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date: 11 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This article uses an economic perspective to shed light on the conditions under which communes that strive for equality and cooperation are stable, how they persist, and why they often collapse. It presents a view of communes as communities striving for internal equality while mitigating the inherent problems associated with a high degree of equality/redistribution, namely, the tendency of more productive members to leave (brain drain), the tendency to shirk (moral hazard), and the tendency of less-productive individuals to join (adverse selection). The economic framework also explains many of the characteristics of communes discussed in historical and sociological literature. The article illustrates how ideology and religion play important roles in alleviating brain drain, adverse selection, and moral hazard by focusing on communes in North America since the mid-1700s and the Israeli kibbutzim, mainly because these are better documented than communes in earlier periods.

Keywords: communes, equality, cooperation, ideology, religion, brain drain, adverse selection, moral hazard, North America, kibbutzim

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