I see in the comments that many of you believe Cheapatopia, as described in several of my blog posts, can't work because communes have been tried and failed. And besides, you wouldn't want to live in such a socialist place.

But keep in mind that Cheapatopia is designed with individual self-interest as the founding principle. The only difference between Cheapatopia and capitalism in general is that capitalism has inefficiencies that don't benefit anyone. As I write this, I'm looking out the window at seven parked cars, each of them requiring auto insurance, and none of them being used. And every home in my neighborhood has poor roof insulation because there was no market pressure on the developer to do better. Cheapatopia aims to fix the low hanging fruit. What I've described so far might not do that, but keep reading and see how close we can get.

Remember that living in Cheapatopia is optional. Plain old capitalism will always surround it. You might move to a place like Cheapatopia if, for example, you wanted to save a high percentage of your income for a period of time. Or maybe you simply don't want to work full time but still want a high quality of life. Or maybe the simple living and elevated social life appeals to you. There would be lots of different reasons for wanting to live in Cheapatopia, if only for a few years.

I submit that the closest model for Cheapatopia is not the Amish, and not any commune you have heard about. The best model is college dormitory living. In college, the meals are communal, the buildings are inexpensive, and the social life is organized and abundant. Dorm living is only appropriate for a few years of your life, to accomplish a goal. Cheapatopia is similar in concept, but more high-end and designed for families.

Today's topic is collective buying power. Imagine that the elected leaders of Cheapatopia negotiate discounts for services that are used by all residents. That would include all manner of insurance, phone service, Internet, TV, paper goods, food, and so on. You'd never again need to waste a weekend trying to figure out which cell phone plan is best, or shopping for the best insurance. Obviously the city negotiators would need to be rotated out every year to minimize corruption.

To keep health insurance rates low for all citizens of Cheapatopia, smoking would not be allowed anywhere within city limits. And no junk food or fast food would be sold in the city. I'll stop short of suggesting that everyone must be a vegetarian, but only because that's such a hot button.

Imagine that most of your meals in Cheapatopia are eaten at the city run all-you-can-eat buffets located in each neighborhood. You'd always see your neighbors at meals, and you'd never need to shop or cook or clean. Prices would be lower than regular restaurants because these eateries would be operated at cost, and food would be purchased in bulk. The food quality and variety would be excellent, at least by family standards, because this is one area in which Cheapatopia would not skimp. But if you want lobster and high end steak, you have to go to a regular restaurant.

I can also imagine that residents could get further discounts on their buffet meal plans by agreeing to work shifts at the cafeteria. Working there would be optional, and you might find it fun to work with your neighbors if only for a few hours every week. That sort of work can be fun if you know it's not your real job.

If you have guests in town, or don't want to eat at the cafeteria, you could pick up your food to go. Just place our order by Internet and your food will be ready when you show up.
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Aug 9, 2009
It's easy to say "No, it's not socialist, because remember, it's based on self-interest." Socialism can say the same thing---though it's supposed to be based on universal needs and values, people are not universal, and act in their self-interest anyway. That doesn't prevent socialism. (It also doesn't frustrate socialism, which would otherwise work. Socialism simply can't work because resources are scarce and have to be allocated.)

It might be fun to work a few hours at the cafeteria, if it's not your real job? Where else would it be fun to work if it weren't your real job? Any number of places. But the problem here is, no one would be able to manage enterprises like this, and no workers would be able to specialize. All the enterprises would be incredibly inefficient, and go broke.

"Prices would be lower than regular restaurants because these eateries would be operated at cost, and food would be purchased in bulk." Regular restaurants also order in bulk, don't they? And what if you tried to make your restaurant operate at cost? Do you think that would work? A few things to consider about this: 1. Most restaurants that are opened fail and fail fairly quickly. They're operating (while it lasts) at less than cost; could they therefore have offered prices below cost? Turns out, they actually do. See how well that works for making ongoing enterprises? Prices have to be based on supply and demand, not on costs; yes, costs have to be covered, but if you use them as your basis for prices, you're flying blind. There's no reason to expect that you can set prices for anything at cost what you want as profit. You can try it: If it works, it's luck and coincidence. (And the majority of restaurants, which as I pointed out fail, show the error of thinking that you can simply price profit in. Failed restaurants all charged less than their costs, even when they thought they were pricing profit in.) Pricing below the market rate will result in excess demand, and shortages. You'll find that this increases costs. In short, you need to try to make a profit, not "operate at cost."
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 25, 2009

Full disclosure I am a capitalist.

“The only difference between Cheapatopia and capitalism in general is that capitalism has inefficiencies that don't benefit anyone.”

That is big over generalization. Let me make one that is a little less overstated but I believe is true: Capitalism’s inefficiencies are better than the efficiencies and inefficiencies of alternative systems.

“seven parked cars, each of them requiring auto insurance, and none of them being used.”

This is priced into the risk or probability of a payout by the insurance companies. When a better risk model is developed we would have better micro equity based on actual cost vs. claims.

“And every home in my neighborhood has poor roof insulation because there was no market pressure on the developer to do better.”

This is only partially true. Most likely the roofs were constructed when fuel was cheaper and insulating was more expensive. The "model" was better at the time but has changed since those houses were built. Market pressure could have made the system worse at the time. If more people had wanted insulation the price would go up. If less energy was used the price would go down.

“Cheapatopia aims to fix the low hanging fruit.” Bravo! Let the data drive the design! :)

Your social model may work or not. In my opinion you need to let it grow organically. You can seed it many different ways and you can maintain ti many different ways, but you will then observe the system evolve into islands of equilibrium independent of the starting conditions. This will be what I think you are after, Scott--what rules and opportunities need to be in place to achieve a desired outcome?

A case in point…A university was deciding where to place walkways on campus. The project manager decided first to seed major areas with grass. They built the stone paths on top of the trampled paths in the grass. Let the system design itself as much as possible.
Jul 23, 2009
lookup http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kibbutz

About 1 in 100 of these actually pulls it off. I grew up in one that didn't though...
Jul 22, 2009
The reason our cars require insurance is more about how the government is more socialist, the 'nanny state'. The government made it so it was harder to refuse service to people, even if they would kill themselves or others. So, then the government tried making insurance mandatory, so people hit by the not refused idiots would not suffer the bill for money. They need to try capitalism instead of blaming it instead of socialism. Our economy fell when Pres. FDR tried more socialism, and when Pres. Reagan did capitalism, we prospered. As proved by bailouts, higher taxes, Cap and Trade, and the new health care plan, we have abandoned capitalism.
Jul 22, 2009
Star Island resort is opening this year in the Bahamas and is supposed to be a "Green" resort with "Cheapatopiaish" ideas in the construction. Maybe Cheapatopia could start out as a vacation timeshare!

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Jul 22, 2009
Living in a college dorm was one of my most fun experiences. But the second year in a different I didn't know anybody so I didn't socialize as much.
Jul 22, 2009
Typical Newspaper Articles In Cheapatopia:
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Jul 22, 2009
I think you should make this community a 65-plus age restriction.

And build it on an ice floe.

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Jul 22, 2009
Full text at http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Looking_Backward_From_2000_to_1887
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Jul 22, 2009
See also "Looking Backwards" by Edward Ballemy in 1888. It descibs a similar socialist utopia set in the year 2000. Everyone lives like landed gentry, but no-one cleans the toilets.


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Jul 22, 2009
I lived in a place like this once. The living area was somewhat communual, but we all had our own space. Childcare wasn't a problem, the kids ran in a big pack and everyone looked after them. Food was provided at a communual kitchen and we were expected to take a share of preparing and serving, but no-one really minded if we didn't. Transportation was free, you'd just hop on a train headed in the right direction. People didn't need dedicated exercise facilities because it was a car-free, low carbon community, everyon used the two legs that god gave us. I worked as a freelance recyler, amalgamating recylables from the surrounding communities, and transporting to central collection facilities.

Of course, some people would call that living under an overpass, eating at a soup kitchen, riding the rails and collecting cans, but you call it Cheaptopia.

Money is the root of all good.

Jul 22, 2009
Now we see an issue - No smoking, no fast food - all of a sudden the floodgates open to puritanical attitudes and nosiness. Have you done your 5-mile run this morning? Have you been listening to a type of music or reading a type of novel likely to induce negative emotions? As cheapatopia is opt-in, I guess nobody will live in a state of suppression, but the price for living in cheapatopia seems to be sharing your town with prissy, self-regarding, joyless busybodies concerned with how what you do affects the town's insurance premiums.
Jul 21, 2009
TreeRol, seriously? The public health system is paid with taxes, and doesn't have to be profitable, or efficient, because the government will take what it needs and you can't vote by stopping payment. A company that has o compete against without free tax dollars is simply going to fail. If you think that's capitalism you ARE drinking the kool aid. I'll tell you what - you want capitalism? Have it work like the post office, where it has to pay for itself entirely out of its earnings.

As for ctopia, Scott you keep arguing that its not a socialist group or a commune, but I don't think anybody here seems to think it is.

The ideas that you have mentioned about inefficiencies are the actual gems in the discussion (like car sharing or a system of babysitter swapping). I'd stick with those and throw out the communal dining.
Jul 21, 2009
If it didn't before, it now certainly smacks of socialism. Nothing wrong with that per se. But just so. Also, the moment you think that some "administrators"/"negotiators" can do better than a lot of people bickering with individual service providers, you are digging yourself into a trap.. the old socialist trap i.e. Also, it is hard if not downright impossible for a small group of individuals to make decisions about the million nuances about a fully-functional lifestyle. Living in a dorm is extremely dysfunctional in a lot of ways and that is precisely because of an attempt to straight-jacket individual choice into a common decision about "what you can eat", "which phone you use" etc.

Sure, if there are several cheapatopias and one also has a choice to live in the "regular capitalistic world", they can "vote with their feet" by choosing to live in this or that cheapatopia... perhaps because one of them serves Kool Aid in the cafeteria (charlesfunnish). But in general, you start making choices about what people eat and it all falls apart.
Jul 21, 2009
I don't know why but the collective buying doesn't work very well for colleges. The food and the living space were both worse values than I could find outside the college.
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 21, 2009
Actually, I love the idea of stopping by the community dining hall and picking up food that someone else has cooked - if it is healthy food and the price is the same or less than cooking at home. I recall visiting a friend in Thailand years ago. When it was time for dinner, she took several containers across the street to the market and came back with an excellent meal. This was how she "cooked" every night.

You just need to keep it a cash-based system. Communes fall apart because everyone is "required" to put in a certain number of hours on the communal farm- in exchange for food. If no one in Cheapatopia choses to grow food (and sell it to the dining hall), you buy it elsewhere. I'm guessing a number of residents would want to do so - but it has to be completely optional. Working in the dining hall would also need to be paid employment. You need good leadership to make it all work, of course - but if everything is cash-based, the system succeeds or fails on its merits.

Biggest problem I would foresee? Bored retirees used to running their own businesses or business departments who find no great purpose in life than making things run more "efficiently". They are the bane of condo associations everywhere - making huge deals out of small issues - because they don't have anything better to do.
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 21, 2009
Why did you stop asking reders questions? This has suddenly become Scottatopia, where you tell us how the city will be and we only thumbs up or argue. And why are you assuming that people, even determined people with principals, can be perfect? I expected more from someone who makes a living making fun of corruption, greed, and basic human nature. Or maybe you've outscourced your strip to Elbonia and dedicated your life to the destruction of all meat products and disfunctional Utopias.
Jul 21, 2009
Do you know how much gets wasted at all you can eat buffets?

I have worked in multiple banquet halls doing weddings, meetings, conventions, and whatnot. And these were private establishments trying to make a profit. If the government was running it, the waste would be phenomonal.

I've also eaten in college dining halls at 2 different schools not long ago. Maybe the memory has worn off on all of you but they really are awful especially when you eat every meal there.

The simple truth is this. The more people you are cooking for, the more you're food tastes like garbage. End of Story.
Jul 21, 2009
People keep calling it socialist. I disagree: its much closer to Henry Ford fascism.
Search "Fordlandia". Lots of similar principles, Cheapatopia is more efficient, with less pitfalls. Make sure you have the right people running it and it could work.
Jul 21, 2009
I think that junk food and smoking should be allowed. That way, we could get rid of smokers and junk-food-eaters darwin style. By doing that, in the end, we could still have good health care costs because the self-destructive would no longer exist and we would also have a slightly less poluted gene pool.
For the same reasons, suicide should be legal in cheapatopia. However to save money, we should encourage the suicidal to die in a way that leaves their organs intact, so that we have spare parts.
However, if you do things that are self-destructive, but also harm others, such as smoking and storing radioactive waste in your home, you should have to compensate for it by influencing society in a positive way, such as generating power, "see my post on the karma points system and power sources."
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