Chapter 19 – A New Economic System: The fourth step is services that every modern city needs

Let’s pause for a moment here and notice something important. If we review the last three chapters, we have discussed how the new economy proposed in this book can easily produce three important, essential human needs: food, clothing and housing. We have done this by turning human time contributed by the one million residents of our new city into products.

We have also seen that if we combine machines and automation with human effort, it improves human productivity dramatically. People have to contribute much less human time to get the same result.

So in the case of food, the residents of our new city could easily grow food completely “by hand” (e.g. using shovels), without using any machines (e.g. tractors and combine harvesters). But if the residents spend a relatively small amount of time producing machines, like tractors and harvesters, the amount of human time required to produce food dramatically declines. For example, to grow an acre of potatoes completely by hand (i.e. with human beings using shovels for planting, cultivating and harvesting), it might take 2,500 hours of human time per acre. Using modern farm machinery, the time needed falls to 50 hours for the same result.

Using labor-saving machines, all of the food needed for our new city is produced in huge abundance, in huge variety, and served in high-quality restaurants. Task allocation software can easily manage all of the tasks needed to produce food each day (as well as the machines needed for food production). Everyone contributes their human time to the system at a rate of about four hours per week, and everyone eats great food every day, like they would at a banquet on a cruise ship.

In addition, as new automated devices are created in the future – robotic chefs and robotic dish washers, for example – the number of hours each resident needs to contribute for food production will fall. Food production gets easier and easier as robots take over more and more tasks, so the amount of human time per resident required to grow and serve all of the food goes down. This same automation process applies to clothing and housing as well. Over time, less and less human time is required by the residents to produce these three essentials. Another way to say this is that everyone in our new city benefits when new automation and machinery gets added to the system. Automation and robots mean that everyone in the city has less work to do.

Even better, we do not need any sort of magical technology from the future to make all of this abundance possible. Even if we use technology from the 1950s for food production, cloth and clothing production, and housing production, we are fine. All of the essential technology needed is in the public domain because any patents have expired long ago.

Imagine if an economic system like this could be brought to life on planet Earth today and you are living in this new city. You, as an individual human being, contribute your human time each week to this new system, and in return you receive fabulous food served to you every day, along with a wide variety of fashionable clothes, and a very nice place to live. The system uses your contributions of human time (along with the contributions of a million fellow citizens) to produce food, clothing and housing. You get to participate in your share of the bounty from this system in return for your contribution to the system.

Providing other essentials that a city needs

Food, clothing and housing are absolute essentials for any human being. These are three of a human being’s most important needs. By providing these three essentials, we have made tremendous progress for the residents, who have all come from degrading and impoverished environments like slums and refugee camps.

And we can see how the residents can easily provide these essentials for themselves, as described in the preceding chapters. There is no magic here. Farming and cooking and sewing and hammering are not magical skills. What is important is that A) We have designed an economic system that makes the products of these skills equally available to everyone, and B) The task allocation system keeps track of everything that needs to be done and makes sure it happens.

But there are many other things that the city must provide in order to meet the needs of its one million citizens. This city, after all, is like any other large city of a size comparable to San Francisco or Las Vegas in the United States. The United States is a highly developed country, and one thing that distinguishes a developed country from an undeveloped country is that it is civilized. A city in a developed country is safe – this is one hallmark of civilization. There are also services like a water system to provide fresh, clean running water, a sewer system to carry away and treat waste, reliable electricity and Internet systems available to everyone in the city, a strong education system for the citizens, etc. Without these services, the quality of life declines significantly for everyone in the city.

Let’s state clearly that the purpose of our new city and our new economy is to provide citizens with all of their basic needs, as seen in the most developed cities on Earth today. The first question we would ask then is: What are the basic human needs in the modern world? Here is a list that can act as a starting point:

  • oxygen and a clean atmosphere
  • water
  • sanitation
  • food
  • clothing
  • housing
  • health care
  • energy
  • Internet
  • transportation
  • education
  • safety
  • furniture (tables, chairs, sofas, recliners, beds, mattresses, etc.)
  • accessories (soap, toilet paper, sheets, towels, etc.)
  • electronics (TVs, cell phones, laptops, cameras, video games, etc.)
  • recreation

Humans also need certain protections in order to be able to live safe, happy, healthy lives:

  • no murder
  • no theft
  • no assault
  • no gangs
  • no oppression
  • no degradation
  • no terrorism
  • no harassment
  • no pollution
  • no time wasting distractions (like long lines, ads, etc.).
  • and so on

At the same time, there is a set of responsibilities that each member of the city must uphold in return for taking part in the city’s bounty:

  • To contribute willingly, happily and competently to the creation of food, water, housing, clothing, etc. that everyone in the new city needs (more on this topic in Chapter 21)
  • To follow all the laws and rules of the city
  • To contribute to the safety of everyone by being safe and not impinging on the safety of others
  • To not murder
  • To not steal
  • To not assault
  • To not harass
  • To not oppress
  • To not join gangs
  • To not pollute
  • To not be a jerk or an asshole
  • To not waste the time of others
  • And so on…

In Chapter 21 we will discuss how to get everyone in the new city aligned on these benefits and responsibilities.

So far, things are looking good. In the previous chapters we have taken the time to understand the requirements for producing three of the big essentials of human existence: Food, clothing and housing. And, so far, the time requirements look completely reasonable:

  • We know that we will need roughly 200 million hours of human time per year to produce all of the food for the one million residents. This works out to about four hours per week per resident.
  • We know that we will need something like 50 million hours of human time per year to produce the clothing for one million residents. This number could be made dramatically smaller if everyone were willing to wear identical cotton T-shirts and shorts every day, but let’s assume that everyone will be wearing a variety of stylish, fashionable, new clothes and shoes. This works out to about one hour per resident per week on average. People who want to wear a lot of new clothes will contribute more of their human time, people who are happy to wear shorts and a T-shirt every day will contribute less.
  • We will need an average of 80 million hours of human time per year to provide housing for one million residents. This is housing at the level of 300 square feet of space and a private restroom for each person in the city. And let’s keep in mind that, in this estimate, every 15 years we tear down all of the housing, recycle it completely, and rebuild shiny new housing (see Chapter 18 for details). [Let’s also keep in mind that this 80 million hour estimate is highly dependent on the amount of space provided to each resident. If everyone lived in 100 square feet per person and a private restroom for every couple, this number could be reduced significantly. See Appendix F for a discussion.]

This sounds great. For three of the big essentials that every resident needs (food, clothing and housing), each resident contributes about seven hours of work per week. In fact, this time commitment seems like an amazing bargain compared to life in the United States. If a worker in the United States makes $8 per hour, then 7 hours a week is $56, or $2,912 per year. Can any worker in the U.S. eat all of his/her meals in nice restaurants, purchase high-fashion clothing, and obtain safe, secure housing for $2,912 per year? Obviously not. A person living in the United States would have trouble feeding himself restaurant-quality food for a year on this amount of money, and housing would be an impossibility on this little bit of money in much of the U.S. housing market.

However, we should also recognize that there are quite a few other tasks that members of the city will need to attend to each week. How do we understand the amount of time these other essentials will require? We can look at how much time typical cities in the United States spend on these activities today, and extrapolate.

Understanding City Services

What about things that the city will need, like the fire department, the police department, trash collection, water, etc. that are common to any city in the United States? I live in Cary, North Carolina, so let’s use it as an example. Cary has about 150,000 residents (in 2018) and about 1,000 city employees serving these residents, or one employee per 150 residents. These 1,000 employees are broken up into a number of different departments, like this []:

  • Water and sewer (aka Utilities) department
  • Fire department
  • Police department (includes 911, cops in schools, etc.)
  • Parks, Recreation & Cultural Resources
  • Development Services (helps coordinate new construction, business development, etc.)
  • Finance (administers the financial affairs of the Town)
  • Human Resources (hires and fires people, safety training, etc.)
  • Inspections and Permits
  • Planning
  • Public Works (maintains and repairs Town buildings, grounds, parks, greenways, streets, and traffic signals as well as water, wastewater, and reclaimed water lines and equipment located off a plant site; collects and properly disposes of garbage and trash, yard waste, and recycling, conducts fleet maintenance for all Town vehicles and equipment; coordinates community litter reduction and beautification.)
  • Technology Services
  • Attorney’s Office
  • The Town Manager’s Office
  • The Town Clerk’s Office
  • Transportation and Facilities (responsible for the planning, design, and construction of all Town facilities including parks, sidewalks, greenways, buildings, and streets; addresses traffic engineering and safety issues; oversees real estate, surveying and design-related technical services; coordinates the organization’s sustainability efforts; operates GoCary as well as the Town’s Traffic Management Center.)

As you can see, the Town of Cary provides a comprehensive set of services to keep the town running smoothly.

Is 150 residents per town employee typical? Some cities, like Las Vegas, Reno and San Jose, have even fewer employees per resident. In San Diego (population 1.3 million [ref]), the number is 137 residents per employee [ref], roughly the same as Cary for a significantly larger population. But some big cities really pack on the employees. New York City, for example, has only 32 residents per city employee. These big cities may have more employees because they have additional large-scale situations they have to deal with. New York, for example, has a huge international airport, which Cary does not have. NYC has active ports for cargo ships. NYC hosts many national and international conventions, along with things like the United Nations. Many corporate headquarters are in New York. The city has 50 million visiting tourists per year [ref]. It has many employees devoted to things like welfare, child protective services, arts, diversity, etc. These kinds of things/services are not needed, or are needed to a much lesser extent, in a place like Cary, NC. In New York City, the police department alone employs over 51,000 people [ref] because crime happens at a different scale in New York than it does in Cary. Also, New York City is to some degree a terrorist target at the international level.

So let’s pick a number of city employees for our new city. Should we pick a number like New York City, with 32 residents per city employee? Or a number like San Diego, with 137 residents per city employee? Let’s put it somewhere in the middle, so we set it at one city worker per 70 residents. We do this in part because this new city we are creating is an experiment, and will be a somewhat special situation. This also avoids any possible claim that we are understaffing. This means that 1.4 percent of the new city’s population will be involved with city services – 14,250 people will be involved if the rate is one city employee per 70 residents for a population of one million people. This works out to 30 million hours of human time per year devoted to city services.

How will this work be distributed amongst the residents? For example, will every resident be expected to serve as a police officer for an hour every month, or for 2 or 3 days per year? Or will there be people in the city who are full time professional police officers (they go to police academy, they get lots of training and then they serve primarily as police officers for much of their time at work)? Probably the latter, but there may be a mix.

With these 14,250 people, our new city gets the kind of comprehensive services we would expect in any American town or city: a police force, a fire department, clean running water 24×7, a modern sewer system, garbage collection, parks and recreation, etc.

Now let’s estimate the number of people and hours needed to run other public services in our hypothetical city of one million.


What about education? Let’s say 30% of the city’s population, or 300,000 people, are school-age children and college-age adults (nearly identical to the case in the United States today [ref], but we are adding in kids from age zero to age five as well to get to this number). This is very nearly 1 out of 3 residents of the city being in the education system. If we assume that there is one education worker for every 10 students, this works out to 30,000 of our city’s residents being involved with education in one way or another. This is something on the order of 60 million hours of human time per year.

Who will do all of this education work? For example, should parents be responsible for individually educating their children (i.e. home schooling)? Should all parents be responsible for being teachers? Should there be professional teachers who teach all of the time? Should all residents be asked to serve as teachers for a little bit of time each year? Or some kind of hybrid? For example, early child care is a big expense in the United States today. What if all mothers of infants and toddlers are given “maternity leave” for two years, but during that time they are expected to take care of their children and work together to share day care duties? There are many different ways to handle the education equation.

Health Care

What about health care? How much of the city’s population should be devoted to health care? In the United States, there are about 13 million health care workers for a population of 320 million people (in 2018) [ref]. This number includes obvious people like doctors (about 1 million doctors in the U.S.) and nurses (about 3 million), but also includes many, many more people involved in all aspects of healthcare, like all of the other people working in hospitals (nursing aides, orderlies, attendants), home health care aides, occupational therapists, psychiatrists and psychiatrist aides, dentists and dental assistants, pharmacists, physical therapists, massage therapists, etc., etc. And management [ref]. This means that there is one health care worker per 25 residents in the United States, or 40,000 health care workers in our new city. This would be something on the order of 80 million hours of human time per year that will be spent providing health care for the new city.

The health sector of our new city in particular points out the need for specialists. A doctor, at least in the United States, tends to be a highly educated, highly trained person with a lot of responsibility. If a resident in our new city needs food, he/she can grow it without too much training. But if a resident needs a brain tumor removed, he/she cannot do it himself/herself. He/she will want a highly trained, highly professional, highly disciplined specialist removing the tumor, along with a team of other specialists helping the surgeon in the operating room. How do we handle specialists like this? See Appendix D for a discussion, but in general: We seek out people who would like to specialize in the medical sector, we train them using the city’s education system, we certify them, and we let the task allocation system allocate their time.

Energy and Internet

In North Carolina, electricity is provided by the company called Duke Energy. According to its web site [ref], Duke Energy serves 7.4 million customers (in 2018) with about 30,000 employees and 50 gigawatts of generating capacity. This is one employee per 247 residents. In our new city, this means that energy production and distribution will require approximately 8 million human hours per year.

Note that the service area of Duke Energy is 95,000 square miles. It is a huge area encompassing several states. As discussed in Appendix A, the million-person city we are creating will likely be 1,000 square miles in size at most, possibly less. Therefore, providing electricity in our new city will be significantly easier and less costly than it is for Duke Energy [].

Let’s assume that Internet service requires about the same amount of human effort, so another 8 million hours of human time per year. It is likely to be much lower than this, but this can serve as a very conservative estimate for now.

Technology sector

In the modern world, there is a wide variety of “invisible” technology that we all take advantage of every day. All of it is “in the cloud”. Think about the many web sites and services that a typical person uses on a regular basis:

  • Google, Bing and other search engines
  • YouTube, Netflix, Hulu and other video sites
  • Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media sites
  • Wikipedia, Reddit, Quora and other information sources
  • BBC, NYT, MSN and other news sources
  • Google maps, Apple maps, Bing maps and other mapping sites
  • Weather sites and apps
  • Amazon, eBay and other shopping sites
  • Dropbox, Onedrive and other file sharing sites
  • Whatsapp, iMessage and other messaging apps
  • Apps in the appStore and Google Play crossing hundreds of genres
  • And so on…

One thing to understand is that there is quite a bit of duplication in this list (example: Google maps, Apple maps are Bing maps are identical for all practical purposes, and the only reason for the duplication is bizarre turf battles that arise in capitalism). Another thing to understand is that technology companies can be remarkably efficient in terms of human resources. For example, Facebook serves approximately 2 billion users with only 23,000 employees [2017]. In other words, it takes about 82 seconds of human time per user per year to provide the Facebook service to customers. In a city of one million people, this is only 23,000 hours of human time per year. Allocating 20 million hours to our new city’s technology sector would be overkill.

What else does our new city need?

What else do the citizens of our new city need in order to live their lives? Let’s make some additional assumptions:

  • Add to that 100 million hours of human time per year to produce all of the other products the city needs in modern, automated factories: things like the furniture, electronics, electronic components, pharmaceuticals and medical devices, sporting goods, home accessories, etc. of modern life, along with basics like toilet paper, soap, light bulbs and so on. AKA “manufacturing”. [ref]
  • Add in another 50 million hours for construction [ref]. We have already completely covered housing construction in our previous estimates in Chapter 18, but lots of other things (e.g. factories, schools, hospitals, fire stations, etc.) still need to be constructed and maintained.
  • Add in another 50 million hours for transportation. [ref]
  • Add in another 50 million hours for retailing. [ref]
  • Add in another 80 million hours (identical to the medical sector) for a very strong research and development program to significantly and swiftly advance the technologies available. [ref]

The subtotal of these add-ons is 330 million hours of human time needed for all of the other tasks in our city.


What is the total amount of human time needed in this new city to provide residents with a comprehensive package of modern goods and services? It looks like this:

  • Food production requires 220 million hours of human time per year (this number has the cost of productivity-increasing machinery like tractors and harvesters already baked in, and and includes service of the food to residents in restaurants, like a cruise ship does).
  • Clothing production requires 52 million hours of human time per year (this number has the cost of productivity-increasing machinery already baked in). However, a person who is very into clothes might want to contribute more hours, while a person who dresses plainly will contribute less.
  • Housing production requires 82 million hours of human time per year (this number has the cost of productivity-increasing machinery already baked in, along with the cost of producing all of the materials and components, plus the cost of the site prep, maintenance and recycling). Houses are dismantled and recycled after 15 years. The amount of time each resident contributes will be dependent on the type of housing they select.
  • City services requires 30 million hours of human time per year. (includes police protection, fire protection, water, sanitation, garbage handling/recyling, parks and recreation, etc.)
  • Education requires 60 million hours of human time per year.
  • Health care requires 80 million hours per year.
  • Energy requires 8 million hours per year.
  • Internet/communications requires 8 million hours per year.
  • Cloud infrastructure and technology development requires 20 million hours.
  • Manufacturing requires 100 million hours.
  • Construction requires 50 million hours.
  • Retailing requires 50 million hours.
  • Research and development requires 80 million hours to significantly and swiftly advance the technologies available for the city.
  • Let’s add in another 100 million hours for “Other” – things we have not covered in this extensive list.

The total here is 940 million hours of human time, and we have covered everything the residents of our modern new city need to live comfortable lives. With 940 million hours of human time, we will have provided for an abundant, high-quality, luxurious, comprehensive supply of:

  • Food
  • Clothing
  • Housing
  • Health care
  • Education
  • Electricity
  • Internet
  • Furniture
  • Electronics
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Transportation
  • Civic construction
  • City services (includes police protection, fire protection, water, sanitation, parks and recreation, etc.)
  • R&D
  • Other

Dividing these 940 million hours of human time by the one million residents of our city and the 52 weeks in a year, we get approximately 18 hours per week per resident to provide the city with all of these products and services.

Think about how amazing this all is – all of these products and services, provided with maximum variety and in shocking abundance to all one million members of the city – and to achieve this, each resident contributes 18 hours per week on average. It is mind boggling when you think about it from this perspective.

Obviously this package would be very appealing to the many people living today in slums and refugee camps. We have actually moved quite far toward the goal of providing “Heaven on Earth” for everyone in our new city. But imagine if we approach one million impoverished, hungry Americans – Americans who are currently stuck in crappy minimum wage jobs, or Americans on food stamps – and we say to them the following:

“Here is the proposition: Come with us to a new city and work within the city’s new economic system. In this system, we ask each city resident to contribute an average of 20 hours per week of your time, and in return you will receive an abundance of high-quality food, clothing, housing, health care, education, electricity, Internet, water, sewer, police protection, fire protection, parks, etc.”

The response would likely be extremely positive for a large swath of the population, even in a highly developed nation like the United States. The reason is because capitalism is currently crushing tens of millions of people into poverty in the United States.

Everyone working within this new economy gets great food. Everyone can easily obtain a wide variety of stylish clothing. Everyone gets great housing and a private restroom. Everyone receives water, sanitation, police protection, fire protection, parks, etc., just like they would in a well-run city in the United States. All of the children are well-fed and well-educated. Everyone gets healthcare, electricity and Internet. All of this abundance comes in return for the human time that citizens contribute via the task allocation system. As the residents arrive and start developing their city, the facilities are rapidly being constructed right before everyone’s eyes, and everyone is participating in the process (see Appendix A). It is an amazing wealth of products and services that every resident partakes of, simply by contributing their human time into the system.

It really helps you understand how unbalanced and appalling the economic systems we use today on planet Earth really are. Billions of people on Earth are living in intense poverty under capitalism. The overwhelming amount of theft that corporations and their executives are perpetrating on the World’s people is painfully obvious. Instead, everyone in this new city receives an incredible lifestyle. The utterly absurd (insane, really) idea that the CEO of Nike makes $14.7 million per year ($7,350 per hour), never mind all of the executive perks, while a worker in Asia who actually assembles the shoes makes $1 per hour, has been abolished. Perhaps for the first time in human history, everyone in the society participates fairly in the abundance created by the society’s economic system.

And the even more optimistic news is that things are only going to get better. As new manufacturing techniques, new robots, better software, more automation, etc. come online, the amount of human time required to produce all of this abundance will shrink. The one million people who live in this new city will be working less and less over time because of the coming innovations.

It is amazing to realize how great life can be for the one million inhabitants of this new city, if they work together using a new economic system designed to maximize productivity and share the wealth of that productivity evenly with everyone in the city. By working together, everyone will prosper. This new economic system is a gigantic win for billions of human beings.

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