# Could a utopian society exist with no system of exchange?

Let's set the scene:

A virus or other global disaster sweeps across the globe wiping all but a group of 1,000,000 or so survivors. Our current technological level is still maintained. For the sake of this let's say they're all in the UK. All survivors agree that they have a chance to rebuild society with the knowledge of what has happened before. They set out the following laws:

• In order to remain a citizen of this city, you must hold a full time work placement.
• Every citizen can have one child in their entire lifetime.
• Citizens must practice self-control, in that they will not frequently over indulge, they will remain at reasonable weight
• Any citizen who holds a full time job will receive all items necessary for their and their families survival, as well as to live an enjoyable life (food, shelter, water, transport, entertainment, medical care)
• Respect your government and other citizens
• Every action you take must have a neutral or positive effect on the environment

There are only two results from consistent breaking of these laws:

• Government Assistance: If it is a small and resolvable infringement, such as excessive weight gain, drug addiction, hoarding of resources, then a government employee would communicate with the infringer and instead of punishing them, simply see where the root of the problem lies, and attempt to resolve it.
• Exile: If it is a large infringement, or the infringer has repeatedly broken small laws and never seeked or has seeked but hasn't followed government advice, they will simply be exiled from the city permanently. Any family they have may be allowed to stay, unless their family members were enabling or actively engaging in infringements too. Examples of infringements which would result in exile: Blatant lack of self-control(ie having multiple children with multiple partners, hoarding food or over purchasing food), repeated attacks on citizens, murder, rape.

The new city would be based around an old city, for this example I would suggest Manchester as it has a high number of skyscrapers. The majority of buildings which were permanently businesses would be converted to residences or buildings with other purposes.

Once the city has been established and cleared of any danger (e.g. dead bodies (remember the global virus?)) and the majority of citizens are happy with their situation, "The Clearing" would begin

• The country would be separated into a grid of squares.
• Square by square, teams with different specialities (clearers to clear each building, scavengers to collect valuable items from each building such as tools, metals, furniture, and demolition teams to destroy the buildings) would go through every building in that square and do their task. This would result in any valuables being extracted from the (now abandoned, remember, virus!) buildings, and then the buildings being destroyed either by fire, explosives, or otherwise. Valuables would be transported back to the main city via truck. Depending on the item itself it would either go to the government (weapons, explosives, raw materials) or be left for the citizens to take their pick at (furniture, food, metals, some raw materials, tools)
• Once a square has been cleared, any roads would be partially destroyed
• Nature would be left to take over and restore the land to it's original or near original state
• This would continue until every square had been cleared bar a few buildings which would be left as safe houses/hunters lodges.

Government

The government would be primarily a dictatorship, although because there is no money in this society, the dictatorship would likely be non-oppressive. Citizen's would be protected using an (as of yet unnamed) force consisting of elite citizens. These citizens would have had to prove themselves to be physically and mentally elite and outstanding in order to be eligible for a position on this force. The force would be extremely disciplined and highly trained. Citizens on this force would only be routinely armed with their elite physical strength and protective measures (e.g. stab proof vests). Members on the force would not be exempt from the law or above it and would be under watchful eyes from the government. Their presence should be a positive thing in the city. No additional benefits would come with a position on the force (additional resources, better accommodation) apart from the honour of being a member.

Once a citizen reaches an age where they believe they are mature enough, they will be allowed to leave their home and take up their own residence. They will be watched by a government employee for a week or more to see if they are able to sustain themselves. During this time it is not necessary for them to hold a job. If the government employee believes they are able to live by themselves, they will be given their own residence. They will have a 1 month grace period in which they can look for a job. If after this one month period they have still not found a job, one will be assigned to them. They can continue to look for jobs after they have had one assigned and if they find one they prefer, they may change jobs.

Citizen's Life

A citizen's only requirement would be to hold a full time job. If they meet this requirement, they are able to spend any free time pursuing whatever they wish, and the government will make sure citizens can do so. This would likely lead to many citizens taking up a hobby or art, such as painting, music, wood or metal working, or anything else they wish. If they have any request or problem, they would be able to contact a government department who would then help them with the issue.

In regards to "purchase"(although it's not purchase as there is no exchange of currency or barter system, more taking) of goods, every citizen will have some form of unique identifier, most likely an NFC tag in their forearm or hand which they must scan in order to receive goods. There is no limit on the amount of goods one citizen can purchase however the government will be alerted if a citizen is constantly purchasing high amounts of goods as they may be under the influence of greed.

Education

Schools would be stationed outside of the city walls. Education dates would be similar to that of today's universities, where children would go to the university for a considerable amount of time, then return home periodically. This would allow for a more concentrated education and less transport needs. During the initial 3-4 decades of the city, education subjects would be primarily based around manual labour, as the majority of jobs would be just that. After the city has been adjusted(more on this in the City section below) the education subjects would be shifted to a primarily scientific list, such as physics and mathematics, because the city would now have a focus on these jobs. Children going through education would be given solid guidance as to what their situation would be after school so they could make the best choices in which subjects they wish to pursue. Children up to 16 will be required to attend all lessons. Children over 16 will not be made to go to lessons, but children consistently not making progress in their subjects will be contacted by one of the school employees and helped along, as well as made aware what their situation will be like if they cannot perform a job effectively.

City

As above, many of the cities buildings will be converted into residences. The city will have a set number of citizens to avoid overpopulation and the need for growth. The city will have a large circular wall going around it, outside of which very few buildings will be made.

Citizens can leave the city at any time they wish, and return at any time, although any items they return with must be checked by government staff.

Transport within the city will originally consist of public transport, primarily busses with a few trains to go from one side of the city to the other. Citizens will not need to own their own cars as their will be plentiful public transport. Once technological advances are made, a system of driverless electric cars will be set up which can be called to any position in the city and told where to go. Public transport be retired and the driverless cars will be the only mode of transportation.

Resources Because all the citizens in the country are within the city, and all buildings outside of the city have been destroyed, there is plentiful space for agriculture. Staple crops such as corn, wheat, barley, oats etc would be grown. Large amounts of fish and vegetables would be grown in compact spaces using the most land efficient methods, most likely vertical aquaponics systems.

Instead of disposable containers and items such as plastic bags, plastic bottles, reusable and biodegradable methods would be used, primarily wood, paper, natural materials like straw.

Any excess resources produced would go into storage and be used when appropriate.

Because all buildings have been removed, wildlife such as deer would breed to much higher levels. These would be hunted both so they don't overpopulate and as a source of food.

Energy

All energy would come from renewable sources. In the beginning ages of the city, it would be likely that any fossil fuels would be used first and energy would be scarce, eventually solar power would be implemented to the city as solar panels were scavenged, then wind. Finally artificial dams would be created for hydroelectric power sites.

Right, with all that in mind here are my questions:

1. What potential for abuse/corruption would there be within the government system?
2. What issues could citizens be unhappy with?
3. If every citizen could have maximum one child, would the population stagnate?
4. What loopholes are there in the description of this society?

I'm sure I've missed some things out, it's not easy describing a utopian society y'know

• Did not have yet time to rea it whole, so just one comment: Anything below 2 children per family is die-out of whole society. Such small civilisation would probably agree on at least two kids per family if they want to have stable population – Pavel Janicek Dec 6 '14 at 16:22
• Because not all people survive to have offspring, or some will be infertile, replacement fertility rate is about 2.33 children per woman. – Peter M. Dec 6 '14 at 18:32
• Most gaping hole is skill replacement. Some jobs require significant skills, rare talent (not everyone can perform them) and gaining them is significant time investment. Without skills, productivity of the next generation is on subsistence farming level. If limit is personal productivity, and with free land available, farmers will have more children to have more resources available. So rules are not consistent. It just cannot work. – Peter M. Dec 6 '14 at 21:22
• This entire setup is so baffling and improbable that I couldn't possibly answer the questions posed. Take just one portion of your system: punishment by counseling or exile. To make that work would require a monumental shift in human psychology. Persuasion does almost nothing to change human behavior. If there is no tangible form of punishment to bring the 'wrongdoer' into crisis, the likelihood of them ceasing a negative behavior that gives them pleasure is nearly nil. And, once you've tried talking them out of the behavior, the next step you suggest is exile! You'll depopulate the compound! – Emmett R. Dec 7 '14 at 2:10
• way too naive setup, and your model society is distopian not utopian – Elzo Valugi Dec 8 '14 at 7:44

As to whether there would be corruption, or whether such a utopia could function within the principles espoused in the original post (i.e. supply goods to those that need them without black markets, secret deals, goods disappearing in transport, or other "unapproved" exchange) ... this is a duplicate, but not from Stack Exchange.

Friedrich Hayek answered it in 1945, in The Use of Knowledge in Society. The original article may be a bit dry without an econ background.

Hayek was trying to explain why central planning fails in comparison to free market exchange. He considers the problem of planning the production and consumption patterns of a society, from both a computational and informational perspective, and decides that it is the informational aspects that makes central planning implausible. He argues it is impossible for the preferences and capabilities of all of a society's citizens to be communicated to a single agent without considering whether such an agent could then calculate the most beneficial production/consumption plan for the society.

In contrast, prices generated through free market exchange communicate information and encourage voluntary compliance among participants, solving some of the problems that become intractable when attempting to concentrate all that information in the hands of a central planner. For example, an increasing price of something, say steel, will encourage producers to make more steel, and consumers to use less steel, or try to substitute something for the steel, like perhaps aluminum or bamboo. The price communicates this, and voluntary compliance ensues, because people have money and must function within a budget constraint. Take out money or allow anyone to order anything, and the pricing system can't function.

Now some people will say that Hayek could not have known in 1945 of all the infotech that would become available. But the trend of the information explosion has resulted in too much information and difficulties in analyzing all of it, and also new knowledge about what creates hard problems (e.g. NP-completeness, lack of incentive compatablity). Instead of making it easier for a single agency to assemble and analyze the information on what everyone could produce and what everyone needs, it seems more difficult. And there is a term Hayek coins, the knowledge of the peculiar circumstances of time and place as being important to commerce, i.e. the knowledge of opportunities, that seems to be disregarded (or held in low regard) by people who think (falsely) that science and/or technology has discovered all the general knowledge and principles necessary to run society.

The free market is a lot less restrictive and enhancing of freedom, culture, arts, as well as science, engineering and production than central planners and those favoring dictatorship. Looking at the nature of the arts in this utpoian society: it seems relegated to free time and hobbies:

A citizen's only requirement would be to hold a full time job. If they meet this requirement, they are able to spend any free time pursuing whatever they wish, and the government will make sure citizens can do so. This would likely lead to many citizens taking up a hobby or art, such as painting, music, wood or metal working, or anything else they wish.

Nothing here says that painting, etc., can not be someone's full time job... but it surely suggests that these things are secondary to "real jobs." Yet, the most successful artists in modern market-based society are able to work at their art full time so long as their patrons and customers are willing to buy their art and are often more successful than people doing "real jobs", like collecting garbage or welding on skyscrapers.

Also, I have to agree with others that the proposed utopia sounds dystopian in other ways. Hoarding, obesity, sexual promiscuity or non-conformity are sometimes considered symptoms or causes of something unhealthy but are not crimes in most modern societies.

• True and interesting, but even if the OP labels it an utopia, it is not really an attempt at an optimal society, it is a society built by traumatized survivors of a global catastrophe, who deliberately aim for zero growth. The fact that some other form of organization would give much better chance of growth, if they had the will and resources to create it, which they do not, is not really relevant. Growth is exactly what the people do not want in the scenario. They want stability, a frozen society. – Ville Niemi Dec 7 '14 at 13:16
• Adding: And no form of free market economy can give you a frozen society (or even close enough to be acceptable). As such free markets would be useless for the people in this scenario. – Ville Niemi Dec 7 '14 at 13:20
• @VilleNiemi Central planning is so inefficient that you won't really be able to maintain it, because people will want more. – PyRulez Mar 8 '16 at 17:09
• @PyRulez A quote from my answer: "Your model is stagnant, void of hope and opportunity, obsessed with past failure. This actually might work for the first generation, which is good as they'd presumably be the ones to create the system, but the later generations would simply leave." Central planning or not is not really the issue here, honestly. – Ville Niemi Mar 9 '16 at 3:57

If rich society has means for everyone to pursue whatever s/he wants, there would be no-one interested to perform duties necessary for functioning society but not fulfilling per se. Who would be fixing sewers? Who would perform dangerous jobs like mining for rare resources? Who would dispose trash? Who will operate nuclear power stations, especially as they will become more dangerous because of neglected maintenance?

Lots of such work is hard to automate. And with mere 1M survivors, you will have hard time to maintain all the various skills necessary for functioning today's complex society, and train replacement.

Will they do "sewer duty" by turn? So all people will have to be experts on all technologies. Will they be able to barter duties: "you will do my sewer duty, I will do yours high-power electrical maintenance"? How you will compare desirability of such duties? Sewer duty is smelly, but mistake with electricity can kill you. People allergic to animals cannot go milk cows. People allergic to bee sting cannot go near honeybees. But without honeybees lots of plants will not produce fruits.

Also, will you force surgeon and dentist on sewer duty too? Even if it postpone some necessary procedures? Or will you allow family members to step in for them to advance in waiting line for procedure?

If someone worked hard all life, will his retirement will be exactly the same as someone who did just bare minimum? If yes, how it is incentive to increase productivity? If not the same, how it will be different?

The only way to incentivize members of society to perform such necessary but uninteresting duties it to give them something extra on top of basic surviving. That is, money.

They there is another can of worm: communicating. 1M of people have no way to communicate effectively to make sure that everyone is keeping up with their duties and enforce the rules.

Last time when such society was possible was millenia ago, in hunter-gatherer society. Tribe of 30-60 hunter-gatherers can have experts of all necessary technologies, train replacement, and communicate around if you need help or have extra resources to share.

To maintain more complex and more productive (more specialized) society than that, you need more organization/enforcing and more effective tools of exchange. It is called Money.

After more re-reading the OP question, my feeling that it is some kind of young man/teenager utopia. Get out of parent house, get assigned easy job, be happy and train to be rule enforcer. Well to become surgeon you need to train another 10 years in specialized expensive facilities. Do you still have to go to sewer duty? Can I with my bully schoolmates vote each other to become police? Or maybe me and my bully friends with "protect" our part of the city against other gangs?

Functioning highly productive society is substantially more complex than the one described by OP. As defined it would quickly regressed into feudal nightmare. With very little money around, each village self-sufficient, and everyone having work duty to work of fields on local warlord, who would "protect" you from raids of other warlords. Because of low productivity, there is no time for science. Dark times.

• This isn't entirely true, there are ways to manage this that don't involve money. Money is the only way so far proven to be effective though. – Tim B Dec 6 '14 at 19:08
• IIRC, there are three basic categories of social control. Coercive, "do your job or we kick your out". Renumerative, "do extra, get extra". And Normative, "It is what everyone expects you to do". And the order above is actually the order of decreasing robustness and increasing effectiveness. All three work, are effective, and renumerative is only the second most effective option. The perception about "money being the only way" arises because we are trying to avoid using coercive control at a time that the society has fragmented normatively. (Hitting character limit... Ask if necessary.) – Ville Niemi Dec 6 '14 at 19:54

So if I moved into your city, here's some things I might be thinking.

Hi! I'm Kittycat3141, and I just moved into your city. Great to be here! Or is it?

Why would I move in?

I spent nearly my whole life before the virus as a wealthy entrepreneur. I worked hard for millions of dollars, and now you say it is worthless? No thanks, I'll go somewhere else.

What potential for abuse/corruption would there be within the government system?

I'm a big powerful dictator now. I can control much of my people's lives. You there- yeah, you- go get me my coffee or you will get exiled. You there, next to him- I don't like you. Your job for the rest of your life is to clean the sewer.

What issues could citizens be unhappy with?

What was that you just said? You get to be a lawyer? I work in the mine! I risk my life every day to get gold and silver so you can have a fancy new gold-plated watch! I quit this. I'm starting my own city.

If every citizen could have maximum one child, would the population stagnate?

I just got exiled. Since I won't be returning, your population just decreased by 1. However, because of that law that prevents the population from increasing, your population just permanently decreased by 1.

What loopholes are there in the description of this society?

I don't like this city anymore because [insert reason here]. I want to see it suffer. I'm going to go commit some serious crime, get kicked out, and start my own city. I'm going to do it my way, fix [insert same reason here], and live happily ever after. You now have to deal with the effects of my crime while I get to watch you suffer.

• Hey, you stole my "worst job is in the sewer" idea. I and my friends do not like that. You will leave the town if you know what is good for you, and nobody gets hurt. :-) – Peter M. Dec 7 '14 at 18:53
• I'm still trying to figure out how using solar power in England is ever going to work. Now if they could get power from drizzles... – Oldcat Dec 8 '14 at 18:59
• @Oldcat: solar water heating works quite well. Photovoltaics still a bit tricky but not useless. – Steve Jessop Jan 21 '15 at 21:24
1. Corruption is abuse of the power you have for gain in violation of your responsibilities. Your description does not seem to have any real restrictions to the power of the government. And the only real responsibility is the implied one of keeping the system running. As such "corruption" is limited to "Letting the system fail and the government collapse". I'd like to accuse you of negligence, but this really is how it works for dictatorial systems. They are only corrupt if they have failed. (Although outsiders or dissidents will make value judgments to claim otherwise.)

2. Your model is stagnant, void of hope and opportunity, obsessed with past failure. This actually might work for the first generation, which is good as they'd presumably be the ones to create the system, but the later generations would simply leave.

3. A strict one child policy would lead to population dropping due to premature deaths and people who leave not coming back. But realistically you could add enough flexibility to account for that. Probably the policy would be closer to "one death, one birth" with some fixed population being targeted and child licenses being allocated if the population is below the target.

4. It only seems to have executive branch. Legislative and judicial branches are actually vital for working government. Legislative to make adjustments to the rules as circumstances change. Judicial to make following the rules meaningful. While this can be ignored for a time, and likely would initially be ignored by survivors of global catastrophe, in the long run that sets you up for failure. Although the long run could be several generations. Also people die or otherwise become incapable of doing their jobs, so you need to define a system for appointing and even dismissing members of government.

• Thanks for the response. Your idea of "one death, one birth" and "child licenses" is interesting. How do you think a fair way of judging who gets the licenses would be? Simple randomisation? In regards to the Judicial branch and following the rules being meaningful, surely the possibility of exile from the city and your family would be reason enough? – Frayt Dec 6 '14 at 17:08
• Lottery would work well enough. Do a lottery for childless couple, or if none for couples with one child, or if none for couples with two children, or if none for couples with three children, and so on. You might replace "the couples" with "women who want children". Also if the population target is low you might want to "overbook" to account for delays and failures to have children to avoid having dips in the population. And the people who make the decisions about exiles? Somebody needs to determine they exiled the right people for the right reasons. – Ville Niemi Dec 6 '14 at 17:31
• @PeterMasiar No idea how this relates to my answer, did you add the comment at the wrong place? And the question has an entire section about education, anyway. So presumably the new generations would be taught the skills they need. – Ville Niemi Dec 6 '14 at 21:07
• You are right, I should have commented this on main question. Let's move it there. – Peter M. Dec 6 '14 at 21:21
• @Frayt: if you have no separation of executive from judiciary, there's a big scope for corruption there. We still haven't separated legislative and executive function in the UK, but we did away with "The King's Justice" quite some time ago. The problem is the (anticipated) inability of the executive to objectively assess their preferred actions against the law. Therefore they have independent assessors to do that for them (aka the judiciary). Ofc the practical independence of real judiciaries is sometimes questionable, but it's the ideal. A society survives despite some corruption. – Steve Jessop Dec 6 '14 at 22:19

What potential for abuse/corruption would there be within the government system?

No matter how much you try, there will be always luxury items. And people will be willing to go extra mile just to get them. It can be tropical fruit, coffee, cigarettes ... anything you are lacking.

What issues could citizens be unhappy with?

Gay rights: It is viable for your civilisation to be at same level, or at least grow. And yet, there will be people who "just don't want to get married". If you force them into "traditional marriage" you can succeed to some extent, but still you will have to be able to deal with gay rights somehow.

Messages from Exile: Look pal, I know I got thrown off with Elisabeth and few more people, but let me tell you something. We started off a colony at Liverpool and it is much better there. Cleaner, safer ... and with booze! You coming with us?

Being stuck at one job, forever: Once a cleaner, always a cleaner. What's the point to try harder?

If every citizen could have maximum one child, would the population stagnate?

The population would most probably die out. At slow pace, but this would happen. Safe assumption is to have three or four kids per family. That way you can keep people who cannot reproduce (or don't want to) happier.

What loopholes are there in the description of this society?

What do these people believe in? I think the whole society would be much more plausible if these 1 000 000 survivors would be all from some religious cult which already practices modesty as part of their religious routine. And obviously, them being the only survivors would be taken as sign from the God.

• The obvious corruption is who gets the cushy jobs versus the crap jobs. – Oldcat Dec 8 '14 at 18:59

TLDR: NO, NO and NO

Now line by line:

Could a utopian society exist with no system of exchange?

Well, utopian society have perfect qualities, and some of those include the absence of money. One classic example of such a utopia was Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward. Others propose a gift economy, like the Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson. So by the definition in an utopian environment can happen a lot of things, but the question that you need to ask is: will the absence of a exchange system will be good by itself, will this result in an utopy?

What you are describing is not utopian but dystopian. Dystopias are often characterized by dehumanization, totalitarian governments, environmental disaster, or other characteristics associated with a cataclysmic decline in society (wikipedia).

Our current technological level is still maintained.

This is impossible with 1 million people. You cannot maintain an education system, a very long production chain with only this amount of people. Imagine what is the production chain for CT scan machine or your mobile phone. To mantain the same level of technology with 1 million people we should be 50 times more advanced and automated (see Robots's Asimov Solaria and the spacer society).

Everybody will be living in Uk.

LOL, this is not even simplifying thing, as UK is not particularly rich in resources or has a special climate. I will give you that it has the insularity, which in the mind of most brits stands for protection from outside evils (in your case the virus). But the truth is that Britain is very accesible and not as isolated as you may think (vikings were playing around with year 1000 tech). Generally people are placing eutopias on islands, including the first one by Thomas More in 1516 (and it was in the Atlantic Ocean :)). I also recommend the movie The Island.

All survivors agree that they have a chance to rebuild society with the knowledge of what has happened before.

People don't agree, they congregate around ideas and the prevalent idea is imposed. And the simplest thing prevail (Ocam Razor). Is more efficient on short term to find a survival solution and move on after a cataclysm, that to stand and plan and rebuild. Marechal de Pombal, organized reordering and reconstruction of downtown Lisbon after the 1755 earthquake, using a grid, was done with the use of force and gallows, not by everyone agreeing.

Here I want to point two movies as support: 28 Days Later and 12 Monkeys. It is nice to think that humans learn from mistakes and that after an event lessons are learned, history is never repeated and we grow to a new level. Maybe is just me here, and I am a realist and a pessimist, but this never happens. There is never a big change in how societies work, the inertia is too big. The only way that a society can make such drastic changes is to break it by force, Ghengis Khan style or to kill everyone and start with 1 million fertilized in-vitro eggs grown by simulated computerized nannies.

As for the knowledge of what happened before, this is always interpretable as any history and it depends on who is doing the analysis and to what purpose. The truth is a chameleon not something absolute.

In order to remain a citizen of this city, you must hold a full time work placement.

This is Khmer Rouge style, communist utopia. Work is something that humans do for necessity and when is done for pleasure is not called work anymore, but hobby, research or passion.

Every citizen can have one child in their entire lifetime.

Apart of others have mentioned about the need to have more than 2 kids per family to have a proper age pyramid see also China one child policy effects. I don't understand why don't you want more. In the context that you presented it will be natural to want to recover the human population, genetic diversity etc. Going to one million individuals from seven billions will put us on the red list of next-to-be-extinct species.

Citizens must practice self-control, in that they will not frequently over indulge, they will remain at reasonable weight.

This implies a level of zen that humans don't have yet, and will have probably less after a pest that kills 99% of humanity.

Any citizen who holds a full time job will receive all items necessary for their and their families survival, as well as to live an enjoyable life (food, shelter, water, transport, entertainment, medical care).

I lived in a system where for a decade (80's) all food for my family survival was provided by the state, according to what the the state decided was necessary. Needless to say that this system created a black market and later a revolution.

Respect your government and other citizens

This one is the one statement which is closest to reality. Humans are social creatures and understand the need of rules.

Exile issue

This is not a solution by itself. Exile will create a parallel society, that in time will develop its own values and will challenge the previous one.

And so on and so on.

In conclusion, and for lack of time to describe more issues, I resume that you must take into account more what humans are and how human fabric works. You have to work with those variables more. Building a utopia is not only pointing out current problems of current societies. I wish it were as simple.

1. If every citizen could have maximum one child, would the population stagnate?

Each person only having one child would result in a static or even declining population (over the long term). There would be fluctuations especially if there were three or more generations of a family alive at any one time, but what you are talking about here is just a replacement level of childbirth.

However, this doesn't take into account those that die before adulthood or before they could find a partner and mate - accidents will still happen. Given the environment and the tasks that you've thought up for people, accidents are probably more likely than now. Nor does it take into those who choose not to have children.

You'd probably have to allow couples to have more than two children if you want to ensure a stable population.

Given that there seem to be plenty of resources available - from the scavengers etc. then one of the pressures for having many children - which is having someone to look after you when you are old - is much reduced, so couples might not want to have more than 2 or 3 children anyway.

• Or force every couple to have exactly two kids to keep the population stable – Pavel Janicek Dec 6 '14 at 16:26
• Interesting answer Chris, I never took into consideration people not breeding. It's a difficult situation one generation was allowed to have multiple children, but another generation wasn't, as they may feel they were not treated equally. – Frayt Dec 6 '14 at 16:27
• @PavelJanicek - I was reluctant to suggest that as it leads onto point 1 in the question. – ChrisF Dec 6 '14 at 16:27

I am frankly baffled by your idea that a dictatorship would not be oppressive because no money is in use in a society. If anything, both common sense and historical experience suggests that the opposite is true. You might want to refer, for instance, to Lenin's attempts at "war communism" in 1918-1920, or Cambodia under Khmer Rouge. As for common sense, in the absence of a market the government is left as the only institution controlling the distribution of goods. The total dependency of the citizens on the government for their very sustenance creates a wide scope for the most heinous abuses. You might want to refer to the experience of Soviet and Chinese labor camps, which are quite similar indeed to your notional society (the difference being that Soviet labor camp inmates cleared forest, not old cities), and closer to home to the various 'prison' experiments conducted in the sixties and to the experience of the original Plymouth colony, which is described in the diaries of Governor Bradford and is so relevant to your question in more ways than one, as I hope you'll see, that I feel justified in quoting it extensively. The colony's articles of incorporation are on pp. 45-46 of the linked edition, of which §§3, 5 and 10 are the most relevant (converted to modern spelling):

1. The persons transported & the adventurers [investors] shall continue their joint stock & partnership together, the space of 7 years […] during which time, all profits & benefits that are got by trade, traffic, trucking, working, fishing, or any other means of any person or persons, remain still in the common stock until the division.
2. That at the end of the 7 years, the capital & profits, viz. the houses, lands, goods and chattels, be equally divided between the adventurers, and planters […]
3. That all such persons as are of this colony, are to have their meat [food], drink, apparel and all provisions out of the common stock and goods of the said colony.

The colony worked on these principles, without, as you see, money exchange or private property, for two years, after which it was on the verge of starvation (page 130) because people didn't want to work hard in the common fields. There being no possibility of procuring food from anywhere outside the colony, Governor Bradford was forced to violate the articles of incorporation, to distribute land etc. into private use and to re-form the family units effectively disbanded under article 10 (pp. 134-136 of the linked edition):

All this while no supply was heard of, neither knew they when they might expect any. So they began to think how they might raise as much corn as they could, and obtain a better crop then they had done, that they might not still thus languish in misery. At length, after much debate of things, the Governor (with the advise of the chiefest amongst them) gave way that they should set corn every man for his own particular, and in that regard trust to them selves ; in all other things to go on in the general way as before. And so assigned to every family a parcel of land, according to the proportion of their number for that end, only for present use (but made no division for inheritance), and ranged all boys & youth under some family. This had very good success ; for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted then otherwise would have been by any means the Governor or any other could use, and saved him a great deal of trouble, and gave far better content. The women now went willingly into the field, and took their little ones with them to set corn, which before would allege weakness, and inability; whom to have compelled would have been thought great tyranny and oppression.

Governor Bradford then continues with a discussion of the reasons for this, which is a better answer to your question than I could hope to write:

The experience that was had in this common course and condition, tried sundry years, and that amongst godly and sober men, may well evince the vanity of that conceit of Plato’s and other ancients, applauded by some of later times, that the taking away of property, and bringing in community into a commonwealth, would make them happy and flourishing; as if they were wiser then God. For this community (so far as it was) was found to breed much confusion and discontent, and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort. For the young men that were most able and fit for labour and service did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children, with out any recompense. The strong, or man of parts, had no more in division of victuals & cloths, then he that was weak and not able to do a quarter the other could; this was thought injustice. The aged and graver men to be ranked and equalized in labours, and victuals, clothes, etc, with the meaner and younger sort, thought it some indignity and disrespect unto them. And for men’s wives to be commanded to do service for other men, as dressing their meat, washing their clothes, etc, they deemed it a kind of slavery, neither could many husbands well brook it. Upon the point all being to have alike, and all to do alike, they thought them selves in the like condition, and one as good as another; and so, if it did not cut of those relations that God hath set amongst men, yet it did at least much diminish and take of the mutual respects that should be preserved amongst them. And would have been worse if they had been men of another condition. Let none object this is men’s corruption, and nothing to the course it self. I answer, seeing all men have this corruption in them, God in his wisdom saw another course fit for them.

• Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Monica Cellio Dec 9 '14 at 4:05

Seems like you have some other problems, too, unless you postulate that all your survivors are identical clones. Assuming that they're just random survivors, a large number of them simply won't want to live in a city, period. (Especially Manchester, which from my small experience is far from the nicest place in the UK.) What's to keep them there, except a very coercive police force? Having such a force, what's to keep them from using their power to gain privileges for themselves? And if exile is supposedly a punishment, wouldn't anyone who wants out just commit some 'crime'?

Second, everyone is going to have different ideas of what luxuries are. Some people pay large amounts to attend sporting events & popular nightclubs, for instance. Others (like me) would pay to be let out, if we wandered in by accident. And of course, given that different people want different things, a medium of exchange will soon develop, starting with simple barter.

Same thing applies to children: some people want a bunch, others of us are happier without. How do you square that with the "one child per individual" policy? Wouldn't those who really wanted more simply set up a permanent household outside the city, and eventually come to greatly outnumber the urbanites?

Instead of going into the issues (as you can tell from the other posts, there are many), I want to suggest a way to visualize the closest utopia I can manage.

You describe a benevolent-dictator. You say that the lack of money means the dictator would not be oppressive, which is wrong (most dictators aren't in it for the money), but we can still create a benevolent-dictator. It just requires a little brainwashing: the dictator must be brainwashed into believing the only thing that matters is the perpetuation of their society.

Now we have something which strongly resembles a queen bee, surrounded by worker bees that are not allowed to rebel. This is quite a bit like a real beehive, so we can learn from them.

• The queen is responsible for perpetuation of the society, the queen will decide the birth-rate, not an arbitrary fixed number of children/citizen.
• The queen is married to the hive. The workers do not have enough self-awareness to act without a queen, and the queen cannot live without the workers.
• If a queen dies, there is a well understood process for the hive to quickly produce a new queen.

Now the bee queen has an advantage: she can lay upteen-million eggs without trying. She can perpetuate the society on her own, as long as she has food. Our human queen is going to have to work to pump those kids out... we need to distribute the load.

The queen is the only one responsible for perpetuation of the society. If she wants the young women to help her, she needs to instil a feeling of responsibility in them. They may not be responsible, but they will feel responsible, and that's what is needed. If there are too many children, the queen will convince women to lay low a bit. If there are too few, she'll convince them they want more children.

And that is the key you should build your utopia from. Don't build it from "how do I make a culture that I would want to support," build it from "how do I make a culture that instills the desire to support."

Do not ask what your country can do for you.  Ask what you can do for your country.

• I understand where you're going with this answer, but I don't think your example policy really works here. Trying to control human reproductive habits is really, really hard. As an example, see China's 'one child policy'. While it works to some degree, it certainly isn't as effective as it was hoped. It was originally supposed to reduce the population of China to 700M within a generation, but the loopholes, dodgers, and cheaters have kept China's population rising continually. tl;dr If people want babies, they'll make it happen. – Emmett R. Dec 7 '14 at 1:58
• It is much easier to convince people to want to have the right number of children than it is to declare "thou shalt have 2 children per couple" and somehow still end up calling it a utopia. – Cort Ammon Dec 7 '14 at 4:13
• I think the problem is without a dictatorship it is extremely difficult to get people not to breed excessively. The whole idea of this utopia hinges on the fact there would be a relatively small amount of people, but a large amount of agricultural land leading to a plentiful supply of food. If the population increases, more space is needed for housing and less land can be used for agriculture. In a democracy for example, people could simply vote to abolish any laws, policies or restrictions on child birth, because people often think they know what's best for them. – Frayt Dec 7 '14 at 16:47
• I think you need a queen to socially lead people to breed in balance. You want a utopia, so "I want to have a child, but the law wont let me," is undesirable. You need something to make people want to do what is good for their country, not a law that forces them to (forced utopia is one well known class of distopia in science fiction). Laws that force people to do good for their country tend to result in distopias. As your democracy example shows, things that look like utopias for a minute can quickly devolve into distopias. – Cort Ammon Dec 7 '14 at 18:03

Paul Scheerbart's Lesabéndio starts as an utopian society without a system of exchange: As there is no logical task to do besides making the world you live in a little bit better every day the inhabitants of Pallas do things. And they don't need a mechanism that makes the others give back something until Lesabendio, the great project leader wants to create a project that serves a different means: The hunt for knowledge. I don't think it works with a real human society. But as long as all the inhabitants of an utopy have a common goal it would be possible to construct one that doesn't need a system of exchange. I think the Fremen on Dune don't really exchange things, neither, if they aren't constricted to do so by external circumstances. But they might still get rid of anybody who is of no use to the society which implicitly forces everybody to share things, anyway.

What potential for abuse/corruption would there be within the government system?


I think that mental, social and cultural health are root causes of abuse and corruption. When sick people go undetected and unhealed and are allowed to fester and create sick societies, they'll find a way to corrupt any system. They can infiltrate and corrupt the people in the system, then change the system itself.

What issues could citizens be unhappy with?


Any arbitrary rules that don't fairly apply to them. It's good you are planning to address rule-breaking by counselling rather than punishment, because otherwise, the people who have extra children or body weight even when trying to comply, would have valid complaints. I'd say those rules are pretty silly, especially when starting out with 1 million world population. I'd recommend instilling the values that have moderation be a natural choice, and counselling people who don't seem to get it, but not framing arbitrary rules as laws. Also, exile seems like an unwise punishment. Outcasts might form their own groups away from your city, and might eventually make trouble for your city.

If every citizen could have maximum one child, would the population stagnate?


I think the basic problem with your approach is that you think you can make one set of simple rules, and have it make sense to apply it across the board. What happens is not so simple. Your population might stagnate or not, depending on more complex factors. e.g. How many people break the rule? How many people don't have any kids due to infertility, disinterest, early death, etc? How many people try to obey but biology acts anyway? At 1,000,000, overpopulation is your least concern.

Just impress into your culture the errors of excess, and cultivate wisdom and mental health and the value and importance of the health of non-human ecology, and don't make crude rules without good reasons.

What loopholes are there in the description of this society?


I think the problem is you are trying to make a rule-based control system, when what would work far better is an adaptive set of values that would naturally choose healthy limits and actions. Any rigid rule-based system can be abused by a sociopath, so I recommend focus on detecting and healing mental illness.

Oh, and:

Could a utopian society exist with no system of exchange?


"No system of exchange"? I don't see what you mean, and the answer depends on what you mean. People sharing items and resources and rights is exchange, no matter what rules are or are not applied to it. You could try having no system and see what people do naturally.

Many human societies have existed without a money system, if that's what you mean.

Many aboriginal cultures have never had much private property and share equitably and have had demonstrably sustainable societies for far longer than people have even been planting food. So that can work.

But I don't think having trade or even modest individual wealth accumulation is necessarily a problem. The current world economy is disastrous because we allow banks and giant corporations to amass unlimited wealth, property, power, to buy government and laws, to control media and education, to charge interest, to lend money they don't have to governments and charge interest on those loans to taxpayers, to evade most taxes themselves, to perpetrate environmental destruction around the world, to have for-profit charters, to exploit "free markets" for all they can, and because this state has become an existential assumption. At least 2/3 of all wealth is held by basically ONE conglomerate of banks which essentially are all the same power block that has practically unlimited ability to make itself more wealthy, and has most politicians and news media somewhere in its pockets. That's an entirely different problem than allowing some individual people to trade, or to make a modest private fortune.

Nice thought provoking question, even with some of the semantic difficulties. Example: the way you've defined this civilization is NOT a utopian society. Utopia implies that the people are happy...if everyone is restricted to one child then many people aren't going to be happy. You already have that version of "utopia" in China, not to mention the restriction of people in terms of the work they do.

The assumptions in the question itself are a type of insight also. What's utopian for you, this idea of one child and work control and no money, etc is not going to be pleasant for everyone (or even you, maybe, if you actually had to live under such a society).

As has been pointed out, it's been done in history before. Tribal societies had a kind of communal lifestyle, though one can go too far with that comparison. But I suspect like all other inventions, barter and eventually trade and money were all solutions to a problem. Those problems still exist and removing those things from society only brings back the problems. See China, Cuba, the Soviet Union, as well as the colony of Plymouth Rock for variations on that theme.

Among all the other issues, there is another you are avoiding by fiat. There are far more than 1 million jobs in the world that are needed to maintain our technological society. Even if the plague somehow saved people with different jobs with no duplicates, that's a lot left over.

Once technology fails, suddenly you have to transfer something on the order of 50-90 percent of the population to food production, and they have to live near the fields due to lack of time and transport.

Welcome to the Dark Ages, nobody's idea of Utopia.

Firstly, there is no end to human desire for power.

The people who have been exiled will only form groups outside the city. If it is not possible to overthrow the government, these people will just die out.

Most of the basic rules are already dictated by the question, so any decision to be taken by the dictator will be important and of great consequence. Even if he is self-less in his attitude, the society will be divided over the issue.

Plus, a military coup might be possible, since anyone who promises better facilities for the soldiers will attract a larger army.

And most importantly, many people will feel they deserve more than some other citizen doing completely different work. They could be right in their thoughts. If they are refused, they might rebel against the government and cause a temporary anarchy that could wipe out more people.

Conditions will have to be very precise and perfect for it to be an utopia, rather than a distopia.

Presumably the 'one child per citizen' only counts against the chosen parent - if you limit the women to 1 child ever, then you have a shrinking population.

And you still have a shrinking population unless there's a mechanism to allow for extra children to replace people who die before having their child.

The biggest gap that I can see in the idea, is that without some form of exchange, how are you going to deal with restricted resources? If there's less of X than people who want it, how do you decide who gets it? How do you decide who gets the nicer housing? and so on.

And without some form of incentive, how do you persuade people to work hard at their job?

• The first two paragraphs summarize what's in ChrisF’s answer. Communism and black market is covered at length in others. Have you read the answers before writing this? You should make clear what you are adding, or make a comment on the other post. – JDługosz Sep 4 '16 at 19:17

This will not create a utopia, or a stable society.

Who do we cast out?

Ok, you can remain fed if you hold a full time job. What happens if you get injured or sick and cannot work? How long do you have to recover to becoming capable before you get ejected?

What about the disabled? Let's say you have a child with developmental issues - you might have to wait until they're a teenager or young adult to see to what level of function they will have - do you boot them early just to be safe or do you invest the resources THEN boot them if they're not up to an employable standard?

What if it's just old age? Do we boot you out once you're too old, even if you spent 50 years as a good citizen? Few families will accept seeing their elders get tossed to the wolves, and honestly a lot of people once they hit their 40s and 50s will probably start considering rebellion or at least some personal way to see they are cared for by bending/breaking the rules.

This issue alone sets us up for factions, rebellion and problems.

Resources Dwindle

"Oh man look at all this free stuff just waiting to be reclaimed!"

"Oh wow, we have to go further and further out to get stuff."

"Ok honey, I'll see you in 3 months. We'll bring back as much as we can by boat. Hopefully the raiders don't get us."

First, it doesn't make sense to completely clear a single building - you want to pull resources based on need and spoil-ability. So, things like food, medicine, or chemicals which might have an expiration date make sense to acquire first - things like desks, books, or chairs can wait.

As things get taken up, you have to travel further and further to find more, which means more time, more food, and more fuel is used up in transporting it. Eventually, it just makes sense to build another city instead.

Who watches the watchmen?

First you have to have a government that can pick "the elite" to begin with... however, who is that government? Who picked THEM? Oh, wait, dictatorship... uh oh. However, let's say this actually worked out. What is the system that watches over these watchers?

Given that the rules now govern things like "greed" or "overindulgence", it only takes a little bias or interpersonal antipathy to start racking up "minor" infractions on people and make their lives harder.

Then that leads to blackmail - "Well, you can either sleep with me or I'll see your younger brother get ejected into the wild. What will it be?"

Given how common these issues are for all police forces around the world, and god, even moreso for dictatorships, this would be a magical breakthrough to overcome and keep going for generations.

Expected Freedoms

There's certain things which people expect as rights, and infringing on them quickly generates rebellion. How many children you can have (including the right to have none at all) is a tough one. Sumptuary laws are explicitly oppressive, both within societies and as colonialism between societies. "Respecting the government" is almost complete carte blanche excuse to exile people and even criticism aimed at improving any government is often painted as disrespect - which in turn destroys any cycle of correction.

Even assuming your police are totally upright, you'll get pushback from all of these issues as well.

Economic Conspiracy

If one citizen requests too much of a given resource, it's noted to be "greed". What if a whole neighborhood gets together, everyone agrees to each take 10% more of a necessary resource (like, say, salt). Enough people taking a little bit, and you've got a shortage.

A shortage is a great way for a group to set up a little black market trading on the side or blackmail some deals to change rules or exchange towards their favor.

Why Stay?

"Wow I could stay in this society that polices my reproduction, watches my consumption for 'greed' or 'overindulgence' with lifestyle police, and then kicks me out to die when I'm too old.... OR I could travel a few miles and live on the other stuff that's been abandoned in this country, and maybe a few countries over?"

Unless this particular area magically is immune to the disease and no where else is, you probably have handfuls of survivors everywhere. And also anyone who got exiled from this country. Sure, their lives will be hard, maybe for generations, but they'll start organizing again, and while resources and territory will be a problem for a good while, things like "Democracy" or "Rule of Law" or "Rights" will not be totally new concepts and you'll probably find new nations building around some of that too.