TOP 2015-11-25

Advantages of a Natural Economy

For a more complete description of how a natural economy works, see my articles on the Voluntarised Commons Economy or The Free Federation. This article focuses on what advantages the proposed system brings.

A natural economy (also called communism, anarchism) is first and foremost supposed to solve the most pressing systemic problems with our current capitalist system: poverty, climate change and other ecological problems caused by overuse and misuse of natural resources, the energy and resource crises, and economic and financial crisis. There are other systemic issues we face such as sexism, racism and other kinds of prejudice and oppression of groups - but I won’t be addressing them directly in this essay.

Developing countries find it difficult to develop because in capitalism this requires a significant capital investment, but capital can generally only be invested where there is an expectation of profit. But poor people with no resources are not profitable. A natural economy solves this because it does not depend on capital investments to develop the economy - it only requires labour. For this to work, the means of production have to be removed from private ownership and entrusted to the people who need them.

Poverty within developed countries is also a widespread problem. This is eliminated in a natural economy because unemployment is eliminated: labour is shared out so that everyone has something to do. Moreover, since the means of production are shared among those who need them, there is no concentration of wealth in the hands of property owners, and hence no relative poverty.

The solution to the ecological and financial issues will become clear shortly.

The Three Revolutions

A natural economy has undergone not one but two separate revolutions - demonetisation and democratisation - with a third revolution then an optional, but compelling, possibility - voluntarisation. Demonetisation is the abolition of capital and money; democratisation is the abolition of the state and hierarchy; voluntarisation is the abolition of all compulsion.


The abolition of money, exchange and private property is central to a natural economy. They are replaced with labour contributions.

In addition to being the crucial factor that allows us to eradicate poverty, a demonetised society has the following advantages:


A natural economy also revolutionises property relationships and political power. Private property is replaced with usufruct (possession defined by need or use) while authoritarian power is replaced with participative democracy and so-called ‘do-ocracy’. (A ‘do-ocracy’ is a system where individuals make decisions for themselves without needing nor asking for permission, with the proviso that the community can reverse a decision that affects them by their own direct action.)

While private property imposes ownership over the existing need/usage relations (Person A owns but does not live in my house; person B owns but does not work in my factory), possession/usufruct is derived from them, so that they coincide. That is why I call it the ‘natural’ system. ‘The people who need’ the means of production are the consumers; ‘the people who use them’ are the workers.

While authoritarian power imposes control over people’s behaviour and their life choices, natural decision-making merely reflects the decisions made by people naturally about their own individual and collective lives. Decisions are made by those affected: nobody who is not affected by a decision (e.g. the king) is allowed to interfere, while anybody who is affected by the decision must be included in it.

Democratisation is the revolution by which workers take control of their own work, citizens take control of their own community, teachers and students take control of their own schools, residents take control of their dwellings, and individuals take control of their own lives. An individual decision is made by the individual alone, but as soon as the decision affects somebody else, they must be included in it.

Democratisation works in tandem with demonetisation to allow a true and sustainable solution to the ecological and resource crises we face. Natural resources are re-entrusted to the commons, so that the community - not profit-hungry companies - decide on how they may be used. Thanks to demonetisation, there are no vested interests interfering with the exercise of this right. The lack of a growth imperative and instead the natural tendency to eliminate unnecessary labour allows society to shrink the economy within ecological limits without affecting the stability of the economic system itself. The democratic structures allow ecological considerations to be included in all decisions.

Aside from the ecological considerations, democratisation also implies that workers, since they are now in control of their own workplaces, will choose to make them safe and comfortable environments in which to work, and will not impose onerous working conditions on themselves. Though this depends on their ability to co-operate with each other, it is nevertheless motivated by everyone’s enlightened self-interest both as individuals and collectively. Again, demonetisation is necessary to prevent the profit motive from forcing the workers’ hands, since in a market economy it would be necessary to cut costs in order to compete, even if this has to be democratically approved.

As the discussion shows, demonetisation and democratisation are logically separate but really belong together, and their full advantages can only be realised in tandem. Many people argue for democratisation without demonetisation, and such systems can be labelled as ‘mutualist’ or ‘market socialist’. Such systems, however, would not reap the benefits of demonetisation elucidated above[2].


As I explain in The Free Federation, removing the requirement to contribute labour is a realistic and potentially advantageous goal. It gives people more liberty to make decisions based on their own personal requirements. People who are in a grey area of fitness can decide how much they wish to contribute and where. Parents can decide on the length of parental leave they find most appropriate. You can decide when in your life you want to start work. The elderly can retire at a time most convenient for their personal wishes and ability. And yes, lazy people with no interest in working at all can get away with doing nothing.

The reason why this is still a reasonable system is - firstly, that there is even less labour to do in a voluntarised system, because people no longer need to decide on exemptions criteria and enforce them; secondly, most people would be bored if they had no meaningful projects to work on, and not everyone is in the mood for endless partying and adventure.

But neither is the system so care-free as to allow people to flit from whim to whim with no sense of responsibility. Though you choose your own work and your own working time, you also commit yourself to contribute what you said you would contribute, and you must contribute a share of the total required labour. Projects will know how much labour needs to be done - in most cases they will still need to count the hours unfortunately - and the project members must co-operate to share this labour amongst the contributors. So it is not just a one-way conversation. If the labour burden is too high, then the rate of production can be lowered until new volunteers can be found.

In such a system, comfortable working conditions would be even more important. Under-employment would be more common, but the flipside is that recruitment would be even smoother - no talent could be wasted, no willing volunteer could be turned away without a very good reason, and it would be even more important to hold on to your fellow contributors: it would again be against your enlightened self-interest to be abusive, ungrateful or even indifferent towards them, because no matter how small their contribution, it helps to get the job done faster.

Increased Leisure Time

At the turn of the 20th century Kropotkin believed that four or five hours a day would be sufficient in a Socialist economic system, and he assumed that this figure would be constantly decreasing as technology improved. Indeed, technology has improved, but consumption has also increased and there is a greater range of products that people expect to have.

I think there is still good reason to think that replacing capitalism will give us more leisure time, even though I cannot yet prove it mathematically. There are in fact tendencies in a natural economy which lead to an increased workload, as well as those that lead to a decreased workload. Overall, I believe there would be a net gain in leisure time, i.e. a net decrease in working time.

These tendencies lead to a decreased workload:

The following are tendencies leading to an increased workload in a natural economy:

  1. In a democratised system the very concept of ‘employment’ is eliminated, since it implies a hierarchy between employer and employed. Hence I use the word ‘employment’ to mean the state when people are contributing to social production. Unemployment implies that people want to contribute but are unable to find somewhere to contribute. It does not include people who are exempt from contributing or the people in voluntary systems who choose to not contribute. It is possible for people to be temporarily unable to find somewhere to contribute in their local area, possibly because skills are required that the person doesn’t have. However, they can travel anywhere and can be accepted into any job that they are qualified for. There doesn’t necessarily need to be a ‘vacancy’. The precise details are complex and are explained in The Free Federation.  ↩

  2. The converse, demonetisation without democratisation, is a system I have not seen anybody advocating. Whilst I can imagine what it would be like, it is really not worth arguing for, since the two revolutions belong together.  ↩