So, here's the rules:

  • You start with a small college town in the western US
  • Small populations of Native Americans, Mexicans, Blacks, etc.
  • You have to start in the late 70s
  • In the 70s, the college town has equal numbers of Liberals and Conservatives
  • The same historical forces apply (left/right wing radicalization, etc.)
  • You must not be perceived as a threat to any institution powerful enough to thwart you

Here's my best attempt so far:

Home-grown Mary Sue oversees the entire operation

To start things off a highly talented local musician/singer/song writer becomes the next Justin Bieber (or Michael Jackson, to be historically relevant) and returns home to great acclaim and wealth. (So I've entered the "cube" and the "Borg" don't see me as a threat.)

Mary Sue immediately sets up a foundation and promises that if you will meet with one of his financial counselors once a month and take their advice, he will double your net worth when you retire.

The foundation also, over the decades, takes on more and more social work, private security, etc., until all city functions have been duplicated. The foundation also buys up all real estate.

In the late 10s, the foundation converts its governance model into a decentralized ledger-based system and moves its asset titles on to the ledger, effectively making them property common to all who are part of that system.


  • Limited Money: “The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money.” ― Margaret Thatcher. Mary Sue has to go from being Justin Bieber to being Warren Buffett to keep the coffers full. Maybe a college town is too big a bite to take?
  • Limited Time: Bringing home the bacon takes time away from keeping the locals happy, etc., but music careers don't run themselves. And there are so many people who want to monopolize Mary Sue's time.
  • Limited bandwidth: The amount of detail is exhausting. There are so many rules to write to handle contingency cases. And the number of ways to game the system just increases with time. Double that when writing the code for the decentralized ledger.
  • Limited housing: There comes a point where if Mary Sue gets successful, the wealthy from nearby cities will bid up the price of land in this benefit-heavy town to the point where there is an affordable housing crisis. (That probably wouldn't be perceived as a threat, though.)

What's a plausible way to convert a small western college town into a commune?

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    $\begingroup$ Hello and welcome to world building! Can you elaborate if you want to build a world according to given rules or do you want to focus on the events and efforts of a person (story writing and ideas) to achieve their goal? $\endgroup$ Feb 18, 2017 at 6:08
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    $\begingroup$ @youstay-igo That's an interesting question! I think the latter - I want to focus on how earnestness and virtue slowly grind a person down. $\endgroup$ Feb 18, 2017 at 8:01
  • $\begingroup$ @Youstay Could you give an example from popular literature of each? I don't know if I understand you. $\endgroup$ Feb 18, 2017 at 8:06
  • $\begingroup$ I am afraid my friend that if you want to build up the plot of a story, then you have come to the wrong place. This is not the writers corner, so members will not get into plot ideas. At this place, we build worlds and environments as required by people. For example, you could go on and discuss how to build a college town in USA in a specific era of history or what would be the outcome of several factors on a college town. $\endgroup$ Feb 18, 2017 at 8:13
  • $\begingroup$ I always thought that with college towns, "if you build it, they will come" as you need housing for staff, professors, the businesses that will start up near the school in town, including bars, strip clubs and people to enforce the law. Why seed the city by bringing on these people? Are they being kidnapped or do you mean that the school and town will be built on their land? $\endgroup$ Feb 18, 2017 at 10:49

1 Answer 1


The biggest hurdle I see to overcome is that people are individuals, and as such, what is important to one man is an absolute deal breaker to another. The key to a commune is that you need everyone to be like minded in order for it to work. Too much variety in values you start to run into corruption and other problems.

How to deal with it. create conditions that would attract the communal minded and repel those otherwise inclined. Make the housing uniform and difficult to customize. Use regulations to make sure that any new construction in the area meet VERY strict standards. In addition, make money kind of useless while in the town. Push barter situations, use the commonwealth cash to bring in those things that cannot be produced locally. Produce everything you possibly can locally, and if you can produce surplus, even better. Get an army of VERY well paid lawyers to protect yourself from legal challenges coming from the outside.
Finally, make sure you are not a threat to the host country.

There is a sort of precedent to this in Amish communities that dot the countryside. They produce everything they can locally. They attract those that have similar mindsets. Housing does not have a huge amount of variety (though it is very well made) Surplus gets sold to outsiders, and at a substantial premium too.

Many communes have been tried, but they always seemed to lack sufficient forethought to last more than a couple of years. The drugs didn't help much. The Amish communities have, by contrast, lasted much longer. I think it's because of a lack of drugs, and their culture promotes being conscientious about everything. They actually give things lots of thought before accepting or rejecting them. It's how you get Amish with horse drawn carriages for going in to town, but they will have Tractors for working in the fields. They sometimes will have basic cell phones, but no cars. That's because tractors and cell phones are not seen as things that will change the way of life, but Cars will. They also use other forms of social pressure instead of brute force policing. It works because the young people are given a chance to leave, experience the outside world, and are instructed to return if they chose the secluded life. The end result is that they mostly want to be there. It puts a huge lid on discontent.

Now I want to know what the ugly darkside of this is going to be mwahahaha!


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