Designed to Meet Needs

October 25, 2011 | 29 comments
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(This is the third part in a series about my vision for a community. Here’s Part One and Part Two.)

Time to look at distribution of labor, education and job skills, and self-determination.

Like I said previously, I’m targeting a $1,000-per-month lifestyle that covers food and housing for a family. In practice, the way I imagine implementing it is with a three-tier system:

  • Tier 1: $2,000/month
  • Tier 2: $1,000/month + part-time community maintenance
  • Tier 3: $0/month + full-time community employment

Each tier is designed to meet a different individual need. Tier 1 is for people who have money and/or good employment, and who just want to escape from the mundane responsibilities of life. They’d have their meals, laundry, grounds maintenance, etc. taken care of. Kind of a sustainably affordable vacation resort, albeit in a shed-cabin.

Tier 2 is for people who want to make enough money to support a family while doing work that they love. In Alison’s words, they are the one’s who want to spend their time “painting sunsets”…or running a dance studio, or writing novels, or throwing pottery, or researching and publishing on obscure academic topics. The idea is that you might not be able to make enough money doing that to support a family in a conventional modern American lifestyle, but you could probably pull it off here.

The trade-off is spending some number of hours each week (probably in the 10 to 20 range) doing the work that makes the community function, i.e. the meals, laundry, grounds maintenance, etc. that the Tier 1 group is paying not to do.

Tier 3 is for people who want to build job skills or get work experience for a resume. In addition to the part-time community maintenance that the Tier 2 people are working on, there are full-time jobs that need to be taken care of — things like running community finances or marketing or administration and management.

The key idea here is that this structure flips the traditional job hierarchy in Tiers 2 & 3, which provides an alternative path to employment for the unemployed and under-employed.

Our job market is currently structured in a Catch-22 loop: to get a career job you need work experience, and to get work experience you need a career job. The way many people break into this loop is through personal connections. My first internship as a computer programmer happened with the help of a family member. My first non-internship position as a computer programmer came through an acquaintance at church.

Since then I’ve obtained several jobs on the merit of my work history alone, but I probably wouldn’t have gotten into the loop without that initial help from personal connections. The problem is, how do people who don’t have those kinds of connections get into the loop?

Conventionally, they don’t. The USA provides relatively poor career opportunities for the poor and uneducated. So we have a stratified system where the people at the bottom only have access to dead-end jobs — work that won’t lead to the sort of stable, well-paying middle-class career employment.

My second and third tiers flip that equation. The third tier gets specialized work opportunities while the second tier performs the community labor that we traditionally associate with the poor and uneducated. What the second tier people get out of it is free time and the opportunity to pursue their interests rather than be stuck in well-paying careers they don’t have any passion for, while the third tier gets an entryway into the middle-class economy.

29 Responses to Designed to Meet Needs

  1. Alison Moore Smith on October 25, 2011 at 2:35 am

    Very nteresting ideas, Dane. Fun to see your plan being fleshed out. :)

    I have to ask, what is a “dead-end job”? My first paying jobs were farm labor, baby sitting, house cleaning, laundry, lawn mowing, fast food, and dish room. Not one of them led to a dead end.

  2. Rameumptom on October 25, 2011 at 7:59 am

    Interesting ideas, Dane. I would ask how you would prevent the jobs from becoming “dead end”? Many societies have attempted to manage work through 5 year plans, etc., and each one ends up being inefficient, ineffective, or sometimes even meaningless.

    How would you ensure those in Tier 2 or 3 were actually working, versus just putting in the hours? And how would you ensure that innovation occurred, as your system may preclude the desire of doing more than just to maintain?

    For example, if all people can ever expect to have is a cabin to dwell in, what becomes the incentive to make things better or improve things? One achieves a stasis that hopefully would manage a simple and possibly comfortable life for all, but is it really guaranteed? What of the family with 8 kids? How do they fit into a small cabin? What of those who desire a little more comfort and space? What incentive would there be for people to live there outside of being an inexpensive retirement community?

  3. Dane Laverty on October 25, 2011 at 9:52 am

    Alison, I’d love to hear your stories of how those jobs turned out to be non-dead-end jobs for you. I’m very open to the idea that I’ve just misjudged how job progress occurs. My personal experience is limited to my own time spent with computer programming.

    Rameumptom, I forgot to clarify a couple of important points that you bring up. First, I don’t see all three tiers as necessarily long-term residents. I imagine that most people joining the community in Tier 3 would do so with the intention of staying long enough to get some skills and work experience, and then move on to a more conventional work/life situation elsewhere.

    As for incentive, there’s no reason that people couldn’t improve on the property they have. Your family with 8 kids would probably want to expand into four separate, colocated cabins. And, of course, people can make improvements on their space as they see fit. The basic cabin is just an affordable starting point.

  4. Jax on October 25, 2011 at 10:03 am

    I’m one of those families with lots of kids (6 and wife wants 2 more)… so cabins don’t work for us. But changing the housing unit doesn’t change the effectiveness of what he is trying to put down on paper (pixels?) here.

    I don’t think there are “dead end” jobs… they all give experience, much like trials and the gaping mouth of hell can be for our good, so can any job that either needs to be done, or that we decide to do anyway. Brigham Young thought that if a community came together to share work, doing away with ‘waste’ like Dane has said, that about 4 hours/day from each person would suffice. I doubt that was a ‘revealed’ number, but garnered from his own vast experience and knowledge.

    So if the work of gardening, fencing, animal care, yard work, laundry, cooking, cleaning…. are all done for 4 hours a day then what each person does after that is what makes them happy and won’t be a “dead end” for them. Some will want to spend that time cooking, or dancing, painting, learning an instrument, building something (car, house, computer,etc), learning a language, studying history, playing sports/exercising, and of course missionary work and gospel study; hopefully the one thing that would be minimized in Dane’s “Zion-like” community is TV/Movies/Video Games… I imagine in a Zion that people get out and make their own lives great, rather than watch other people actually doing it! Some might call running a dance studio “dead end” because you won’t get rich… but if the necessities are taken care of then finding personal fulfillment and joy ARE the purpose of our lives… let each do that in their own way.

  5. Dane Laverty on October 25, 2011 at 11:24 am

    Jax, I think you’re picking up what I’m laying down :) The only point I’d take exception with is the TV/movies/video games part. That’s the level of social engineering I want to avoid (and that I think causes intentional communities to collapse). This community isn’t intended to encourage or discourage any particular kinds of behavior. It’s just intended to provide an additional housing option to the current conventional array of options.

  6. Alison Moore Smith on October 25, 2011 at 2:05 pm

    I’d love to hear your stories of how those jobs turned out to be non-dead-end jobs for you.

    Dane, it’s hard for me to answer, because I honestly do not understand how they could be. Your address exactly what I’m talking about later in the same comment:

    I imagine that most people joining the community in Tier 3 would do so with the intention of staying long enough to get some skills and work experience, and then move on to a more conventional work/life situation elsewhere.

    No, I did not want to pick fruits and vegetables for the rest of my life. But it was a job. I earned some money, gained skills, learned to work (hard), became more disciplined (getting up at about 4:00 am and working until I just about dropped dead), made a positive impression on my bosses (and earned recommendations), got something to put on my resume instead of a great big nothing, etc., etc.

    That’s not remotely a “dead-end.” It’s a great start to getting where I wanted to go.

    Similarly, when I began babysitting, it was very hard. First, my sister was the favorite and four years older. Second, I didn’t have “younger sibling” experience, so I had no easy way to “break in.” Third, there was a lot of competition with teenage girls who wanted the few jobs in my aging area.

    So, I typed up a resume and passed it around. First, I started out as a backup when someone’s “real” babysitter couldn’t come. But I turned into the “regular” for about 95% of those I babysat for. Why? I worked my backside off.

    I brought activities and fun things for the kids to do. I actually cared for them instead of just watching TV, talking on the phone, or raiding the fridge. (OK, sometimes I raided the fridge, if they said it was OK.) And when the parents came home, the kids were fed, bathed, and in bed. And the house was spotless. As soon as the kids were in bed, I did dishes (including those left behind by the parents). I cleaned the kitchens and mopped the floors. I dusted and vacuumed the public rooms. I cleaned bathrooms. The house was literally sparkling clean. And I did it for 50¢ an hour, often with lots of kids. (Except Masons, they paid me 75¢ an hour and only had ONE son for me to babysit. Woot!)

    And I babysat (and cleaned) for free when people had church meetings and/or temple trips or something — which generated a lot of goodwill.

    I had more babysitting jobs than I could handle and could even afford to refuse the family who had five little kids and wouldn’t pay more than 35¢ an hour. :)

    We hired lots of babysitters back in the day — and always paid a couple of dollars per hour more than the going rate — and never once did any of them clean the house. If they cleaned up the mess they made, we were lucky. (We had one babysitter who ate all the party favors for my daughter’s birthday party — from a secondary fridge in the garage.)

    When I cleaned houses, I did an impeccable job (thanks, Mom) and took criticism well. (Mostly. :) )

    When I did laundry and ironing, my shirts met the standards of a military family. (My first client thought it was funny — I did not — that when she married and did the first load of her husband’s military shirts, he came home and dumped them all in the hamper and claimed them “unfit.” Ugh. But my shirts were never dumped in their hamper.)

    I didn’t even mention some of the other jobs I did, like landscaping and weeding and fence painting/staining. My husband has a similar list of jobs, including construction, farm labor, oil rigging, bagging groceries, door-to-door sales. All good job starts.

    Other than those benefits mentioned above, having jobs you don’t love can motivate you to QUALIFY for jobs you do love.

    The main reason we don’t pay for all our kids’ college educations (we have one graduate student and two undergrads) is because we highly value the lessons of work and earning those things you receive. (Two of them are working fast food right now. The other has worked her way up to a great technical job.)

    Every time I see someone doing a “drudge” job, I am so proud of them. I don’t see any honest work as a “dead-end job.” It’s a first step on the way to living the life you want, whether that’s living a $1,000 communal life or something else.

  7. Adam Greenwood on October 25, 2011 at 5:24 pm

    Very intriguing. One thought is that you need a very big community to be able to provide meaningful full-time jobs in specialized areas.

    But to get to a big community, you probably need to start with a very small community and scale up. And, in fact, you may never quite scale up. Utopian communities tend to grow by spawning daughter communities, if they grow at all. In fact, the real challenge in utopian communities is just attracting replacement members.

    This is not to say that thinking through what a large experimental Zion could look like isn’t valuable. In the LDS context, such an exercise is an act of worship and reverence.

    But plans and purposes for a much more small-scale community–3 to 4 families, maybe–would have more potential.

  8. Adam Greenwood on October 25, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    Another way of putting my point is that you are telling yourself that you are just presenting another practical option further along the continuum from home to duplex to condo to apartment to assisted living facility to hotel. But I speculate that it would be difficult to overcome the inertia and the cultural barriers against it without some kind of animating vision–some intentional community element like Jax’s strictures against passive entertainment, so-called.

  9. Matt S. on October 25, 2011 at 7:29 pm

    I lived and worked at BYU’s Aspen Grove this summer and lived in a situation similar to the one you described. A bunch of us lived in tiny little A-frame cabins, had a common bathroom area, a common social area, and went to a dining hall for our meals. It was a lot of fun, and I would gladly go live there for another summer.

    But at the same time it was miserable. When you wake up in the middle of the night, you don’t want to have to walk 80 feet outside to get to the bathroom; you can imagine how annoying it would be in the winter, and how obnoxious it would be with kids. There was never any real privacy; the couple making out had just as much right to the couch and TV as those of us who only wanted to watch Harry Potters 1-7.1 over and over again. And never cooking our own food got really, really old — one of the first things I did after moving back down to Provo for school was binge on all of my favorite foods I didn’t have a chance to cook all summer.

    I’m not sure I’d like living like that permanently, especially if I had another option. Perhaps your living units could have a small bathroom attached? Though a private kitchenette would be nice, with a communal dining hall, a kitchen in the common area about the size of the kitchen in an LDS chapel would more than suffice (just in these ones you could actually cook, not just warm something up).

  10. Jax on October 25, 2011 at 7:31 pm

    Dane,

    I wasn’t suggesting social engineering, just giving my opinion that I would hope that people seeking after Zion would minimize those things in their lives. I wouldn’t suggest any group rules/suggestions for people to avoid them. But since I feel they are discouraged by the church anyway (Elder Bednar’s “Things As They Really Are” – I’d link it but don’t know how :)), I thought I could safely add them.

    As Adam points out, it would be hard to overcome the culture of ours that has them so fully integrated, but my “vision” of Zion has them in very limited roles – though not eliminated! I love documentaries, play games with the kids and occasionally the wife, and fighting an addiction to sports (that I’m not sure I want to win), and really enjoy a good movie to relax occasionally. But if you were to build a system requiring only 4hrs/day of work to provide everyone necessities, is it desirable that the other 12-14 waking hours are spent that way??? not in my opinion.

  11. TonyF on October 25, 2011 at 9:12 pm

    I love this string of articles, Dane. But I just can’t stop thinking about the pointed sandbag houses that you were so excited about a few years back???

  12. Cameron N on October 25, 2011 at 10:43 pm

    If we’re honest with ourselves, the US offers a great educational and career opportunity to the poor. Where they fall through the cracks is in parental selfishness, laziness, or ambivalence.

    That’s the part I love best about the law of consecration – it’s up to you to decide what you need and want and what you consecrate.

    I like this remark from Pres. Eyring’s talk on consecration and welfare from this past April: “His way of helping has at times been called living the law of consecration. In another period His way was called the united order. In our time it is called the Church welfare program. The names and the details of operation are changed to fit the needs and conditions of people. But always the Lord’s way to help those in temporal need requires people who out of love have consecrated themselves and what they have to God and to His work.”

    It will be interesting to see how the current arrangement changes during the millennium, and whether it changes much or very little.

  13. Dane Laverty on October 26, 2011 at 12:39 am

    Alison — I think we might be talking past each other by understanding the term “dead-end job” differently. For example, as I understood it, you said your babysitting wasn’t a dead-end job because you were able to work hard and build up a clientele. However, from my perspective it’s still a dead-end job because it doesn’t go anywhere other than more babysitting. I’m not denying that you were outstanding in the job — you certainly were; I’m just saying that job itself doesn’t have the capacity to take you into a position where you could support a family in a reasonably comfortable lifestyle. Obviously, you came to the same conclusion since you’ve long since switched professions. The point I was making about dead-end jobs in the article is that being an amazing janitor or framer or retail clerk doesn’t lead to the same opportunities that being an amazing accountant or nurse or engineer does, and that there are plenty of motivated, talented people out there who are stuck in the janitor circle, not because they lack the ability, but because they lack the connections to enter the accountant circle.

    Adam — it’s a chicken and egg problem. You’re right that it’s not an attractive model unless you have a lot of people in it, and I’m not going to get a lot of people in it until I have an attractive proposition. You’re also right that many intentional communities falter. Perhaps you’re right that the solution is to start with 3 or 4 families. But I’m more inclined to think that the solution is to refine the plan until I can present it in a way that can get the funding to build the fully functioning community. I know I’m not there yet; there are plenty of holes in the picture I’m describing. But I’m making progress, and I’m satisfied with that for now.

    Matt S. — your experience provides some great perspective into this kind of community. It’s not a perfect world. It will have its problems and inconveniences. I think the problem is that you’re comparing my proposed community’s weaknesses to the strengths of the conventional American lifestyle. However, the conventional American lifestyle has weaknesses too. No community is perfect, and I’ll probably get more mileage out of what I’m proposing if I write up a comparison showing where it shines in contrast to conventional American living. Nice, I think I know what post #4 will be about now :)

    Jax — I agree with you philosophically — I’m not saying that people should be spending 12 – 14 hours a day in front of screen media. I’m just saying that it’s not a choice that I want to be making for other people.

    TonyF — this is a direct outgrowth of those sandbag houses. For the rest of you, I used to envision a community build from “superadobe” houses (here’s the link, check it out — very cool stuff: http://calearth.org/building-designs/what-is-superadobe.html ). I played with the concept for a couple years and I still love the idea, but I think it’s not a very practical starting point. I can go to Lowe’s to buy one of my cabins tomorrow. I don’t know anything about building with sandbags.

    Cameron N — I disagree entirely. See the article I linked in my post ( http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/03/17/social-immobility-climbin_n_501788.html ). “If we’re honest with ourselves,” we’ll recognize that the USA doesn’t provide the same sort of opportunity to the poor that it did a few decades ago. But since we Americans like to tell ourselves that we live in the greatest country on Earth, I don’t expect we’ll be doing anything about it soon. Is the USA the greatest country in the world? I believe it is, and I count it a blessing to live here. However, that doesn’t mean we’re the best at everything. I hope we can be humble enough to acknowledge when other countries are doing things better than we are, and then try to follow their examples in those things.

  14. Cameron N on October 26, 2011 at 2:01 am

    “According to the OECD report, the main cause of social immobility is educational opportunity. It turns out that America’s public school system, rather than lifting children up, is instead holding them down.” I can’t argue with this, but I think we agree for different reasons.

    “One particularly effective way governments can help children from disadvantaged backgrounds improve their prospects, according to the report, is to increase the social mix within schools. Doing so “appears to boost performance of disadvantaged students without any apparent negative effects on overall performance.” Early childhood education also helps a lot.” So, parents need to be involved early in their child’s education, but I have no idea what ‘the social mix’ is. I’m all for recess though.

    “Another big factor in social mobility is inequality, the report finds. The greater a nation’s inequality, the harder it is for its children to improve their lot.” How so? How does a bazillionaire on wall-street inhibit my ability to go from poverty to middle class or millionaire? He does not ruin my free educational opportunity whatsoever if I work hard and do my best.

    “There are things governments can do to reduce inequality, the OECD points out. Progressive tax systems and social programs help reduce income inequalities between parents “so that their descendants’ income would converge more quickly.” We’ve had progressive taxes and social programs for a long time, it seems they have either done nothing to prevent the current situation or have helped to cause it. How does equalizing parental income dictate career and financial success for the child? One could be a lawyer or entrepreneur, the other could be ambition-less, get addicted to video games, and end up in a retail job.

    “Perhaps more realistically for this country, given the current political climate, higher short-term unemployment benefits can reduce the effect of socioeconomic background on student achievement, the reports says.” Economics has almost nothing to do with educational achievement, morals and culture do.I think you need to re-watch Stand and Deliver.

    “As for the report’s conclusions about the value of social mixing in schools, Orfield, a long time foe of school segregation, notes: “There has been such a relentless conservative attack on desegregation strategies, even those focusing on class,… that I think there has been very little discussion of peer group effects (except in college) for a long time. During that void, however, the research evidence has become much more powerful.” Students who can’t speak English or who are disruptive because their poor parents have not disciplined them should be segregated. It may not be their fault, but neither is it the fault of the other students in the classroom. Of course, if it wasn’t for these two issues there would be no resistance to desegregation whatsoever. But there is.

    “People need to understand that schools are basically students and teachers interacting together and that if you have classmates who know very little, you won’t learn from them, you may be distracted by them. And teachers teaching entire classes and schools with students who are not ready to learn at their grade level and require all kinds of individual tutoring will often leave as soon [as] they can so these schools get the least experienced and qualified teachers, which perpetuates the inequality.” This is why we show true love and hold kids back when they are not ready.

    The immobility is mostly perceived, because, of necessity, the democratic party survives by continually promising ‘solutions’ which only perpetuate immobility. You want immobility? Give someone 2 years unemployment, give someone free food, etc. No need for mobility when you can be stationary and get along decently.

    We live in the information age. Everyone can access the internet easily. Anyone who is motivated can learn for free without even stepping foot in a public classroom. Nothing can take away a poor person’s desire to learn, to survive, and to improve their situation. Nothing can prevent a poor child from getting good grades if they really want them. The problem is an internal collapse of parenting that no longer instills these values in children by example.

  15. Alison Moore Smith on October 26, 2011 at 5:33 am

    Another too-long comment. Last one. :)

    I think we might be talking past each other by understanding the term “dead-end job” differently.

    Actually, we don’t understand it differently at all. I just think the use of the term “dead-end job” to describe any honest work is misleading and harmful. :) And untrue.

    However, from my perspective it’s still a dead-end job because it doesn’t go anywhere other than more babysitting.

    Even accepting that (the idea that something is “dead-end” because the only direct path is more of the same) as some kind of meaningful endgame — which I don’t for the reasons I said above — I still disagree. It didn’t go anywhere other than more babysitting because I didn’t want to be in the babysitting business long-term. There are all sorts of entrepreneurial possibilities around child care (regular institutional child care, child care referral services, resort/specialty child care, etc.) that merely required growth and management. The wife of a high school friend of mine, for example, started as a nanny and ended up owning a number of Kindercare franchises. She didn’t come from money or privilege. She just worked really hard.

    In my case, my early jobs (such as babysitting and farm work) were stepping stones to get closer to the job I wanted in another industry. Still desirable movement with no “dead-end.” Some move within a company, some within an industry, and some cross all those boundaries. Movement is movement.

    I don’t see that as meaningfully different than a man I met last year who started as a stocker at a Walmart and is now a regional manager on the east coast. Or a ward member in Boca who started in the kitchen at Pizza Hut and is now a regional VP of the corporation. Or a friend who started sweeping floors at the foundry in Lehi (after a scout field trip) and now owns the place.

    Heck, one of my dearest, childhood friends worked her way through college and then up to editing the WordPerfect magazine. Then she took that expertise and her passion for scrapbooking — working from home, funded by a second mortgage — and founded what became the largest scrapbooking magazine in the world and a huge industry around it.

    Richard Paul Evans is a friend of mine. Came from absolute poverty and is now very successful.

    I love the story of Charles Payne. Grew up with a single mom in the ghetto. Wanted to be a businessman and was ridiculed because he got an old briefcase for Christmas (at his request). Joined the Air Force, attended Minot State College, joined EF Hutton, then started his own stock market research firm.

    Met Chris Gardener a couple of years ago (the Pursuit of Happyness guy). What a story. Look at Larry Miller.

    There are just too many stories to name. I mean, every single person reading your post has the luxury of having enough resources and free time to sit around reading blog posts!

    You start somewhere and learn the skills you need to move, step by step, to a better place. Whether it’s to another company or industry makes no difference. Just because you turn onto a different street, doesn’t necessarily mean you hit a dead end. :)

    I’m just saying that job itself doesn’t have the capacity to take you into a position where you could support a family in a reasonably comfortable lifestyle. Obviously, you came to the same conclusion since you’ve long since switched professions.

    Not true at all. I moved from those sectors because they didn’t interest me long-term. I can think of very few areas that don’t have potential to “support a family” — if that is your goal and if you’re willing to work. No, I didn’t support a family working at Burger King in college. But the day manager did. And the franchisee certainly did. And the company owners…

    The point I was making about dead-end jobs in the article is that being an amazing janitor or framer or retail clerk doesn’t lead to the same opportunities that being an amazing accountant or nurse or engineer does, and that there are plenty of motivated, talented people out there who are stuck in the janitor circle, not because they lack the ability, but because they lack the connections to enter the accountant circle.

    I have an acquaintance some of you might know. His name is Don Aslett. When he was a freshman in college (at BYU) he started cleaning houses to pay his tuition. He now owns a huge professional services company, has his own branded janitorial products (that I’ve been using for almost three decades), has written countless books (I’ve only read about 12), and speaks all over the place.

    I, on the other hand, am an accountant. (And, yes, I’m super amazing at it!)

    Let’s just say that Aslett “feeds his family” far better than I do. As a professional janitor. :)

    Dane, that’s why I think labeling honest work a “dead-end” is so wrong-headed. Rather than seeing the nearly limitless opportunities, people actually believe that they are helpless and hopeless, because they have to start at the “bottom.” To me that’s like telling someone they might as well stay home and not run the marathon — because they won’t go anywhere when they have to start at the starting line.

    We want our kids to start at the starting line — and actually force the issue — because we know where that can lead.

    My 8-year-old is planning how to start earning money. My 11-year-old mows lawns to pay for his things. My 14-year-old has done babysitting, shirt ironing, lawn mowing, sod laying, and had a small part in a movie (Jonah and the Great Fish — she’s the snotty “cheerleader #1″ in the middle at 1:41 — I’m so proud!) to pay for her clothes and activities. Dead end? No way.

    One of my college kids just got done assembling a large rush order of routers. It’s after 4:00 am. While all those people “without opportunities” were fast asleep, she was doing her homework — between pings.

  16. Chadwick on October 26, 2011 at 6:30 am

    Dane:

    Based on your definition to Alison of dead end jobs, it seems MOST jobs are dead end, if they only lead to more of the same. For example, I’m a CPA. I will probably ALWAYS be a CPA. But I don’t consider it a dead end job. The difference between staff accountant and Big Four partner, salary wise, is about 15 fold, not to mention that the job becomes more dynamic. But at the end of the day, it’s all accounting. Yet I doubt many would consider it dead end.

    I agree with Alison on this one. I think having an entrepreneurial spirit about any job can lead to greater things. At BYU, I took over-the-phone registration calls for EFY for nearly two years, a dreadful job, because apparently some people in the church tie their children’s EFY experience to their children’s ability to go on missions for example. And I had to answer all those calls about why their child didn’t get the session they wanted and how it was on my head if they didn’t serve a mission. But I digress. I answered those phones with enough finesse that I was promoted into the accounting department away from crazy people on the phone, which led to my career as a CPA, which led me to where I am today, making more than my parents ever did, and I’m only seven years into my career.

    In my opinion, a job is dead end if you treat it that way. Otherwise, it’s a stepping stone to better things. If you treat it that way.

    As far as lacking the connections to entering the accounting circles, whatever that means, it would be called going to University. No other requirement to enter the circle.

  17. Adam G. on October 26, 2011 at 8:04 am

    But I’m more inclined to think that the solution is to refine the plan until I can present it in a way that can get the funding to build the fully functioning community.

    Funding from whom? Are you conceiving this as some kind of profitable business venture?

    If so, that’s not crazy. There have been some highly successful high-end New Urban communities that made money by offering a more community-oriented living arrangement than most suburbs offer.

    But your project is several steps further along the communal living spectrum than New Urban living. So your market appeal is already extremely limited. But then you are deliberately making choices that completely eliminate the possibility of a market–outdoor bathrooms, insisting that the location be close to where you live now, very small living spaces where families sleeping arrangments are not actually physically connected to each other. If you want this to be a reality, eventually you have to stop dreaming about what you would like and start making trade-offs to appeal to what other people may like.

    There is nothing wrong with dreaming. Like I said earlier, thinking about Zion and planning a Zion community is devotional and an act of worship even if you make no effort to make it practical. I applaud this series of posts you have going on.

  18. Dane Laverty on October 26, 2011 at 10:09 am

    Cameron N — You’re responding to research with personal political ideologies. If you have any evidence showing that economic inequality, flat taxes, and scanty social programs don’t reduce a person’s opportunity for social mobility, I’m interested to see it.

    Alison & Chadwick — Hmmm…I think you’re convincing me. Thanks both for your deeper exploration of the topic. I’ll try and come back to this later when I have more time for writing a worthy response.

    Adam G. — Thanks for the applause :) You’re right that I’m putting myself into a business niche with all of my arbitrary restrictions, and I can accept that. My life is pretty good as it is. I live near my friends and family, I have a nice job, and I enjoy the location where I live. I don’t want to build the community just for the sake of building the community. I only want to do it if it really makes sense by making my already-good lifestyle into an even better one.

  19. Adam Greenwood on October 26, 2011 at 1:33 pm

    Fair enough, Dane L. I don’t see why a project to improve your lifestyle on the margins would be as intimately sacred to you as your first post implied, but I’m sure you do.

  20. Cameron Nielsen on October 26, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    @ Dane (18)

    No, I’m responding to research driven by political ideologies by saying, “we’ve been doing this for decades and the problem has worsened. Maybe this has helped cause it.”

    My point was that culture and morals promote education which promote wealth. To bastardize a church leader’s quote, “True doctrine, understood, changes financial prospects faster than a study of economics changes the situation.”

    Someone who’s dirt poor can still teach their kids to work hard and have a better life than they had themselves. The cause is moral erosion, not a lack of social programs.

  21. Dane Laverty on October 26, 2011 at 2:17 pm

    Adam, when you put it in that light, you’re right, it does seem odd. I’m not sure that I can articulate it myself. I think the best way I can describe it would be to compare it to musical virtuosity. It doesn’t take a lot of practice (relatively speaking) to become a decent pianist.

    If you spend 10 hours learning to play the piano, you’ll be a better pianist than 90% of the population. If you spend 100 hours, you’ll be a better pianist than 99% of the population, and so on.

    1,000 hours = better than 99.9%
    10,000 hours = better than 99.99%…

    You can argue the specific numbers, but the idea is improvement in the upper echelons is a lot of work for a not-very-discernable difference. Most people probably couldn’t judge the difference between Billy Joel (who is really a good pianist) and Vladimir Horowitz (who was one of the greatest pianists of his day). But I believe there’s a special transcendent value in pursuing that indiscernable difference.

    So what I’m saying is that I feel life has turned out quite well for me. In my scale above, I’m at the 99.9% level. But the quest for those additional steps in excellence — an extra 0.09%, and then 0.009%, and so on — is sacred to me. For me, life isn’t about getting to “good enough”. It’s the ongoing quest for going beyond “good enough” to the wondrous and sublime.

  22. Adam Greenwood on October 26, 2011 at 3:08 pm

    For me, life isn’t about getting to “good enough”. It’s the ongoing quest for going beyond “good enough” to the wondrous and sublime.

    And yet, I’m told, you suck at playing the piano.

  23. Dane Laverty on October 26, 2011 at 4:08 pm

    Be that as it may. There’s not enough time in life to be wondrous and sublime at everything :)

  24. Adam Greenwood on October 26, 2011 at 5:38 pm

    And so you must have some reason why you care about being wondrous and sublime at living arrangments (by your lights), such that you say you’re willing to work at adding an extra .009% to it, while not willing to get tot he 90% level in playing the piano. When you tease out that reason, your project will gain some of the coherence that–my opinion only–it currently lacks.

  25. Dane Laverty on October 27, 2011 at 9:46 am

    You’re right. Writing posts like this is my method for attempting to isolate that reason.

  26. Alison Moore Smith on October 27, 2011 at 10:34 am

    Dane, last night the boys and I were playing a “cooperative board game” that we checked out at the library, called “Community.” It reminded me of your post. Had to read you this “event card”:

    Some members doubt if the community is truly experiencing an attitude of “What can I do for others?”

    If more [bad feelings points], add 1 [bad feeling point}. if more [love], add 1 [love].

    The card fails to explain how doubting the community’s selflessness could result in more love, but I digress. :)

  27. Dane Laverty on October 27, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    Awesome Alison :) I’m guessing that the intent of the card is that self-reflection (“doubting” or questioning) can lead to increased commitment and improvement.

  28. Alison Moore Smith on October 28, 2011 at 12:45 am

    I think you give the authors too much credit, but I don’t have a better answer, so I’ll go with it. :) Oh, and here’s a gem from the directions. Mormons will love this:

    MEETINGS:
    This is the heart and soul of community life! Communities are strengthened, weakened, won, and lost at Meetings.

  29. Bob on October 28, 2011 at 3:37 am

    Alison Moore Smith:
    Meetings….That is a keeper! Thanks!

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