This article reflects the personal position of Tom Riley
Why do Communes Fail?
Groups of unrelated people living together and sharing their resources, Communes, have been popular at many times during history. In some sense our proposed lunar settlement will be a commune, at least for a while. There are some things we need to know about them.
Say good-by to the Last Kibbutz
Recently the last of the founding Israel Kibbutz converted over to a conventional business. This is the end of a noble experiment in humans living together. There is a lesson here for lunar settlement.
For a period at the beginning of lunar settlement, a Kibbutz will be a very attractive model. The idea of individual families having separate homesteads is unlikely. All the habitats will need to be connected (see Architecture as Mole Hills). All the jobs will be from a very few activities controlled by an even smaller number of organizations in just a few locations. All life support resources (air, water, power, waste recycling) will be from common utilities.
If the Kibbutz is a short term phenomena then we need to know it.
Peace, Love, and all that Hippie Stuff
The American experience with communes is actually long and rich. Most, such as the Quakers, were religious based and there have been several periods when tens of thousands of Americans lived in communes. The Hippies were only a short lived example in the 1960's and 1970's, but even there we have lessons to learn.
Most Hippie communes failed, not because of social aspects, but simply because they were poor business people. The communes that lasted the longest, like Twin Oaks, were simply the best run businesses. It is that simple.
User Owned Companies
Earlier in American history, around 1880, there was a very large people's movement, called the Populists that were much better at combining business and community values. At their height, the Populists controlled several state legislatures and their presidential candidate, Williams Jennings Bryan, gave one the greatest speeches in history, "The Cross of Gold".
In the Mid-West the railroads held a monopoly on transportation for farm produce. They used their monopoly position to exploit the small farmer. These Populist farmers responded by organizing customer owned grain elevators. By being able to hold or ship their wheat to meet market demands, they balanced the power of the railroads.
Some of this type of company survive today along with the variation on this theme, the employee owned company. Both can thank the Populists laws for their existence and both can be viable economic entities in the modern economy. Both are interested ideas for a lunar settlement.
Most Famous Lunar Settlement Story
The most famous lunar settlement story is:
The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, by Robert A. Heinlein, ISBN-13: 978-0340837948
In it the lunar settlement is organized by independent families and a large company economically exploits the settlers in a manner similar to the 1880 Mid-West. Unfortunately in the story this situation results in a completely unnecessary war in which millions of people on Earth that are dependent on lunar resources die.
The situation in the story can be easily avoided by insuring that lunar settlers have a charter with a bill of rights, and that they have an economic stake in the financial success of the settlement. This might be done through stock options or through an employee owned company.
A Community or a Commune
No mater what social structure our lunar settlement takes on, or how it changes over time, it must be a viable business proposition at all times. In fact, it needs to be a very high value one simply because of the high cost of doing business on the Moon. That the lunar settlement must be a strong business does not mean that the settlement need be economically exploited by a multinational corporation from Earth. Other business plans are certainly possible.
(Add your idea here.)
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