Since theoretical and abstract explanations about the characteristics and possibilities of anarchist economics often remain vague, unclear, difficult to imagine and boring for some, I have put some ideas about anarchist economics into a short story here. The anarchist utopia is not dependent on everything being available in abundance.

Anarchist Economics in times of Scarcity

A Story to Stimulate the Imagination

20 years after the revolution and the start of serious action against the climate catastrophe, the region where Bo lived was still experiencing high temperatures and increasing water shortages. The regional assembly of delegates had classified drinking water as a scarce resource and recommended that consumption be better statistically recorded and reduced. Also, a drinking water coordination committee should be formed with a defined scope of action. After some discussions and improvements, the residents of the region agreed to these measures by a large consensus. Of course, the committee could be dissolved at any time if it did not adhere to the agreements or the conditions had changed.

Bo had been appointed to the new committee and was keen to take on the organizational challenge. Water meters on house distribution pipes had been repaired where necessary and monthly readings had been requested from the work coordination committee. No one had paid any attention to the water meters for a long time - after all, water, like everything else, was freely accessible and metering was therefore irrelevant. Public discussion of the issue, transparency of consumption and social pressure also played a role in reducing consumption. In some cases of excess consumption, Bo and Bo's colleagues called in the conflict committee to find agreements with all parties involved to reduce consumption. The common goal was to reduce drinking water consumption through various measures in such a way that it would not be necessary to switch from the usual needs based distribution to rationed distribution, which would be much more annoying.

Rainwater retention basins and unsealing were within the scope of action of the committee, which did not need any further decisions. Nevertheless, they were announced to the public a little in advance so that everyone could stop the process. This happened from time to time, but it was no big deal, as solutions could then be found in a joint discussion. Measures such as rainwater collection or wastewater treatment plants, which were more time- or material-intensive, required the broad agreement of everyone in the affected region before implementation. As not all construction ideas could be implemented due to limited time and energy resources as well as other scarce resources such as copper and tin, there had been an independent scientific analysis as well as a public discussion in various media about the different options.

After a short time, there was a broad consensus for the combination of a few water-saving drip irrigation systems for agricultural production and numerous decentralized rainwater collection systems, from which the water would be shared in the community. The idea of a supra-regional water supply pipeline did not meet with sufficient approval, as the weather data from previous years showed that it was extremely unlikely that neighboring regions had significantly more or less drinking water available than others and that it would have made sense to smooth the distribution. However, they wanted to discuss this option again at a supra-regional level in a few years' time, as it could offer greater safety of supply in disaster situations.

The materials required for the agreed measures were deducted from the region's quota in case they were classified as scarce and therefore recorded statistically. Tin, for example, which was needed for rainwater collection, was scarce and five years ago there had been a planetary agreement in the spirit of intergenerational justice, which limited consumption per person and year, resulting in an annual quota for each region according to the number of inhabitants. The consumption of all regions could be viewed on the Internet. There were no penalties for exceeding consumption, but there was a minor public scandal, at least if the region had no acceptable justification for doing so.

The work coordination committee was responsible for distributing the activities required for the agreed measures, at least when this did not sort itself out organically. For example, the regional construction collectives temporarily needed a few extra workers to dig all the water pits for collection tanks and infiltration. The working committee also made sure that Bo was assigned other, less popular activities such as street cleaning in addition to the exciting work in the drinking water committee, for which Bo used about 10 hours a week. Work allocation was not compulsory and the committee took personal preferences into account. However, as the rotation of unpopular activities was considered a sensible and fair arrangement, hardly anyone opposed it.

It had been two years since the establishment of the drinking water coordination committee. Consumption had been significantly reduced, but the supply situation was still critical. Bo was keen to get involved in another work-field that was less affected by shortages and the rotation of responsibilities suggested that another person would take Bo's place on the committee anyway.

Today, Bo had the day off and strolled through the largest clothing distribution center in the region with Finn, a friend, to look for summer pants and new shoes. They quickly found a pair of suitable pants in the corner with used clothes. Because of Bo's special foot shape, Bo preferred to have the shoes made to measure. So they had Bo's feet re-measured and looked for a suitable model online. The order would be ready for collection from Bo's local distribution center in two weeks.

Finn worked in a smartphone factory that manufactured repairable devices and repaired defective ones. The factory met the needs of the entire continent, which had fallen sharply compared to before the revolution due to the greater longevity of the devices on the one hand and the scarcity of raw materials on the other. The factory collective closely monitored the statistics of new orders and repair requests in order to estimate demand for the coming months and years. This was also important for the supply chains, as the production required many parts from other factories, which in turn relied on parts and raw materials from other collectives spread across the continent.

Bo listened with interest to Finn's stories about the supply chains: Basically, supply chains work in such a way that suppliers initially assume that demand will remain roughly the same, unless production facilities announce changing demand due to changing quantities or changing products or production processes. Changes in the assessment of the scarcity of raw materials and the associated quotas can also influence supply chains. All this information can be viewed transparently by everyone involved. This open communication means that supply chains are well coordinated. Supply chain transparency also has the advantage that the fair distribution of scarce goods to the regions can be reviewed and adjusted.

Like Finn's colleagues, Finn also noticed that Bo was a little depressed. Bo thought it could be due to the long period of dealing with the scarce commodity of water. They immediately went to a nearby health center together. In a conversation with a person there, it was decided that Bo would be relieved from work assignments for now and would receive weekly visits from a psychotherapist. Bo didn't have to worry about anything else. The weekly visits, as well as the cure and the therapy group that the therapist had organized for Bo, helped. After a few months, they found a new job in a vegetable garden, where Bo helped out twice a week. Bo enjoyed supporting the groth of the plants.

During the time in cure facilities, Bo had not even noticed that in the region's annual perspective discussion, it had been decided to equip the regional research center with new technology and additional people in order to participate in long-term planetary cooperative research into environmentally friendly wastewater treatment plants. Bo was pleased that good decisions were made even without the own involvement.

The German original of the text can be found here.