by Charlie Huenemann
By 2025, protective living communities (PLCs) had started to form. The earliest PLCs, such as New Promise and New New Babylon, based themselves on rationalist doctrines: decisions informed by best available science, and either utilitarian ethics or Rawlsian principles of justice (principally, respect for individual autonomy and a concern to improve the lives of those most disadvantaged). Membership in these communities was exclusive and tightly guarded, and they had the advantage of the relatively higher levels of wealth controlled by their members.
One such community, New Promise, began as a complex of buildings 60 miles outside of Moab, Utah. These buildings included living accommodations, a central meeting hall/library/theater, a food market, a health care station, and a network of gardens and walking trails, along with infrastructure buildings such as a water reclamation plant and a solar power station. Nearly all of its residents are able to work from home. Visitors are allowed only after a medical screening, and new members are admitted only after a rigorous screening process. Community dues are set at one-third of income, and the community is managed by a board of seven elected officials. There are two recorded instances of families being evicted from the original New Promise, in each case because, in the view of the governing board, they were not willing to abide by the decisions of the community.
New Promise offers a high standard of living and a buffer against both disease and political instability. In exchange, the community requires individuals to subordinate their own interests to those of the community. Applicants with strong religious or political ideologies are not admitted. Its members are typically highly-educated workers in technology, education, or business. “In New Promise you are free to do as you please,” said one member, “so long as what you’re doing doesn’t make anyone else miserable.”
It did not take long before other PLCs began to emerge with quite different organizing principles. New Jerusalem and Noah’s Ark were the first PLCs organized around a fundamentalist brand of Christianity. Infamously, David’s Covenant ran afoul of federal laws against polygamy and child marriage, and was disbanded by federal agents in 2033. New Hope is also avowedly Christian, though its core principles are tied more securely to gun ownership and white nationalism. Today there is a wide array of PLCs, ranging from fundamentalist Christian, to secular humanist, to neo-Marxist vegan.
New Promise has been by far the most successful among the PLCs, as it currently has nearly fifty franchises around the world. Each franchise is designed along different lines, in keeping with its own geographical location and the needs of members, but all share the same set of organizing principles. Two of these franchises have been developed by Google as an option for its employees. To date, however, New Promise has resisted establishing a central authority for its franchises, recognizing that such a move would contradict its aim in developing a PLC in the first place. New franchises are allowed only with a full consensus of all existing governing boards.
After a violent land dispute between the post-humanist Cyberia and The Lord’s Discipleship in 2034, the federal government established the Federal Board of Communities, whose task is to serve as a sort of national zoning commission for PLCs. Its basic strategy is to provide spatial separation between PLCs of potentially conflicting aims. The FBC also laid out basic guidelines for PLCs to follow, in an attempt to forestall further conflicts, either between PLCs or between PLCs and the federal government. This led to a series of first amendment challenges, all (so far) decided by the Supreme Court in favor of the FBC, with the reasoning that since membership in any PLC is entirely voluntary, any restrictions imposed by the FBC can be circumvented entirely by simply not joining one.
Critics have charged that PLCs have resulted in further deterioration of the United States’ “melting pot” culture. Citizens with different philosophical views have isolated themselves from one another and now rarely come into conversation about their differences. “E pluribus unum is becoming E pluribus plus”, charged one such critic. Defenders of PLCs, on the other hand, have replied that the U. S. has never been successful in establishing a “melting pot” culture, and the next best solution is to allow for genuine communities to develop independently on smaller scales, under a broad umbrella of federal protection.