After seeing the first answer, I realized that the question was poorly formed and edited this from socialist organizations existing to mainstream center left organizations becoming popular

In a free and democratic country, the plan is to create some type of not-for-profit legal entity (let's call it a corporation), owned collectively by its members. Volunteers who join sign a legal contract that they have to give up certain parts of their property, income, and/or labor in exchange for membership and access to the services provided by the corporation.

Under the umbrella if the main corporation, subsidiaries can be created that provide services to the members, such as

  • Internal governance
  • Health care
  • Education
  • Child care
  • Housing
  • Payment assistance for any of the above
  • etc, the only limits are the will of the members, the budget, and the law

This seems like the solution that makes both the political left and right happy since they all get what they want. Why isn't it this becoming mainstream?

  • How does it make the political right happy? Where's the value for Shareholders?
    – Jontia
    Feb 13, 2020 at 16:48
  • 1
    The right is happy because now they aren't forced to participate. Feb 13, 2020 at 17:35
  • Adverse selection perhaps? Feb 14, 2020 at 10:49

4 Answers 4


What prevents socialists from forming an organization that implements socialism for members?

Nothing, in theory. (Some governments may restrict the incorporation of such organizations.)

Why isn't it happening?

It is happening.


A commune (the French word appearing in the 12th century from Medieval Latin communia, meaning a large gathering of people sharing a common life; from Latin communis, things held in common) is an intentional community of people living together, sharing common interests, often having common values and beliefs, as well as shared property, possessions, resources, and, in some communes, work, income or assets.

In addition to the communal economy, consensus decision-making, non-hierarchical structures and ecological living have become important core principles for many communes. There are many contemporary intentional communities all over the world, a list of which can be found at the Fellowship for Intentional Community (FIC).

Core principles of communes

The central characteristics of communes, or core principles that define communes, have been expressed in various forms over the years. Before 1840 such communities were known as "communist and socialist settlements"; by 1860, they were also called "communitarian" and by around 1920 the term "intentional community" had been added to the vernacular of some theorists.

Communes around the world

With the simple definition of a commune as an intentional community with 100% income sharing, the online directory of the Fellowship for Intentional Community (FIC) lists 222 communes worldwide (28 January 2019)

Intentional community.

An intentional community is a planned residential community designed from the start to have a high degree of social cohesion and teamwork. The members of an intentional community typically hold a common social, political, religious, or spiritual vision and often follow an alternative lifestyle. They typically share responsibilities and resources. Intentional communities include collective households, cohousing communities, coliving, ecovillages, monasteries, communes, survivalist retreats, kibbutzim, ashrams, and housing cooperatives. New members of an intentional community are generally selected by the community's existing membership, rather than by real-estate agents or land owners (if the land is not owned collectively by the community).

  • Thank you for your answer. But it makes me realize that this is not what I had in mind with the question. I will edit the question to clarify that I mean why it isn't mainstream among left leaning individuals, such as social democrats. Feb 13, 2020 at 15:34
  • 2
    @IKnowNothing: You might consider the possibility that many of those "left leaning individuals", particularly those with more than average assets, generally want socialism for other people, not themselves. See e.g. various politicians' remarks about "taxing billionaires", proposals for wealth taxes, and so on :-)
    – jamesqf
    Feb 13, 2020 at 18:02

People do this, to varying degrees. There are communes. And there are targeted non-profit organizations that focus on one or more of these specific issues.

But the core problem with your proposition is that it's a logical fallacy. Taking the U.S. as an example, we already invest collectively as a country. Most of the wealth in the country is owned by a very small percentage of people who benefit disproportionately from those collective investments.

When you create a voluntary organization, those wealthy people will not join it. They will just continue to disproportionately benefit from the collective work and investments that the organization members still have to pay to the rest of society, which they are still also a part of.

If one kid has stolen most of the toys the teacher brought for the class, and then afterwards they tell the other children in their class that they are free to just share the limited toys they have among themselves... that isn't a solution that most will see as equitable.

When the top .01% own as much wealth as the bottom 90% (that's .01% not 1%), you can't reasonably solve the problems of 300 million people without any investment from the few thousand families that have all the stuff.

This isn't a 'compromise', it's just the status-quo position framed as a compromise.

People of differing political persuasions may attempt to argue that the actual situation is different. But this answers the question of why this "just join a commune" proposition is not taken seriously by many left-leaning people and is often seen as a 'troll response' to legitimate systemic criticism.

Not everyone wants to live on a commune. Some just want basic social services and protections to be provided by the system that they already pay into.

  • 3
    Good points. In any socialist system, there will be people who contribute more than they take, and others that take more than they contribute. "Opt-in socialism" doesn't really work, since the people who contribute more than they take have absolutely no incentive to join, which just leaves you with a group of people who can't support themselves. Feb 13, 2020 at 15:50
  • 3
    @NuclearWang From a socialist view, that's not really the point. Those who have accumulated capital don't contribute more than they take, they contribute less. A Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos hasn't personally contributed billions in value through their work, instead they extracted surplus value from the work of others (as well as profited disproportionately from collective investments as Tal noted). Those others cannot "support themselves" only insofar as they have no control over the means of production (which is also why the 'just join a commune' approach isn't seen as a solution).
    – tim
    Feb 14, 2020 at 7:48
  • @NuclearWang When it applies to insurance, this is also called "adverse selection". Feb 14, 2020 at 10:50

Communes exist in the United States, on many small scales, mostly in agriculture works for income for expenses for reasources that are shared with the community and many other nations have stronger histories (The Paris Commune was quite influential in the 19th century, and was Marx's chief inspiration for "The Communist Manifesto."

It has even been argued that the happy all American Nuclear family (Mom, Dad, and 2.5 kids) is very much socialism in action, especially if the family has one breadwinner and one stay-at-home parent (typically dad goes to work, mom manages the house). After all, not all members are contributing to the domestic economy (little baby Jr does nothing but eat and sleep and only produces stinky diapers, which has never been a thriving commodity) but the production of the breadwinner(s) will be distributed to all members of the family (stay-at-home parent and 2.5 kids) to address the needs of the individual (from each according to his means, to each according to their needs).

This kind of socialism/communism is great in small scale, but if you don't understand why a large scale isn't possible, ask yourself if you've ever had a fight with a sibling about who gets the last cookie, or were asked to clean up the house without any reward by a parent. Those problems are scaled up and as well and tend to be much more important in the large scale. The last cookie is a simple fight, but when there's a national food shortage?

  • Thank you for answering. The people I am asking about want to implement this on a nation state level, so large scale is clearly not stopping them. Feb 13, 2020 at 16:14
  • 1
    @IKnowNothing: A lot of what you're asking about sounds like a "company town" model, which lead to all sorts of problems when the work stopped and the company went under. There are a few "Company Towns" that exist today (I always love to cite the Reedy Creek Improvement District in Florida... mostly for the shock of which company does the most business there... as well as Walt Disney's plans for EPCOT as a planned city.)
    – hszmv
    Feb 13, 2020 at 17:57
  • @hszmv I think you should turn your comment into an answer. There are many problems with the company town but it was sold with the same vigor as the question states. In the end the problem with this and communes is the loss of freedom for that minority that likes to do things their way. For the rest, they realize at some point that resources are given regardless of effort. The real answer is: People have more education now than back then. Feb 13, 2020 at 22:18
  • @FrankCedeno: Psst. Check out who wrote the answer you commented on.
    – hszmv
    Feb 14, 2020 at 12:42
  • Company towns are not related to socialism or even social democracy though; they are unrestrained capitalism where workers are exploited in all areas of life and without means of escape.
    – tim
    Feb 14, 2020 at 14:41

Implementing all this, at scale, with sufficient resources to get anything done, would take significant contributions from members (who are already paying taxes within the host country), would require thorough auditing to make sure no one profits at the top and would require significant efforts to decide on policy and leaders. In short, it would be pretty much like running a country.

For less effort, one could probably emigrate to a country with services better matched to one's preferences, esp in the EU. On the other hand, if the goals and aims were really popular with the general population at large, you could elect a government to implement them.

Besides some of us, like me, are too individualistic to join a private group with such a large remit on one's actions and activities. I don't mind submitting to a well-run government and paying taxes for common good items like health care, but the framework on its governance (and enforcement of rules against recalcitrant members) is much more battle-tested than we are likely to get here.

Another flaw is relying on commercial law, as in

Volunteers who join sign a legal contract that they have to give up

Contracts generally specify all the obligations and benefits and aren't meant to evolve on their own. Say you join and it says 5% of your income to cover health and education. What happens when the commune decides to provide say a living wage to its staff and needs 6%? Or, basically makes any changes that are material to the contract? Even if it's by majority vote, I doubt courts will always agree.

While it may very well work as communes, or churches, on more limited scales and ambitions (say mostly co-op housing), the reality that isn't done more often -- and that this absence is observable throughout many countries -- should be a sign that the advantages aren't quite as significant as the rosy outline provided in the question.

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