NEW πŸ“—Story: The Fountain ❌

A Social Economy

ō
ō
feature image
πŸ“‘Table of Contents

A Social Economy #

In Vekllei, the economy most people interact with is called the commons. In the commons, most people do not use money in everyday life, and they do things for intangible social reasons instead. This is called a social economy.

This project is grounded in the real world, and so it attempts to answer real-world questions without conceding to fantasy or trite concessions.1 This is an ongoing process, but this essay is an intro to how and why the Vekllei “moneyless economy” works.

Key Facts

  • I am aware of how outrageous the premise of a moneyless society is – taking it seriously and engaging with it is the joy of working on this project.
  • Vekllei people are not more altruistic, selfless or generous than your average person, but they do have strong social bonds and codependent communities compared to most urban societies.
  • They live lives that are materially poorer but socially richer, and have access to quality essential goods like housing, food, education and clothing.
  • Their society has social illnesses like any other, and its economy is imperfect and has gaps. This austerity is a characteristic of their lives and a concession of the commons system.
  • They work like all other people around the world, but their work is different. Many fewer Vekllei people are simply “cogs in a machine.”
  • While Vekllei people may not use money, the Vekllei government has revenues and expenditures, and its industry trades overseas. For more information on Vekllei use of money, visit the finance article.

Premise #

Imagine a society a little more advanced than our own, in which basic needs were provided for and money had no use. What would people do with their time, and how would they live their lives?

If you put aside your hesitations about the “moneyless” aspect of Vekllei and actually think how you spend your time, you might realise we already do a lot of work for no money at all.

  • For the things we own and the places we live, functioning adults spend a lot of time maintaining their things and cleaning.

  • For the relationships we have, we might do favours for friends or even volunteer our time or blood for the health of our communities.

  • For things we do to improve ourselves, some of us pay to study or exercise, which we understand benefit us in meaningful ways.

Obviously, this does not mean most people are going to go out and wait tables, manage team projects or work construction for free. Employment can suck for reasons we’re all aware of – bosses, coworkers, boring, tedious and hard work, commutes, and feelings of interchangeability and worthlessness. Most have things they’d rather do – sleep in, relax, socialise, travel or play video games.

By extension, any moneyless economy would be doomed to fail immediately on these grounds. But this also assumes that,

  1. work is the same
  2. it occupies the same role in people’s lives
  3. people in Vekllei think of work in this sense

This is where Vekllei distinguishes itself from employment overseas. Their required work is minimised by society at great expense, and the kinds of jobs people do are different to the kinds of jobs overseas. Their roles are both more important and less demanding, and employment has a huge social dynamic. Their jobs are important social indicators, and there’s a lot of diversity in the Vekllei market. Ambitious people have paths to power, but many people find work in their community.

Example

A good analogy for the broad Vekllei attitude towards work might be schooling. School can be boring, tedious or painful, but it can also be rewarding, engaging and social. We don’t get paid to go to school, because we have different motivations in attending.

In many places, school is compulsory, but it is also a recognised social good, and benefits us. While work in Vekllei is different in many aspects, their attitude towards it is often similar – rather than a net negative that demands a wage, work is often a means to further different ambitions or even just occupy time with friends.

The premise is that Vekllei is a place in which work is motivated by social rather than material factors. Taking that axiom as true for a minute, we can explore methods in which it might work.

What does a social economy look like? #

On the surface, Vekllei looks similar to our own societies – although rooted in a futuristic version of the 20th century. By this I mean people still go to work and school, and navigate lives of pleasure, love, boredom, tragedy and loneliness.

Life is not that different, but it is improved in ordinary and meaningful ways. They have fewer things, but much richer social bonds formed by codependence and favour. Their basic quality of life is mostly assured,2 and so their aspirations are rooted not in acquiring wealth but in more sophisticated motives, like curiosity, power, loyalty, gratification, boredom, spite, fear and pleasure.

If you assume “quality of life” refers to the material wealth of individual people, then Vekllei people are quite poor. But the absence of things is not simply a net negative; it can actually contribute positive aspects to people’s lives:

Example

Very few Vekllei people have televisions, which are common in wealthy countries in this world. But in the place of the convenience of a television are social ways of consuming news and entertainment, through cinemas, radio and newspapers. Maybe the clichΓ© of a generation raised by television has some truth to it.

And this is just poverty by the metric of a 1970s consumer society – forget about smartphones or the gig economy. They simply don’t exist in Vekllei’s world, which overall is more analog, inconvenient, rewarding and slow-paced. The absence of smartphones isn’t just backwardness, it allows for more sophisticated and social cultures.

You do not have to be a luddite to be unconvinced that consumer society actually uplifts souls. Given the choice, people will choose convenience almost every time, but that doesn’t mean the most convenient option is the most rewarding, or beneficial. In Vekllei, an alternative is demonstrated.

I have written previously about Vekllei’s economy having three principles:

  1. Austerity. Austerity lurks at the fringes of Vekllei life. For a lot of things, from furniture to houseplants, Vekllei people have to work hard to find and acquire them. This is called a trial of ownership,3 and it means they value things in a different way from people overseas, who can just purchase them provided they have the money. They have fewer things than most people, but most of what they own is of high quality.
  2. Apathy. Vekllei people have intangible rather than material ambitions, and seek abstract things like power, admiration and love. They do not live in a society where anyone can “strike it rich,” and so small businesses have very little opportunity for growth. Ambitious people generally end up in industry or government; everyone else just lives their lives as they see fit.
  3. Play. Vekllei people participate in work as a social ritual and act out roles in society, which is a kind of play. This play is productive and contributes to the economy, a fact that does not delegitimise its status as a social activity.

Why do they work? #

Because they have to, but also because there is only so much else to do.

Doing nothing feels great at first, but people are built for activity and if we don’t fill our time, most of us get bored quickly. Vekllei people don’t desire work, but lives feel empty without it. Keep in mind, of course, that work applies to all kinds of occupations, and not just the drudgery of waged labour.

Example

The lives of Vekllei people are not so different from other wealthy countries. They spend their childhoods in school figuring out what they’re going to do with their lives.

In modernity we have a framework for how we expect our lives to go – aspirations, jobs, family, friends, health, retirement. This exists in Vekllei too. For most people around the world, money is only a part of a rich life that includes many other aspirations, and in Vekllei all of these are still in place.

Consider how a lifetime without money affects expectations. There is no money-value of time and so it is not calculated (or even thought of) when considering employment. It is replaced by material pros and cons, which exist in moneyed markets already – things like interest in the job, work environment, perks, commute, opportunity and prestige. To make a job desirable, these things have to offset the actual work, as they do anywhere – minus the wage.

From the perspective of a waged society, removing the wage collapses most reasons for working – but Vekllei does not use money and consequently it is not even considered. This also means it cannot be incentivised in the same way, since basic standards of living are assured and laborious jobs are unattractive. The result is a system in which laborious, boring and tedious labour is basically nonexistent, and therefore cannot replicate the advantages of consumer societies – a world without factory labour, maids, and textile workers.4 In this society, work becomes an occupation, in the same sense as hobbies and social activities, and satisfies the basic need for “something to do.”

As such, it would be misleading to characterise Vekllei people as “working for free.” They are not working for free, they work for a myriad of social and material rewards, and are often incentivised by their own stake in a business or project. This means jobs in Vekllei are characterised by certain features:

Employment Characteristics of Vekllei

  • Personal investment: most employment requires personal investment, or a “stake” in the company. In some places, this is partial ownership, and in others it might be departmental or divisional leadership. In the local economy, almost all businesses and factories are worked by their owners.
  • Prestige: a social economy is not just abstract feelings of positivity; prestige is very important in Vekllei and there are material ways to demonstrate this. The use of architecture and infrastructure; the prevalence of uniforms and awards; the vertical design of industry; and above all pride as a cultural characteristic.
  • Social reward: adjacent to prestige is social reward. Commutes are short and most employment (especially in the local market) is deeply woven throughout communities. Workplaces are highly social in Vekllei, encouraged by frequent tea breaks and a lax work culture, and colleagues are often friends and/or romantically involved.
  • Material benefit: many Vekllei jobs have obvious material benefits. Most businesses come with housing attached, which may be desirable. Larger companies also take care of their employees through material conveniences, leveraging corporate perks to open up airline seats, tickets, private clubs and lounges, and specialty goods that can be traded or used.
  • A requirement to find work: all Vekllei people have to have an occupation, a simple requirement known as consosva. This equally applies to everyone. If everyone has an occupation, then you might as well try and find one that suits you.

Rather than “working for free,” in an altruistic sense of self-sacrifice, Vekllei people work for themselves, as they do overseas, for their own complicated reasons. The main distinction is that Vekllei people generally do not work to survive.

Who loses out? #

Vekllei has winners and losers, just like other countries. Social economies are still economies, and not everyone can be Prime Minister or an astronaut. Once you remove wealth as an indicator, and introduce a floor to the minimum standard of living, you become aware of how important social dimensions in our lives can be. No Vekllei people starve, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t losers. It also doesn’t mean people get what they want, or that they are holistically satisfied by their lives.

Let’s look at a few “losers” of the Vekllei economy:

Losers of the Vekllei Local Market

  • Consumer society: Vekllei does not have a consumer society. They have products produced reliably in a planned system, which limits variety, and the local market only makes up some of the shortfall. In a less beautiful or well-designed society, the Vekllei basic standard of living would be almost unbearable.
  • Luxuries: Vekllei luxuries are few and far-between. Vekllei of course does not have a middle class with disposable income, and so it can be very difficult to acquire things like organic meats, domestic appliances and foreign products. Urban Vekllei people do not generally own cars. In this sense, most wealthy countries have a far superior material standard of living by access to appliances and luxuries.
  • Upwards Mobility: it is easy to acquire and use power in Vekllei, but traditional avenues of economic growth are neutered. There is very little way for small businesses to expand, because labour is so expensive and irregular in Vekllei. A social economy means most businesses can only operate on a social scale – and consequently employ people they know.
  • Economic freedom: Vekllei people can start their own businesses and acquire power and influence, but they do not live in a consumer society and so have very few options for using that power for material benefit. Everyone has equal access to the same goods in the same department store. They live comfortable but austere lives, and do not engage with products in the same way foreigners do.

It should be clear that Vekllei is not a society for all types of people, and that ambitions of wealth are just incompatible with how things work there. The absence of a consumer society is not just a turn of phrase; it means essentially the absence of consumer products as a sociological phenomenon. They do not “consume” products as foreigners do, even though they use them. Objects are not reified; items are understood only in physical and social values. This produces a society with striking benefits but also strict limitations.

In wealthy countries, very few people starve to death. Do they seem that much happier for it? In place of the fear of starvation or war are a fresh deck of social diseases, spiritual poverty and collective insecurities. The same is true in Vekllei, where these issues are especially pronounced since they do not need to fight to survive.

How does it work? #

The Vekllei economy is extremely complicated, especially in urban areas, as a means of balancing and compensating the disadvantages of alienating urban life. This chapter will summarise the economy, but for further reading please explore the articles on this site.

Vekllei resembles a society with universal basic income (UBI), in which a basic standard of living is assured. Of course, unlike a system with UBI, they do not use money and so are motivated to work by other factors.

In place of a moneyed market, in which a consumer society is at the discretion of individuals, the essential products of Vekllei society are produced in the style of a planned economy, which is heavily computerised, centralised and manufactures essentials en masse. It has two basic parts:

  • Venrouive, the industrial economy. It produces houses, clothes, food staples, machinery, robotics, resources, and basic appliances to furnish a complete life.
  • Senrouive, the local economy. This is the free market of individual producers, craftsmen, artisans and artists, hobbyists and small co-operative enterprise, as well as small and medium-sized businesses.

Compared to the moneyed market, Vekllei’s economy appears wildly inefficient, which it is. While some products are overproduced and widely available, it can also be a pain to reliably access certain goods, especially foreign ones.

The advantage of the Vekllei economy is its public straightforwardness, which you can see in many aspects of society. Huge accounting overhead is reduced without cash transactions, and the accessibility of common spaces is greatly improved. There are small things, like the fact that there are no tickets in Vekllei for trains and trams, but also larger things too, like impulsive and spontaneous access to cinemas and cafΓ©s. There is no money-handling in the domestic economy and so these things are seamless and intuitive, benefits which should not be understated.

Vekllei government is relentlessly meritocratic and competent; the economy is wildly inefficient but its governance is highly pragmatic, focussed, and patriotic.5 It is a country of beautiful cities and endless drive to improve them. The basic standard of living is so high not because of products – Vekllei people are very poor in that aspect – but because of the places they live in. Buildings, products, machines and public spaces are well-designed, which is the supreme characteristic of Vekllei and is the primary contributor to their quality of life. All these things are accessible without caveats, and money does not complicate the immediate physicality and beauty of their surroundings.

A Pyramid of Bad Jobs #

There are a series of cascading solutions to the necessary but tedious, uncomfortable or boring work that antagonises the kind of casual self-interest Vekllei is built upon. Despite the fact that most don’t make wages, Vekllei people do not “work for free,” so to speak. If a job sucks:

  1. It is improved, through restructuring the work. People in Vekllei are generally given more responsibility and a stake in their work. This might be legal ownership, or the social motivators for work, like power, ambition, legacy or sociality are strengthened.
  2. It is rewarded, by “renting” desirable homes close to workplaces and offering “perks of the job,” like event tickets, improved access to travel and lounges, increased holiday time, or even tangible trade goods that can be bartered or exchanged.
  3. It is shared, by making everyone pitch in and reducing its overall burden. Community is important in Vekllei, and people work together to share jobs. Outside of simple robots, there are basically no professional cleaning staff in Vekllei, and even ministers in government wash their own dishes after a meeting. Maintenance and cleaning is part of their culture.
  4. It is automated, by the design of systems and the use of computers and robots. Rather than multiply productivity, automation in Vekllei subsidises work, and so is used in places that would be unjustifiable overseas, like cleaning and low-skill factory work. Robots in Vekllei’s world are very capable, but they can’t do every job.
  5. It is conscripted, through compulsory service. Some work is just too essential to the wellbeing of society to be left to the fickle market. Healthcare, defence and construction are the most commonly conscripted jobs in Vekllei.
  6. It is done without, and the job simply does not exist. Many parts of Vekllei society are poorer or less convenient than their overseas neighbours, since outside of compulsory service the government has no way to compel people to work bad jobs. This prevents Vekllei from becoming a consumer society.

Immigration & Emigration #

Why would the best and brightest of Vekllei tolerate a society with limited material compensation for their efforts? The answer is that truly gifted people are motivated by their work. Of course, this isn’t universally true, and there are people for whom wealth is the primary motivator of their lives, but they are fewer in number and easily accommodated overseas.

The spiteful answer is that those people aren’t needed or wanted, because anyone taking their discipline seriously is, for the most part, better off in Vekllei, where research is unbound by grant applications and industry leaders are afforded positions of great power. Many Vekllei people do emigrate and build careers overseas, but return later in life.

Vekllei homes are good, the climate is pleasant, their cities are beautiful, and the food has variety. For most people living there, this is enough.

Millions of Oslolans and others fled abroad after the Atomic War, and there is a large Vekllei disapora overseas. Since the end of British Occupation, however, Vekllei has received millions of immigrants, and the population has doubled since independence. Many of these migrants were motivated by ideological or material reasons, and many have a vested political interest in advancing their new home.

Vekllei after all is not just a state determined by culture and geography; it is in fact a sui generis union of communities, without precedent or comparison. This is politically exciting to many disaffected peoples worldwide in an age of decline and, assisted by generous century society laws, has inspired many to relocate there in the past 50 years.

Closing Summary #

This project is a work in progress, and so advancements are being made all the time in the specifics of how this society functions. I’m not just looking to appeal to broad sentiments; I want to address economic arguments, not merely in scientific terms but as they apply to Vekllei’s cultural and historical context.

On the other hand, it is also important not to use these cultural contexts as a crutch, and to insist that some unique altruism or generosity powers their society; it doesn’t. Worldbuilding projects are geeky and sometimes fantastical, but you can take those things seriously to demonstrate or advocate for deeper truths.

Advocating for moneylessness in Vekllei does not mean I think moneylessness is feasible in the real world. Simultaneously, thinking it is unfeasible in our own world doesn’t mean I don’t think it’s realistic in Vekllei’s context, or that I think of Vekllei as a fantasy society with no real insights. It is fictitious, yes, but it also advocates for real things, and while their society wholesale doesn’t apply to the real world, it does speak to real truths.

We might not be on the cusp of a moneyless society, but Vekllei also depicts a society in which commodification of life and leisure is nonexistent, and assured standards of living allow parts of society to prosper and contribute to the advancement of their world. They are not saturated with consumerism, and are not fanatically technocratic or historicist. They are proud, multicultural, and good-natured.

Moneylessness is at the centre of it all, and emphasises these things in money’s absence. That is the functionality of a social dream; to make us consider our present through depictions of beautiful things.


  1. A lot of fictional worlds attempts to balance “good” parts of a society with negative aspects, in a forced attempt to return to the centre and therefore force realism. This is not how the real world works, and so “good” aspects shouldn’t require “negative” credits to purchase. Vekllei society has imperfections and inequalities like all societies; that is different from forcing “downsides”. ↩︎

  2. The Vekllei quality-of-life looks like this: they own their homes, eat good but often synthetic food, have access to quality clothing, and live in exceptional cities administered by a strong culture of competence and responsibility. They are basically optimistic about the future and are grateful for the material improvements in their lives. ↩︎

  3. These ’trials’ indicate how effort in acquiring desired products or items increased reward and satisfaction. This is not a new idea; easy convenience strips out a lot of the satisfaction we get from planning, saving and finally acquiring. ↩︎

  4. Actually, all of these jobs exist in Vekllei in one form or another, but in general do not resemble their overseas counterparts. Factory labour in Vekllei is actually commonplace, but not in assembly-line work and heavily assisted by machines. In this sense, factory labour resembles engineering. ↩︎

  5. This concept is glossed over in this essay, but you should take it as fact for the purposes of this argument. Exactly why and how the Vekllei government works so well is the subject of existing and future articles, including The Post-War Consensus bulletin. ↩︎