Cheapatopia – Collective Buying
Cheapatopia – Collective Buying
July 20, 2009
I see in the comments that many of you believe Cheapatopia, as described in several of my blog posts, can’t work because communes have been tried and failed. And besides, you wouldn’t want to live in such a socialist place.
But keep in mind that Cheapatopia is designed with individual self-interest as the founding principle. The only difference between Cheapatopia and capitalism in general is that capitalism has inefficiencies that don’t benefit anyone. As I write this, I’m looking out the window at seven parked cars, each of them requiring auto insurance, and none of them being used. And every home in my neighborhood has poor roof insulation because there was no market pressure on the developer to do better. Cheapatopia aims to fix the low hanging fruit. What I’ve described so far might not do that, but keep reading and see how close we can get.
Remember that living in Cheapatopia is optional. Plain old capitalism will always surround it. You might move to a place like Cheapatopia if, for example, you wanted to save a high percentage of your income for a period of time. Or maybe you simply don’t want to work full time but still want a high quality of life. Or maybe the simple living and elevated social life appeals to you. There would be lots of different reasons for wanting to live in Cheapatopia, if only for a few years.
I submit that the closest model for Cheapatopia is not the Amish, and not any commune you have heard about. The best model is college dormitory living. In college, the meals are communal, the buildings are inexpensive, and the social life is organized and abundant. Dorm living is only appropriate for a few years of your life, to accomplish a goal. Cheapatopia is similar in concept, but more high-end and designed for families.
Today’s topic is collective buying power. Imagine that the elected leaders of Cheapatopia negotiate discounts for services that are used by all residents. That would include all manner of insurance, phone service, Internet, TV, paper goods, food, and so on. You’d never again need to waste a weekend trying to figure out which cell phone plan is best, or shopping for the best insurance. Obviously the city negotiators would need to be rotated out every year to minimize corruption.
To keep health insurance rates low for all citizens of Cheapatopia, smoking would not be allowed anywhere within city limits. And no junk food or fast food would be sold in the city. I’ll stop short of suggesting that everyone must be a vegetarian, but only because that’s such a hot button.
Imagine that most of your meals in Cheapatopia are eaten at the city run all-you-can-eat buffets located in each neighborhood. You’d always see your neighbors at meals, and you’d never need to shop or cook or clean. Prices would be lower than regular restaurants because these eateries would be operated at cost, and food would be purchased in bulk. The food quality and variety would be excellent, at least by family standards, because this is one area in which Cheapatopia would not skimp. But if you want lobster and high end steak, you have to go to a regular restaurant.
I can also imagine that residents could get further discounts on their buffet meal plans by agreeing to work shifts at the cafeteria. Working there would be optional, and you might find it fun to work with your neighbors if only for a few hours every week. That sort of work can be fun if you know it’s not your real job.
If you have guests in town, or don’t want to eat at the cafeteria, you could pick up your food to go. Just place our order by Internet and your food will be ready when you show up.