Wednesday, September 14, 2005

market socialist hippie commune in National Geographic

National Geographic magazine has a regular series where they look at a particular ZIP code area of the United States in each issue. In last month's (August 2005) issue, the feature was on the East Wind commune in Tecumseh, Missouri—a prototypical 1960s hippie commune that's lasted until today. While it's always nice to see the idealistic 1960s alternatives still around (for instance, contemporary alternative schools that began in the "free school" movement during the 1960s and early 1970s), it also happens to be an interesting example of market socialism in practice. While the work and resources within the commune are distributed collectively, the commune's revenue comes from the half-million dollars of annual profit which they obtain from a nut butter business. The article makes there out to be a sharp, ironic contrast between such market profitability and the socialist ideals of the commune—the name "East Wind" comes from a quotation by Mao Zedong—but from a market socialist point of view it can be seen as quite consistent. From that viewpoint, there is no need either to reject all communitarianism as rigidly autocratic and un-capitalist, or to dismiss the possibility of alternative structures that don't resemble a corporation thriving in the marketplace.

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