LEGAL STRUCTURING OFINTENTIONAL COMMUNITIES Reproduced for private study purposes by Ecological Solutions Pty Ltd. David SPAIN
Experience shows that it is advisable for intentional communities to adopt, at the outset, a legal structure formally documenting critical aspects of their inter-relationship. Failure to do so may result in confusion and injustice should trustand idealism sour under the inevitable pressures of life. Inspiration, reason and comradeship are needed to interpret and enliven the written constitution, but it is unwise to rely upon these alone: they can dissipate quickly once doubts and bickering set in.
A strong & appropriate legal structure will assist settlers in focussing on primary and secondary aims, overcoming obstacles and protecting individual rights & investments. It will regularize such matters as allocation of homesites and farming areas, protection of private capital assets, rentals and sales of interests, decision-making, disciplining of deviants, vesting of a member's interest on death and allocation of assets upon dissolution. Being a legal entity facilitates the vesting of land title, permits contracting as a group and limits individual liability.
It may appear attractive, easy & enlightened to hark back to traditional societies and avoid written or verbal rules, but this idealistic approach must be treated with caution. It tends to be unrealistic and bound to culminate in disappointment, and due less to wisdom than to a knee-jerk reaction against authority or sheer laziness as regards rigorous thought and responsibility. Many self-managing (anarchist) communities have adhered to a formal constitution. Eventually a community may evolve spontaneously and reliably to share a high sensitivity, understanding and morality. Formal rules may then wither and die as irrelevant and unnecessary, but this stasis must be eventuated by gradual group attunement: it cannot be pre-supposed.
Probably the biggest concern in an intentional community of striking a balance between privacy & security (on the one hand) and communal decision-making & obligations (on the other). In a typical Australia "cookie-cutter" suburb, with the land fragmented in a formal & antiseptic way, it is quite possible for neighbours to live side-by-side and barely know each other. They have absolute privacy in their surveyed lots and security against trespassers or for mortgaging purposes. Yet a lot of the quality & potential of life is ousted. There is no obligation to co-operate with a neighbour, there is no persuasion towards basically like-minded & co-operative communities and there a diminished impetus towards economic & social etc. sharing... All of this just shows the shortcomings of the law as an instrument of control. A wide range of legal structures have been used by intentional communities, and in this essay each one is examined & evaluated. The conclusion is that, from an idealistic point of view, the co-operative is best; however, from a practical viewpoint the company is to be preferred... Posted by mana at 6:25 AM GEN.ede.Auroville