Hello everyone. This is my first post here, so don't bite (too hard ;) ). So the deal is that I live in a student housing cooperative (don't worry, I voluntarily subjected myself to collectivism), and as you would expect of such endeavors, the house is complete chaos in terms of maintenance and doing chores in the common areas. Now, I've been wholly absorbed into studying Austrian economics for the last half-year or so, and it struck me one day that I might be able to apply what I have learned to better my housing situation. This school quarter is almost over, but next quarter I'll have the opportunity to be the "Chore Manager" for the house and I thought I would share some of my ideas with you and ask for your input or suggestions on others.The cooperative I live in is essentially like a regular house, albeit with 13 people living here. I've been staying at this place since last summer, and while I rather like it and enjoy the company of my housemates, the house is a complete disaster in terms of hygiene and upkeep. The private rooms are fine (unsurprisingly), but the common areas are always a problem. I didn't realize for a while why this was always be a problem; surely people would have a stake in keeping the house they all share in proper order? Then I realized what the issue was; the trouble areas were being managed with the notion of common ownership in mind. In other words, it was being run like a socialist state. People would end up getting away with doing less chores at the expense of others and there was essentially very little accountability involved. The current chore system is run in a very totalitarian fashion. Essentially what we have is a set number of chores (cooking dinner, cleaning the kitchen, vacuuming, etc.), and each person is given 3 chores to do every week. If they do not complete their chore, they are fined $15 by the Chore Manager. I think it is a rather clumsy system which hasn't worked since I've lived here, even though we have had three different people manage the same system at different times. I think by applying some of the lessons I have gleaned from reading up on liberalism, I may be able to construct a much more efficient and workable chore system for the next ten weeks.At first I was thinking of having an official chore policy of not having any chore system at all, in the hope that conditions would necessitate a spontaneous order to form. However, I don't think my housemates have the proper prerequisite knowledge of property respect to try that idea. Most of them are extremely liberal-types who go to my very leftist university, and a few are from some very socialized European nations (oh, and it's a vegetarian co-op, so you can imagine...). So what I am going to go with is a Social Contract that delineates the roles and responsibilities of the house members. I'm going base the core of the chore system around the notion of private property. Whereas before the entire kitchen, for instance, was considered the commons, I now want to assign certain parts to people as their own property to maintain. The counters for instance, would be considered the "property" of someone. They have a responsibility to make sure that the counters remain clean, and there will be incentives to do so. It is their responsibility to make sure that someone does not abuse the right of utilizing that property by "polluting" it or making it dirty. If any other person leaves a mess on the counters, the owner of the property will not earn the same incentives they usually would. So it will be in their best interest to talk to the person and negotiate a means by which they will agree to not pollute their property. This will be a reciprocal relationship as well; the person who earlier made a mess on the counters is assigned, say, the kitchen sink as their piece of property. In this way, they will feel the same pressures to maintain their property and earn their incentive. People will learn pretty quickly that their actions in polluting the property of others will have negative consequences for them, and because they can empathize since they are subject to the same conditions, will feel guilty if they pollute the property of someone else. The system needs an extra measure of internal regulation, so my idea is to assign each property to a group of two or three people. Three people may be in charge of the counters, three in charge of the sink, and perhaps two in charge of the oven and the refrigerator. They will all receive an incentive based on their collective performance in maintaining the property, so there will not only be accountability to the property of others, but to members of their "partnership" as well. All in the partnership will have an interest in making sure that everyone is holding up their end of the contract. Here is where I am a bit stumped. I need a good system of incentives to make sure that everyone buys into this system, and that it actually functions. I am considering printing up a currency for the house and acting sort of like a central banker, handing out the "money" if all chores are completed. I want to maximize the amount of freedom in this chore system as possible, so I don't want to hold anybody to an arbitrary "check off list" or anything like that. I'd rather have it be a system where there is a certain amount of money is required to pay off a "rent" after a period of time (say two weeks), and the income can be gained by doing certain chores (I would have a list of chores with their value in the house currency, as well as maybe a baseline income paid to the groups for proper maintenance of their property). I want everyone to be able to decide to do the chores at their own leisure in a very liberating way (people can trade currency to others, pick the chores they want at any time, etc.). As for the house currency as an incentive, I really don't want this system to be centralized, but I can't think of any other way. If you have any ideas, let me know. The bathrooms are also a problem, since nobody ever wants to do them. I was thinking of having the bathrooms be the "punishment" for not earning enough money. If they don't reach the necessary amount, they can make up for it by cleaning up a bathroom or something. There might also be a problem with inflation, so I have to strike the correct balance of chores to currency. I have to do all of this, but still simplify it enough so that it can actually be followed (and make sure that everyone won't hate eachother by the end of the quarter).
So that pretty much sums up the ideas I have at the moment. I want to fashion a chore system based on sound economic principles and a respect for private property. I know you may be thinking that I am taking this rather trivial detail of my life way too seriously. Perhaps I am. However, I really want see if such a system can successfully be transposed onto what has traditionally been a collectivistic chore arrangement. Perhaps just for kicks, or maybe obsession with applying liberal principles to every aspect of my life (and the potential of a cleaner house) drives me to do this. Anyways, this is my chance to put liberal principles into practice inside an actual social setting. It's almost like a lab experiment, and I am really interested to find out if such a thing could work out. Maybe I can even teach some of my socialist housemates the value of private property in the process. So if you have any ideas or suggestions for implementing such a chore system, I would love to hear your ideas.Best,phrizek
Even I say owned the kitchen counter top or the sink how exactly would it be my private property if a dozen other people were using it? Do I get to decide that another room mate is not cleaning up the counter after he uses it so I can not allow him to use it anymore? What if I plain don't like the kid and say he can't use it? Do you really think he's going to listen to me if I tell him he can't?
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good governance is best practiced at the interpersonal level. Well in my shop I am the optimal producer, and scorned. My cage is self imposed and I find messy and sucky too. I will continue to try despite encouragement or the oppisite, any attention would be grand when your treated like an atomist for christ's sake I argue against atomism, blushed
BWF89:Even I say owned the kitchen counter top or the sink how exactly would it be my private property if a dozen other people were using it? Do I get to decide that another room mate is not cleaning up the counter after he uses it so I can not allow him to use it anymore? What if I plain don't like the kid and say he can't use it? Do you really think he's going to listen to me if I tell him he can't?
That's the thing. Obviously the conditions in the real world don't necessarily translate well when applied to a small scale environment such as a house. That's why I said that this system would be inspired by liberal principles, not try to replicate them precisely (I haven't, for instance, figured out how exchange would work among the in-house economy). It's almost like trying to fit a square in a circular shaped hole; I have to cut off some corners for it to work, but hopefully there will be enough substance left over that it does not completely flounder. Perhaps I should have been more clear that I am using terms like "private property" in a very loose sense. Real private property would imply that the owners would in fact be able to discriminate amongst who can and cannot use the property. I don't think this would really work in practice inside a house, so what I was trying to capture was not property in the sense that a person has full domain over an area, but merely introduce the concept of the responsibility associated with designating an area to "belonging" to someone (if that makes any sense). I expect any conflict with others to be handled by the parties involved in a natural way without seeking a third party because it would be in their mutual self-interest to cooperate (and so get the total benefits).
There was an article read on incentives related to an Israeli day care several years ago. If the parents were late to pick up their kids they had to pay a penalty of $5. What it actually did was normalize the penalty incentive to be on time. So, instead of having the moral incentive to be on time so as not to be socially scorned the penalty was paid and everything was morally fine.
I would think that getting rid of the penalty would be step 1. Next, I would create a bid system for what chores would be handled. Think like betting squares for a football pool. Instead of stoppping at first come first serve, allow someone to propose a price to take over someone elses chore. (I would be willing to pay $25 to clean the counter over any other cleaning option). So if the only square left was cleaning the toilet and there was already a $25 bid on cleaning the counter, I might pay $35 to clean the counter so that I wouldn't have to clean toilets.
Now you take the funds raised through the chore bid/auction and put that into an incentive pool for the best overall cleaner, voted on at a monthly meeting or something. In short, the point is to turn chores from just chores to a game
I'm sorry but I think your basic assumption is off and therefore the whole idea is off. It's not a socialist state because there is no coercion. It's like a private company and Austrian economic theory cannot really tell you how can individuals be efficient when they engage in trade, like in this case, because everybody lives in the house because they want to and only as long as they want to. That's the whole point of the market - that it requires a bloody lot of distributed knowledge to make things efficient. If Austrian theory could tell you how to make private dealings efficient there would be no need for a market and a dictatureship would be just right.
So there is no way economics can help in that. Unless the house is divided into parts where people have complete, full ownership of it with full rights to exclude others economics cannot help.
Or if you insist on the parallel of a Socialist state, even though there is no coercion here, I'd say your state is Socialist too because people just pseudo-own and not really own those parts of the kitchen. They are just managers of the state property appointed by the Party Secretary :-) Ownership means they can charge however much they want, they can exclude others and even destroy their thing if they feel so. You cannot ever make a believable pseudo-market out of the property of whoever owns the whole thing. Fake markets do not work.
So just do whatever you think will work. You can try to create a pseudomarket like you described or you can be like a strict boss chasing everybody until everything is done. Companies do the same - some are led by tyrannical egotists like Steve Jobs and others are more like an internal market of freelancers. Ecomics can't tell you which one is better - it can only tell you that in the long run the one that wins in the free competition, is the better one. So maybe the best thing is, just look at what the most successful coops do.
Well, in living in such an environment, the first step is to move in with people who naturally clean up...seriously. If you move into an apartment with 15 messy people, no system in the world, short of totalitarianism, is going to make the place clean. If you move into an apartment with 15 neat people, the place is going to be clean.
Now, on to the question of getting the optimal result with a given group of people. It's worth pointing out that making people pay $15 for not doing their chores simply sets the price of making someone else do your chore at $15. The problem is, if the $15 goes into some communal pot, the payment someone else gets for doing your chore is also set, at 0. So a first step would be to keep the $15 charge - but say it goes to the person willing to do the job. A next step, which might might better, would be to make the amount variable - assign everyone a task, and simply let people pay other people to do their job. The problem is, if my task isn't done, what's the response? So it might work better to just fine me $15, or some amount, for not doing it, then let anyone else earn the $15 by doing it. If no one is willing, increase the amount of the fine.
Or, eliminate the fine entirely. Then the cost of not doing your task is the knowledge that you let your housemates down, that someone else will have to carry your load, and the eternal approbation of the community. That is likely a more significant cost than $15.
In college, I lived in a house one year, where no one knew each other. We tried a "chore wheel" to assign tasks - put the names around the outside, put a spinning wheel on the inside, and each week turn the wheel one position. We quickly realized it was stupid - everyone has their favored and less favored tasks, and will do favored tasks more effectively - it was easier to just let everyone choose what chores to do. The house was clean.