Emma Goldman Finishing School
"Sasha Berkman," the founder, describes the idea behind it:
The theory is: Revolution is not the moment that you seize power. The revolution is the building of day-to-day alternative systems and structures.
Unlike most intentional communities, which are rural, Emma's is an urban commune situated close to the headquarters of Amazon.Com.
If you live at Emma's, you do not have to work at a paying job, but you can't spend more than $15,000 a year, no matter how much you earn. You cannot own a car, but for four hours of labor a week, you can join Emma's car co-op with three vehicles, all equally decrepit. There are home-cooked vegetarian meals most nights, though you have to be willing to eat food partially harvested from Dumpsters (somewhere between 10 percent and 20 percent of the community's food is scavenged). Illegal drugs aren't allowed, but the commune home brews its own beer. All decisions are made by consensus. Every week there is a three-hour house meeting where all the final decisions for the commune are made. You can't be lazy and live at Emma's, and it helps if you have a good sense of humor. Emma's members are white, middle-class, college-educated, dedicated nonviolent revolutionaries, currently between the ages of 23 and 40, trying to concretely realize their utopian vision in the middle of a dystopian world of war, famine, disease, and ecological devastation. Berkman explains what they are doing by quoting an old anarchist adage: We are building the new society in the shell of the old....
Emma's has adopted a modified form of income sharing called labor sharing. The fundamental principle is that an hour of anyone's time is equal to an hour of anyone else's time. In the community, and in the world its members envision, an hour that Cooper spends as executive director of a nonprofit is equal to the hour that Berkman spends taking garbage out of a Dumpster. As Cooper [director of the land trust that bought the abandoned apartment building that houses the commune] wrote, "Sharing income, resources, and property is a direct affront to our capitalistic ideology of the individual, and thus is a scary idea to entertain."
I disagree. An hour-for-hour labor exchange is the height of individualism. By acknowledging that labor is worthy of its hire, that nobody has the right to command the goods or services of another producer except through a voluntary exchange of value for value, the labor exchange honors the sovereign, equal individual.
Currently, each of Emma's members owes the community 118 hours a month. Those can be worked entirely inside the house—at the moment, two members have chosen that option—or nearly entirely outside the house at a paying job. The exception is that everyone must help clean the common areas.
People who receive income from paying jobs turn over all of their wages to the commune. In exchange for their income and household labor, members receive food, shelter, health insurance, transportation (bus passes and car co-op), a modest retirement savings, and educational expenses, including payments on student loans. Members also receive a small personal allowance, currently maxed out at $417 a month, for clothing, entertainment, hobbies, and the like. The living expenses for each member add up to around $15,000 annually, which puts them in the lowest 10 percent of income for individuals in Seattle. For Emma's members, their voluntary poverty is a living critique of capitalist consumerism.
Any money that the community receives over and above expenses and allowances is loaned to a "social justice fund" (members who leave are reimbursed over time for their financial contributions). Currently at around $100,000, the fund is part of the group's plans to help like-minded people start revolutionary projects in Seattle. "We have a distinctly expansionist strategy," says Parke Burgess, 40, a member for the last three and a half years. Burgess explains that Emma's members hope to help jump-start dozens of residential communities and worker-run collectives in the area. "Hopefully, there will be a meat-eating commune or one where they all smoke cigarettes. Our hope is to create a microcosm of Seattle in these many communities. They could be residential or a food distribution system or a zero-interest bank or risk pools instead of conventional insurance. That's a huge focus of our hope and dreams for this institution."
This sounds a bit like Mark Gillespie's idea in an article for Strike the Root:
Now, while these ICs are growing, each new community will be working to spawn others. I don't care if the community is one of rabid Christian post-millenialists or if they are the most homo of homosexuals. Start helping others to design their own communities. A smart group of an-caps could actually make this a business model. Soon a federation of radically differing communities will be in full agreement on mutual protection and mutual growth.