In Time-Based Economies, All Labor Is...
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Allen Butcher
In Time-Based Economies, All Labor Is Valued Equally
Stream 2: Labor and care
Labor as a commons

The attached document presents the basic theory of time-based economies, as I hope to present at the conference, probably in the location called the, “Speakers Corner.”  I will bring copies of the attached document as a handout.  I also have much more written about time-based economies at:

This document is intended as material for debate in the Labor Stream.  There are a couple different issues to be discussed with regard to viewing “time-based economies” as relevant and useful to the issue of labor/work as a form of commons.

  • Is it correct to define the “labor commons” as being that all such commons labor is valued equally? The thought is that in the monetary economy labor is compensated differentially, which is to say, people get paid different amounts for different types of work, for example doctors versus janitors. In time-based economies, no one is “paid” for any kind of work/labor, and therefore all labor/work is valued equally.
  • Is it correct to say that all work done in the “labor commons” is done without payment in the form of money? Or can some kinds of work in the “labor commons” receive monetary compensation?
  • Are “labor” and “work” the same thing? Some people seem to want to have “labor” refer only to what is compensated with money, while “work” is not compensated for with money. Or that “labor” is outside the home or domestic sphere, while “work” is in the home or the domestic sphere. Generally, “labor” and “work” can be defined as the same thing, as synonyms. I think that if the two are intended to mean different things, a modifying word needs to be added. Such as “income work” or “income labor” and “domestic work” or “domestic labor.”

These three questions I ask in order to understand whether and how the theory I have developed for explaining labor/work in intentional communities fits into the Labor Stream.

  1. 4th question: As I understand the concept “whole of work,” I believe that the intent is to integrate both paid income labor and un-paid domestic labor into one comprehensive system. This is done in time-based economies, which I explain on the last page of the file titled, “Alive” which you may download. In this example called, “Essential Aspects of the Twin Oaks Vacation-Credit Labor System,” there is no distinction between, for example, chidcare and financial accounting, or doctor and janitor, as far as compensation is concerned. The result of this is of course the “communal” economy.

    So there exists a good model for doing what I think “whole of work” means. Yet there are things about communal systems in general that may not make this the kind of model that people may want. Which is that there is no private property in a communal economy. (The idea of “variable credit” in the communal economy has been tried, and abandoned as bringing with it similar problems as found in the monetary economy.)

    If the goal is for women (and men) doing domestic work to be paid for that work, then we have simply brought the monetary system and its labor market into the home, enabling it now to commodify work in the home, making it part of the forprofit economy.

    Here are the choices as I see them: either we pay for domestic labor, removing it from the economic commons, or we separate domestic labor from the monetary system and make it part of the economic commons.

    Within the economic commons there are three forms of time-based economies. I explain those in the document titled, “ALIVE,” so please consult that PDF for more information.

  2. The idea that everyone’s time is of equal value has the same attractions and the same difficulties as the idea from which it descends: that people are equal. The US Declaration of Independence sidestepped certain issues with the formula “all men are created equal”. Thus equality was limited to males at the time of their creation (conception, birth, or perhaps it applies only to the original man in the Garden of Eden). In any case it has come to mean civic equality under the law, however imperfectly implemented. But we still have class and status distinctions, and things like celebrities, billionaires, and homeless people. So can we make time more equal than we have made people? One idea that may have some practical value is the separation of a person’s time (labor) from the products of that time (fruits of labor). Every person’s time might have the same value, but the products of that time could be valued according to other standards. The problem is separating the two. And do we only count time “worked” as opposed to “idle” time? How can we define “work” in a fair and impartial way? One way to pay everyone an equal amount for their time, regardless of the relative value of their productivity, is just to send each person an equal check each month. This is essentially the basic income idea, and I’m all in favor of it (which is more than I can say for finding economic solutions in the past or in magic ).

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