A Jubilee story

You’d heard plenty about Jubilee — the way your cousin Frank enthuses about it, you could hardly have avoided it —, but you hadn’t really thought of moving there until things started getting difficult at work.

Julie, the new girl at work, really winds you up; you’re sure she does it deliberately. You’ve talked to your boss about it, but although she doesn’t exactly take Julie’s side, she doesn’t rein her in, either. She says you ought to be able to cut hair without all this bickering.

So you decide that next time you visit Frank — at the long weekend —, you’ll ask him about what it would be like to move there; he’s sure to be willing to talk about it.

Frank explains, again, that the Church set up Jubilee so that eveyone who lived there could have a guaranteed income, meant to be enough to pay for their share of the land. You’re skeptical about where they get all the money from, and Frank admits that because Jubilee is new, and there’s so much interest in it, rents are still quite high compared to the free income. He says all the construction going on should help to bring rents down, though.

Frank is flatting with four other guys. It seems a bit crowded; two of the bedrooms have two beds crammed into each of them. He says a lot of people squeeze into houses in Jubilee, because another person in the house with another guaranteed income makes it easier to pay the rent.

You have a look at what houses are available. The rents are surprisingly high, but Frank reminds you to take into account the guaranteed income. That makes the rents seem comparable with what you’re used to.

On the way back to Frank’s house, he stops at the shops. The prices are noticeably higher than what you normally pay, which puts you off moving to Jubilee.

Frank visits you occasionally for a haircut. He says that even if you weren’t charging mate’s rates, it would still be about as cheap as getting a haircut in Jubilee, even taking transport into consideration.

Things still aren’t going well at work, so you wonder again about Jubilee. If haircuts really are that expensive there, maybe you could make a decent living. You’d be happy to work for yourself instead of having to tolerate your boss’s toleration of Julie.

So you look online for places to rent in Jubilee. You get Frank to look around some places in person for you. You eventually find a small place with a garage that you might be able to use for cutting people’s hair. It’s just cheap enough that you think you won’t have to share it with anyone, so you go for it.

When you move to Jubilee, the Church pays your guaranteed income not in dollars, but in Jubilee’s own currency, called hāora; you get 168 hāora each week. Frank says some people accept them as payment (especially landlords), but you decide to sign up with a company that’ll regularly convert them into ordinary dollars for you. They can change the exchange rate if they want, but they have to give you plenty of warning if they’re going to reduce what they pay you, so that you can find someone else to buy your hāora from you at a better price.

You’re not sure how the Church can conjure up a new currency and expect it to be worth something, but you’re happy it works, and when you think about it, you’re not sure why dollars are worth anything, either.

Setting up your own hairdressing business is harder than you expected, but you’re glad of the guaranteed income to keep you going. Frank suggests getting a loan from the bank; apparently it’s not too hard for Jubilee residents to get loans, because the bank knows you’ll always have some income.

You ask Frank to come along with you to talk to the bank manager. He says he’s no expert, but he agrees to do his best to work out whether they’re trying to pull the wool over your eyes.

Actually, they’re really helpful, and they have some good advice about how to keep your business afloat. They point out that it’s in their interests to make sure your business is good enough to pay back the loan.

You settle down in Jubilee and start to like the place. Rents start to come down in Jubilee, but they come down in other places, too.

Your grandmother says that the Church is unfairly hurting property prices outside Jubilee by using the guaranteed income to lure residents away. She’s joined a campaign to get the government to tax the guaranteed income that Jubilee residents get. She realizes you appreciate the income, but she warns that falling property prices might harm your inheritance in the long run.

Frank says that if the government taxes the guaranteed income, then they’ll be violating the agreement that they made with the Church when Jubilee was established. It’s a good thing Frank’s from the other side of your family, or there’d be heated debates with your grandmother at Christmas.

Each year, another part of Jubilee is put up for auction by the Church. The winners get 50-year leases on the land they bid on. They have to pay in hāora. You get the impression from Frank that this has something to do with setting the value of the hāora, but you don’t quite see how.

Over time, rents come down to the point where a lot of families have money left over from their guaranteed income after they’ve paid their rent. Some buy 50-year leases (or the remainders of 50-year leases that other people bought previously), but all but the richest of them end up paying mortgages instead of rent. Still, they’re better off than if they were renting or paying a mortgage outside Jubilee.

Some people try to buy or borrow 50 years’ worth of hāora, or even 100 years’ worth for a couple. The idea is that they can buy a 50-year lease with it and build their own house, grow their own food, and so on, saving up their guaranteed income so that their kids can buy the next 50-year lease with it. You could never imagine being rich enough to try that.

Still, you’re happy in Jubilee, and rents have come down far enough that you can get by on part-time work and spend more time playing soccer; you and your friends have started a local team.

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