Moot is not quite there yet, but surely, at some point in time the question of community finance will be raised. By this I don’t mean just tithing. Rather, here I’m more concerned with how moot and mooters could constitute economic agents, an economic microcosm and an economic entity, and how financial relationships and transactions could be functioning between them and with external agents. These thoughts stem from different conversations with mooters and some personal reading, and are by no means either comprehensive or complete. But here a few of them – for discussion purposes only (i.e. don’t try this at home quite yet):
As a community, moot should strive for self-sufficiency but not get to a state of autarky. This would mean recognising that while it would make sense for people to share capital and human resources within the community to ensure lower costs and higher utility for everyone, reliance on external services is inevitable. Moot, both materially and spiritually, is to live with and from exchanges with “the outside world”.
2) Ownership and use
Usually, monastic communities require people joining to give up all their possessions to the community, i.e. give up ownership of what they possess. This is unlikely to be feasible here for several reasons: (a) people do not stay for their entire life with moot, (b) giving up one’s possessions would require such a level of trust between mooters that I personally believe it is unreasonable to expect that, (c) it is actually impractical, mostly because people are scattered in different places. An alternative, though, is that people do not give up ownership but allow others to use some of what they possess. An even weaker alternative, and perhaps a first step, is the ability for people to lease their possessions for use, provided they don’t make a (significant) profit (see point 4) out of the transaction.
3) Freedom of contract
This is more a theoretical point, perhaps, but important nevertheless. People should be free to enter financial transactions as they see fit, provided they abide to certain rules, which should protect both parties against potential economic adversity. I personally think this is a preferable approach to restricting contracts to a list of authorised transactions. In effect, this means that mooters can agree to enter any financial transaction and are not restricted in their use of financial instruments (e.g. it is possible to give a loan to another mooter and charge interest rates). This, provided all transactions remain in line with some precepts which remain to be defined.
4) Profit making
This one ought not to be misunderstood. Moot, and mooters, should be able to make a profit. By this, I don’t mean that they should enrich themselves on the back of others, whether these are part of the community or not. But, people need to realise that if they lend money or give access to some of their possessions for use by other mooters, they should not simply charge the amortising rate, but expect to earn a certain profit on this as well. This would apply to community initiatives as well, such as the art café. The rationale is that people need to be able to make use of their capital and reinvest it to ensure self-sufficiency on the long-term. For instance, and as a theoretical example, if a family were to work in the art café, not only their current costs of living should be covered, but also, let’s say, the savings necessary for the children’s education. This said, people should not overcharge others (greediness). If an extra profit is made, which should still be possible in certain circumstance and for whatever reason, a fund for moot should be created to allow these profits to be reinvested in goods and services useful to the entire community.
5) Relationship to the external financial and economic world
Christian financial precepts, contrarily to what is the case for instance in Islamic Finance, do not require a fundamental change in the prevailing economic system. Rather, they much more concentrate on relationships between members of a community than between individuals and an overarching system. A Christian community should be able to function in a similar way whether it is living in a free market or planned economy. While some activism for a positive change in how a particular economic system functions may be welcome, this should be pursued because that system is unjust, rather than because we are looking to overhaul the entire economic system. This is because the Bible, contrarily to the Qur’an, does not really provide any hints as to what kind of macroeconomic system is to be preferred by Christians.
All this said, two words of caution here: (1) financial transactions could potentially be the source of much discord between community members and a lot of caution has to be taken before making any steps in the directions described above, (2) my thinking tends to be influenced by free market economic theories – any alternative thoughts are welcome…