Communal Distribution

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A. Allen Butcher on Communal Economics:

Production Sharing "in communal economies is only half of the economic process; the other half being distribution and consumption without an exchange system. Regular planning cycles setting labor and money budgets (the latter from exchange with the dominant culture outside of the community) is the primary method of sharing communal assets. Budgeting is essentially a form of rationing, since there are always more ideas on things to do than there are resources. One budgeted item is usually small personal discretionary funds or allowances, which results in communal assets becoming private property. This is for exchange outside of the community for commodities or services that the community does not provide, often for vacations.

Other forms of communal distribution include: first-come-first-served (e.g., food serving and other items “up-for-grabs”), to each as needed (e.g., health services), seniority (e.g., Twin Oaks’ sabbatical program), resources given to individuals for personal needs and wants upon request (e.g., East Wind’s “Weeds and Knots”), drawing lots rolling dice or other systems of chance, and the “double-blind preferences matrix.” This latter distribution system is used in situations where two or more people want the same item, most often a room or residence, or when there are any limited numbers of items to be distributed among interested people. All of the items to be distributed are given a similar name such as a type of flower, then all of the people desiring those items are given a similar name such as a type of animal. Each person in the matrix rates the items according to their first through third preferences and a two-dimensional matrix is made, with flowers on one axis, animals on the other. A member is found who does not know who or what the animals or flowers represent, and is asked to arrange the matrix so that each animal gets its highest preference possible in flowers, resulting in most people getting their first or second preference." (


Communal Theory

A. Allen Butcher:

"Communal distribution is managed in egalitarian communities to provide the greatest good for the greatest number, or to each according to need, with the highest degree of fairness possible given the limits of the community’s resources. Developing fair and equitable methods of producing and distributing communal assets is essential in those communities affirming that creating community does not require the deprivation of privacy, whether in relationships, goods, or space. By contrast, in monasticism an ascetic lifestyle and a vow of poverty are defining features of the community. To explain how entrusting communal resources to individual members can be consistent with the communal value of sharing, two theories are available. First, the “communal privacy theory” states that increasing levels of privacy, afforded by entrusting additional resources or powers to members does not reduce the community’s level of communalism as long as the equity or ultimate responsibility and power remains shared under communal ownership and control. Second, the “communal sharing theory” states that the greater the experience people have of sharing among themselves, the greater will be their commitment to the community thus formed. (Butcher 1991)

Increasing computerization of communal economies using various forms of time economies for production and various processes for distribution will aid the growth of communal economies as long as those processes serve the values and needs of the members. Sharing in communal society can include beliefs, ideals, thoughts, feelings and emotions as well as goods and services, power and leadership in communal governance." (