Vacation Credit Labor System

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Allen Butcher:

"In the field of communal economics, the greatest innovation in secular intentional community must be the vacation-credit labor system, the most advanced form of labor-credit system in use. In these systems, hours of work done over the required minimum weekly quota of hours accumulates in the member’s personal account, to be drawn down by the member at a later time when taking a vacation. Different versions of this economic innovation have been used at Twin Oaks, East Wind, Acorn, Emma Goldman Finishing School and other communities. This method of organizing labor in communal society values all labor equally, including domestic labor and income work, and encourages and supports the feminist ideal of both men and women being free to work in cross-gender roles.

The most innovative aspect of labor-credit systems is that there is no or minimal exchange or trade of labor credits among members, since labor credits are only units in an accounting ledger, without using any form of token or anything else that might be used as a currency.

Non-exchange, labor-credit systems in communal societies are the most advanced form of time-based economy, called “labor-sharing.” Simpler forms of time-based economies do not involve labor-sharing, instead are called labor-exchanges, like “time banks,” a form of hybrid between monetary exchange systems and time-based economics, in which hour credits can be traded among members.

The vacation-credit innovation in communal economics serves to show how people can live exclusively according to the values of sharing and equality. Although this form of communal economy is not likely to be adopted by the dominant culture, it does contradict the idea that there is no alternative (TINA) to monetary economics." (


Allen Butcher:

"The communal alternative to monetary economics has existed in various religious forms since before the time of Christ, as Hindu ashrams were founded prior to 500 B.C. in India, Taoist communes by 400 B.C. in China, Buddhist monasteries in Tibet around 200 B.C., and the Jewish Essenes in Palestine from 150 B.C. to 70 A.D. While these communal societies organized their labor-sharing economies without the use of labor-credit systems, they used instead authoritarian forms of governance. Later, as Catholic monasticism grew and became increasingly corrupted by its own growth in wealth and power, a reform movement arose after 525 A.D. which systematized monastic life, including required hours of work along with a schedule of prayers. This was part of the Rule of St. Benedict, which was adopted by nearly the entire mo­nastic movement in Western Europe.

Thomas Woods in his book, How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization, explains that by the year 1300 the Benedictine Order alone had, “supplied the [Catholic] Church with 24 popes, 200 cardinals, 7,000 archbishops, 15,000 bishops, and 1,500 canonized saints. At its height, the Benedictine order could boast 37,000 monasteries.” With a system­atized model of organization, monasticism became so successful that by the year 1200 the estates of all of the various monastic orders occupied perhaps as much as a quarter of the exploited land of the Euro­pean countryside. (Durant, 1950, p. 766; Knowles, pp. 96-7; Woods, p. 28)

Now with the vacation-credit labor system, secular communal society has what Catholic monasticism has had with Benedict’s Rule, a means of organizing a communal, labor-sharing economy without the use of money, and in the case of egalitarian community, with a participatory as opposed to an authoritarian form of governance. Kat Kinkade’s labor system innovation may prove as important as Benedict’s Rule if Western civilization goes through another dark age as did Western Europe after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, this time perhaps due to climate change, resource depletion, economic depression, or a perfect storm of these and more disasters.


Just as the Catholic Orders hastened the rebuilding of Western civilization out of the Dark Ages without the use of monetary economics internally, so also may it be possible for labor-credit systems in secular communal societies to rebuild civilization without the use of money internally, in the event of a future regional or global depression, “lost generation,” or dark age. Since such models of a non-monetary, labor-gifting, time-based economy do exist among member communities of the Federation of Egalitarian Communities, the question is how serious would the tribulations need to be for secular communal societies to grow in size and influence to the level seen with monasticism during the Dark Ages?

Will Durant offers a hint of an answer for that question in the context of religious community in writing that, “The flight of thousands of men and women … into monasteries and nunneries suggests … the extreme disorder, insecurity, and violence of medieval life. It seemed obvious that the savage impulses of men could be controlled only by a supernaturally sanctioned moral code.” (Durant, 1950, p. 732)

Today, morality is no longer an exclusively religious issue, as ethics is discussed in business, governance, philosophy, and many other cultural contexts. Potentially, religious organizations themselves could adopt non-monetary, labor-sharing, vacation-credit systems to engage in productive activities in the same way as do secular communal societies.

What could serve to build more resilience into human civilization, in preparation for a potential catastrophic failure of the monetary system as a result of unprecedented challenges, would be an economic system based upon gifting and sharing. In times of emergency, gifting and sharing is often what saves lives.

Even in the best of times, our pursuit of happiness through the improvement in our standard-of-living is enhanced by the development of not just one economic system, i.e., monetary economics, yet in tandem with it also the second economic system of time-based economics, utilizing labor-gifting and labor-sharing. Monetary and time-based economics can work synergistically as two parallel cultures, creating a dynamic which is greater than the sum of its parts, through each one serving to assure that the other is utilized in ways that help us to attain lifestyles expressing our highest ethical ideals and spiritual values, in both the best of times and the worst of times.

When authoritarian governance is replaced with participatory processes, the need is to provide for more and better communication among people. Having a systematized, non-monetary economic system readily available is the first step, while expanding and maintaining it over the long term requires the second step into communication and decision-making processes sufficient for managing the many issues of balancing personal needs and desires with the needs of society and nature, in more caring, mutually responsible, and egalitarian methods than the possessive and competitive methods of monetary economics." (