This, outside of anarcho-capitalism, is the system I find most similar to my beliefs. In fact, depending on how you look at possession/use and what constitutes a fair cost for capital/land/rent/etc then this ends up functionally similar to anarcho-capitalism. What I do like as a positive of mutualism is the direct stated goal of mutual aid, meaning it is much easier to convince people of as opposed to the seemingly greedy capitalism (despite the overwhelming cooperation required for capitalism). A downside in my mind is the difficulty in parsing the divide between what is and isn’t fair to redistribute or reclaim in order to maintain access to the means of production. So without further ado, here is my butchering of an anarcho-mutualist fantasy town.
The Town’s Philosophy
Anarcho-Mutualism is a hybrid sort of market socialism. No landlords, minimal interest, no rent, or any other unearned incomes. Rents, land-owning, and interests are allowed but only to the extent that the person is providing value. For example, a landlord can only charge for the time they spend managing the property, its improvements, and maintenance. Banks can only charge interest based on administration costs and money lost to defaulted loans. Through a system of federated power of individuals and a focus on reducing prices to cost, mutualists seek a society free of rent-seeking and hierarchical, unearned power (economic or otherwise) over others.
The History of the Town
A few, well-read individuals began a covert movement. These people sved what they could, working with industrious by disgruntled artisans, to begin a mutual-credit bank. With the low costs, they were able to rapidly grow their federated interests by supporting fellow communty members ventures and ideas with low cost resources. Before the nobles knew what was happening, thanks to their bloated ineptitude, the people had built up a free society that found them unnecessary. When the nobles finally lashed out, trying to collect taxes to pay soldiers so they could continue to collect taxes, it was found that too many of the soldiers had found a better deal. Now they were working for the defense of their mutualist neighbors rather than defending the tax regime of a dying breed of nobles. With a critical mass of soldier defecting, it didn’t take long before the nobles’ ill-gotten gains were returned to the people. Councils of the people divided up what was stolen and returned the resources to the community. Kinder, more industrious nobles voluntarily surrendered in order to keep some productive land and have since incorporated well into the mutualist system by creating value for others.
People here put community above almost all else. However, their ideal of community is only extended to those who pull their own weight and return the support given to them. They have a strong aversion to any deals or agreements that would appear to take advantage of someone else, to the point that they will meticulously lay out every copper of costs. Mutualist townsfolk will expect others to fully explain their own costs if they appear to be higher than cost. Their strong community bonds gives them a strong ability to repel invaders and will often launch opportunistic strikes to liberate lands and people from nearby lords. Thanks to their high productivity and cheap investment loans, they live fairly comfortably. Cheap goods, good magic, and cutting edge technology make this town a tough nut to crack by its many neighboring enemies.
While much of the basis of the law here is assumed as common law, it is enforced by a combination of contract and mutual federation among the people here. Mutual federation is the practice of people joining guilds of mutual aid, insurance, and defense. Where this town differs is in its protection of property, but only that property which is being utilized and occupied fairly by the owner. Even then, it can still be a problem if it is used in a way that denies others access to a means of production. Through contract and federation, councils of impartial judges are chosen to help in the arbitration of any disputes. Only after social and economic ostracism has failed to provoke a guilty party to provide redress for their crimes will violent threats be made and then carried out.
There is an elaborate mix of cottage-industry and federated manufactories that produce all the products the town could need, including enough to trade for those other goods they cannot produce. With little overhead lost to taxes, usury, rent, and other inefficiencies, goods here are usually 5-20% cheaper than usual but it will be almost impossible trade at those prices without a solid relationship with a federation in town to prove your lawfulness. A continuing contribution to the town’s public good can help prove this in earnest . Expect that federation to be somewhat costly for an outsider to obtain, whether in gold or in deed. Mutual credit means many more people have started their own productive ventures than usual. It is easier to find niche goods and services here than would normally be expected of a town of its size.
With low cost credit, and a penchant for community, the houses here are quite large. It is not uncommon to find more than a few families sharing a single large, eclectic and well-built home. Without any noble sponsored or governance mandated guidelines, the people often keep their workshops and farms near their homes. Mutual aid societies and volunteer labor combine to ensure that the roads, town square, and public spaces are well maintained. Nice cobble roads support easy travel and the layout of the town makes it easy to navigate, without any of the usual staples of towns, namely slums or rich quarters, to segregate areas.
1D6 PEOPLE YOU’LL MEET
- This fiery preacher runs a mutual aid society for bringing alms to the poor in the next town over. He will loudly proclaim that salvation can only be found by saving others, and will gladly show off his lashing scars.
- A middle aged foreigner runs an exotic goods store. If asked, he will talk about his old town while rubbing his bald head. He is from an anarcho-capitalist town where he could not afford a business. Here, he gladly takes advantage of mutual credit, and now runs a store importing goods from his old town.
- A young child, hair braided and long, pulls on a character’s leg. She asks to have some of the players’ things, and becomes quite frustrated that the players are greedily refusing her.
- A dusty old man hobbles along, mumbling about his imminent revenge. His tattered silk clothes and fraying wig barely keep him decent.
- Pack bulging with goods, a teenager loudly proclaims his independence from the community. If pressed, he will demand that the players join his commune, lest they contribute to keeping him in a state of inequality.
- A young woman limps down the road towards you. Upon seeing you, her eyes light up from underneath a forehead bandaged with blood-stained rags. She asks if this is the mutualist society that freed her.
1D6 THINGS THAT MIGHT HAPPEN
- Sam Markane quickly introduces himself and explains a proposition. With a loan from the community, he wants to partner with the adventurers to start a commercial business. There’s a 1 in 6 chance this venture fails, but otherwise it can provide a steady decent income or allow the players to retire.
- From the bushes, a sultry woman’s voice tells the players not to turn around and to make no sign that anything is amiss. She requests aid in taking down one of the mutual aid societies, the Fraternal Order of the Badger. The Badgers destroyed her family’s home in the next town over and left her penniless with a callous laugh.
- The Golden Tackle, a specialty fishing equipment store is having a grand opening sale. The owner is lowering his already low prices to a meager 40% of the usual cost for custom fishing gear, tackle, and bait.
- An elaborate home construction is going poorly. A few of the workers are in an argument with the owner, as they complain about overruns in costs and unrealistic designs. They threaten to call in a council to arbitrate, but the owner looks to the players as a neutral party to solve the dispute, hoping that their wealthy appearance will have them side with him
- The town square is full of ragged-clothed families. A robed woman announces over the low murmurs that applications are now open. If the players push and shove to the front, they might be able to snag membership in the Red Lily Society, a prestigious mutual-aid bank that occasionally opens their ranks to the poor and outsiders at a discounted cost.
6. A council decision has been rendered after the town has heard of the adventurers. A particularly greedy council member has led the charge to accuse the players of hoarding wealth and denying others access to capital. The players must defend themselves of these charges and further fabricated claims by this jealous jerk, Percivus Parkal III.