develop a self-sufficient, decentralized society. Here is the question: what if every community was completely self-sustaining, produced its own food, generated its own power, made its own electronics and machinery, had its own self-contained government? What might that look like? What would be required to bring it about? Why would it be beneficial? What I would like to share today is a specific vision I have had for how such a society might be organized. I might talk a little about how it could be brought about, but I will probably say little as to why it would be beneficial, because that should probably be an entire post on its own. Before I go any further, I’d like to offer a disclaimer: I’m not an expert on economics, social studies, or any other subject that would make me particularly qualified to theorize about this. So, please do take everything I say with a grain of salt, and remember that this is merely a vision, and is not intended to be a detailed plan.
My musings today began thus: I wish that I could find a Christian church that put a heavy emphasis on living in, respecting, and taking care of nature. If possible, even a church that met outdoors, in a grove or some other pleasant natural setting, that emphasized communing with God through getting closer to nature. I went on further to think, what if such a church started to grow its own food? What if attempted to provide as much sustenance as possible for its members? What if it had its own little community which was dedicated to serving God and forging a self-sustaining, close-to-nature lifestyle? A little like a monastery, I suppose, but of course that’s also edging into cult territory. I then made the leap from a church, to an entire community of mixed faiths and belief systems that wouldn’t be able to be called a church. And that was where my line of thinking really took off.
In this vision, everything would be based around a small, self-contained unit: the village. Rather like our Medieval ancestors (and the peoples of some Third World countries today), we would live in small villages, surviving with subsistence agriculture. Each family would have their own field or garden and probably a few of their own animals, and would produce enough food to feed themselves, plus perhaps to have a little surplus to sell or share to their less fortunate neighbors. Every village would have its own power generation facilities, which would consist of windmills, waterpowered generators, solar panels, or other fairly natural, non-polluting facilities. No single village would generate enough electricity to power another village. Each village would have its own water supply, be that a river or stream, an aqueduct or canal, or a system of wells or springs. The village would have its own machine shop and small scale manufacturing facilities; its people would create everything they needed with their own hands, trading for raw materials with other villages. Each village would also have its own Chief or Lord, who would be responsible for passing judgments and administering the village, as well as leading the Town Guard in the event of a battle. His or her position would be hereditary, passed down to whichever of his own children the chief deemed most worthy to rule. The reason for going back to a hereditary system is two-fold. It prevents large-scale conflicts like we see today between the major political parties, by putting the leadership into the hands of someone who as already been chosen by dint of being a child of the previous leader. The other reason is that it allows for careful, hands-on, life-long mentoring and teaching for the position of chief, by the previous chief to his heir. One of the chief’s primary responsibilities would be to prepare his heir to take over his position upon his death. However, these village chiefs would not be all powerful. Each village would hold a council monthly or as needed, in which every adult in the village, male or female, land-owning and productive or not, would gather to vote on policies and courses of action. The chief would officiate, but he would have to abide by whatever decision his people made. For example, he could never attack a neighboring village unless his people voted to attack. The reason for this is quite simply that he would not be able to force anyone to join the fight; the chief would have a few people who would aid him in policing the village, but there would not be enough of them to take control, and at any rate they would not rely on the chief for their income (as modern soldiers and policemen do), and so would not have any incentive to support him in a violent takeover of the village. In this way, each village would be truly democratic; truly self-sufficient; truly autonomous.
As I thought further, I realized that, of course, cities would not cease to exist. It would hardly be feasible for every urbanite to move to a country or even a suburban village. So, every city must then become a conglomerate of villages, or, in the case of a city, Towers. Every apartment complex or tower or group of condominiums would be its own village. They would each generate their own power and provide, as much as possible, their own food and water. I believe that it is theoretically possible, through hydroponics and rooftop or balcony based gardens, for an apartment building to provide enough food for its residents. There might be animal stalls in the lower floors, where each apartment would have a place to keep a few chickens or a goat or cow. Every apartment would have its own chief and its own guard, as well as its own machine shops and manufacturing facilities. The towers would likely not be able to produce as much food as the villages, but they would make up for it by having plenty of nearby towers to trade and share resources with. On the other hand, they might be able to produce more machinery or finely crafted tools than the average village.
Several villages and towers would combine to form a city-state, which would be headed up by a hereditary earl, who would also be chief of his own tower or village (perhaps the largest or richest tower or village in the city-state). He would be, in effect, a chief of chiefs. Every tower or village would have its council, and the decision made there would then be conveyed by its chief when he or she traveled to the City Council to vote on matters of importance to the entire city-state. He would be required to cast his vote as his village decided he should, and in that manner, voting could be partitioned and decentralized so that it might be a less time-consuming and laborious process. The earls of the city-states could then convene a Moot or Althing in times of crisis. They might elect a King to temporarily direct all the city-states, whose power would be severely limited by the fact that each earl has complete control over whether his own army helps the king or not! And of course, each chief within the earls’ armies would be able to make his own decisions about whether he really should lead his village guard into war.
This society would therefore have no strong centralized government at all. It would have no (or very few and very weak) corporations. It would have no official currency and no Federal Reserve, as each earl would issue his own money to his own city-state, and even that would typically be put aside in favor of barter. Banks would fall drastically in power and importance, as most people would have all their valuables in their homes, where they can use them. There would be no attempts to force people to share resources, as everyone would produce his own resources for himself and share where he saw fit. The city-states, being independent, would be quite free to fight amongst themselves or abroad as they saw fit. They could make their own laws and control their own destinies.
Of course, the powers that be would never allow something like this to happen. The Federal Government needs to die; its members seem to be in general power-hungry, corrupt, and inept; but it is that very corruption and hunger for power which will cause it to hold on to the bitter end. The mega-corporations, banks, and other large centralized powers would likely also fight tooth and nail against the emergence of such a society. It therefore seems unlikely to me that anything like this vision would occur, on a large scale at least, unless and until the current power structure collapses, as I believe it will sooner or later. It always does, and when one society falls, the way is paved for another to repair its legacy and build a beautiful new world–or create something worse and more pestilential than the original ever could have been. It is my hope that, when the collapse finally does happen, my vision may become, in some small part, a reality.