In Cheapatopia, residents never have to shovel snow and get Karma Points for good deeds, which they redeem for services like free babysitting or landscaping. It’s a fantasy city where everything is powered by renewable energy and consumerism is tossed aside in favor of doing more with less, and sharing what you have.

It’s all from the brain of Scott Adams, creator of the popular cartoon Dilbert, and even determining what Cheapatopia would encompass is a group effort.

Adams has taken to his blog to share what he deems a mental exercise, an attempt to solve the problem of getting the most resources while expending the least. Designing this hypothetical city has been a habit of his for the past few decades, and he has asked his readers to act as a ‘team of visionaries’ to help him create a city that’s an absurdly cheap place to live, with a ridiculously high quality of life.

What Adams has come up with is a sort of opt-in commune – like a college dormitory for grown-ups. It’s not necessarily a socialist community, because it’s entirely voluntary, but it’s a place where people can live inexpensively for a few years while engaging in the vibrant social interaction that is the basis of Cheapatopia.

A barter system guarantees a close-knit community where doing good for others is in your own best interest, though money is still used for some things. Collective buying power means residents get things like insurance, phone service, internet, TV and other goods and services at the best price possible through negotiated discounts with suppliers. Health insurance rates would be kept low by a strict no-smoking policy and a total lack of junk food. Adams suggests that he would make the city entirely vegetarian if it weren’t such a hot button issue.

While many of Adam’s readers have offered useful suggestions to flesh out Cheapatopia, not all of them are enthused about the concept. One commenter, Dildude, wrote “Typical Newspaper Articles In Cheapatopia: CITY NEGOTIATOR FRAUD DISCOVERED- POCKETING DISCOUNT DIFFERENCE - LINES IN PUBLIC DINING HALLS LONG- UNDERSTAFFING IS THE CULPRIT” while another, Leora, suggested that perhaps it would be best as an old folks home – on an ice floe.

No doubt some of these readers would tell Adams to heed the advice of one of his own book titles – “Stick to Drawing Comics, Monkey Brain!” – but others are fascinated and continue to help Cheapatopia come alive, at least in theory. You can follow Adams’ Cheapatopia experiment at

MNN homepage images includes photos by DivaNir4a/iStockPhoto and Scott Adams/Dilbert