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Cooperative Communities and the Libertarian Movement


On the occasion when I explain my upbringing in Ananda Village, California, to fellow libertarians, I am often met with funny looks or a halfhearted, “That’s neat,” in response. Ananda, founded by J. Donald Walters (also known as Swami Kriyananda), is an intentional cooperative community celebrating its 43rd anniversary this year. The community of Ananda is, quite simply, a gathering of individuals who follow the spiritual teachings of the Indian yogi, Paramhansa Yogananda (author of “Autobiography of a Yogi”). I was born and raised in Ananda, and the community itself is a haven of individual creativity, dedication, and entrepreneurship.

There is no rule book or set constitution for communities to adopt. There is nothing mandating that communities have to be collective socialist communes where no one can so much as own their own shirt. Communities are basic structures, they are whatever people create of them. Some individuals might prefer a community that focuses on promoting entrepreneurship, others a community that centers on building birdhouses and widgets. Regardless of the intended community focus, the key concept is an intentional community provides a foundation for like-minded individuals to come together, collaborate, and work toward on a common goal.

Libertarians often try to change things through a legislative process in government, which is a great and noble goal. However, the libertarian movement dedicated to individual liberty, free markets, and voluntary actions must face the reality that the beast of an overextended government is not easily tamed. Focusing the majority of your energy to change an overextended government through the government may not be the best course of action. Libertarians, and all those dedicated to individual freedom and responsibility, must take it upon themselves to directly bring about an alternative lifestyle or society that promotes and protects libertarian ideals.

This is an area where libertarians can, believe it or not, learn from the Green movement. The Green movement has spent billions of dollars lobbying government and attempting to elect government officials who promise to promote environmental causes; this is a similar approach to many libertarian groups and movements today. What’s noteworthy, however, is how some in the Green movement have seen the need to do more than lobby government to achieve their goals of environmental stewardship, instead working to create voluntary ecovillage communities focused on environmental education and preservation. These ecovillage communities provide a hub for true environmentalists to come together to directly engage in environmental preservation, grow local food, and practice sustainable living techniques.

In the same way that some in the Green movement are starting ecovillage communities around the world, libertarians should shift their energy and consider beginning libertarian communities. Libertarians, anarcho-capitalists, and voluntaryists can do much more than just talk about the ideals of a truly free society, they can create a free society one person at a time. Two libertarian projects, The Free State Project and Southeast Liberty Project, are already using the principles of communities to further the goals of the libertarian movement. All great ideas and projects must start small; rather than trying to save an entire forest, start with saving several trees. Cooperative communities are a valuable addition to the libertarian tool chest; the tyranny of an overreaching government can be chiseled away by creating practical small-scale alternatives to the state.


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Wonderful Idea and system but...

god i wish my family would buy into this, but i sadly must say that its almost imossible for your avg liberty suppoerter to uproot family that may not agree with the vieews out of ignorance or disinterest all of a sudden to completely turn their world upside down. the concept however brilliant is highl impractical for alot of people. thats why dr. paul says and believes (because he obviously doesnt say anything he doesnt believe) that there has to be a transition period for the entire country to get on board and continue the practice of liberty for centuries.

It takes time

It takes time to bring about such a massive shift in principles and understanding of liberty, so I'm certainly not saying it will be easy. Do what you can on a local level and allocate your time and energy as you see best fit. The most important thing is to stay practical and simple. I think it's critical for libertarians to move beyond politics and start developing non-state living solutions. Keep an eye out for opportunities and work with it as best you can. Start small, stay focused, and true change will develop!

reedr3v's picture

I totally, wholeheartedly agree.

thanks for sharing your experience and perspective. I believe it is natural for humans, especially with children, to live in small, trustworthy communities. even in cities, libertarian networking can happen through homeschooling and mutual projects such as community garden/urban farms, underground markets, etc.

Thanks for mentioning the Southeast Liberty Project, I was unaware of it. But you didn't mention Patri Friedman's Seasteading Project, and the Charter/Free Cities Projects. those also show great promise.

I would love to see and participate in the development of such an intentional libertarian community in an area near any of my dispersed family members.

Thank you!

Thanks for the comment and feedback! I wrote about Ananda Village in more depth here, FYI: http://davidkretzmann.com/2011/01/the-vision-of-cooperative-...

Seasteading is an interesting concept, and I only know a small amount about the idea and its connection to libertarianism, but it could certainly be a possible lifestyle. I don't think it's the most practical idea at the moment considering the current (and likely future) economic climate, but I could be wrong. Do you know a good place to find out more about the topic?

The Southeast Liberty Project has the right idea; they are looking to move to Tennessee where taxes are relatively low and they might get more leeway to live their lives without government interference. I'm hopeful that more libertarians will group together, it will make our movement all the more powerful, enjoyable, and effective. It's what life is all about!

reedr3v's picture


they have some heavyweights on board, engineers, technician, and investors as well as visionaries. It's exciting to watch develop.

On Seasteading...

Have you ever wondered why people don't currently live out on the ocean? :p

It is a VERY dynamically hostile place. I don't see people ever living out on the ocean. Not even out on the water relatively near the shores...

~wobbles but doesn't fall down~