Communal Living Conspiracy Theory
So, in times past, there were several sorts of communes. I don't mean the hippy communes of the 60s and early 70s (and in some places in Ireland, right into the 80s). I mean places like monasteries, convents, and multi-generational families. Places where you have multiple sources of income, and single flows of outgoings. All these groups became, over time, more prosperous, as long as they stayed intact. Monastic communities were repeatedly broken down by secular authorities over time because they became so rich, and it wasn't until the modern "family unit" of parents-and-kids-under-18 that the multi-generational family stopped.
Let's look at some of the particulars of living in the modern world. Let's say you're a family of two adults, two children. Ignore pets for now, let's make this pretty utilitarian. Both parents probably have to work, unless one has a very high income. This means that when the kids are not in school, childcare of some kind is necessary, which is a cost against the benefits of working. There's some maths to be done there, and as far as I can see, it usually works out that if there are one or two kids, working is a net benefit, and if there are three or more, it ends up costing more than you get from working. But still, you're not getting the benefit of the work you're doing, because a chunk of the earnings go on childcare.
So what else are the earnings going on? The mortgage or rent. Food. Utilities. Insurance. The car(s). They are spending €X per month on all of these, plus possibly house maintenance, before they buy anything else, go on holidays, etc.
Now, let us postulate that our hypothetical couple have relatives or good friends in a similar situation. They too have jobs, childcare, mortgage or rent, food, utilities, car(s), etc. At the moment, these two families are spending €2X.
What if they get hold of a larger house and move in together? Now they're spending 2€X and they have no privacy or time to themselves, right? Well, no.
For a start, the rent or mortgage on a house that can accommodate 8 people is rarely twice that of a house that can accommodate 4. The utilities are definitely less, because you're not paying the "account charge" on two sets of bills, only one, and the costs of electricity, heating, etc, for one large house are not 2x that of one, they're more like 1.5x, sometimes as low as 1.25x. While you may need two cars for one family, you don't need four for two. There's only one set of house maintenance. And if one person does the childcare work, you've got three incomes left, not one.
If you go into this intentionally, and build, buy or rent a house whose layout allows for some privacy for each couple or family unit, then I think the costs of living will probably drop by about 30% per person.
Now the question: why doesn't this happen all the time?
It does happen. I know a number of people who are sharing houses with friends, relatives or parents. Most of them are in this situation only because they have to; they'll get out of it as quickly as they can, even though it will cost them a lot more.
But it seems to me that the pure economic sense of it is massively in favour of communal living.
The first argument against is one of privacy, having one's own space, and so on. I am very suspicious of this one, to be honest. I have shared houses with other people for most of my life - I've never lived on my own. My grandfather lived with us when I was a kid, and pretty nearly every family I knew had a grandparent living with them. Besides, privacy is a one- or two-person thing. People don't generally avoid having kids because they fear the loss of privacy by having another person in the house. Doors close, and an intentionally built house can give plenty of private space.
Here's my theory: we've been brainwashed into the single-family-unit by media and advertising. The more we're divided up into small units, the more we can be sold to, the more they can charge the nonsense "account fee" on utilities, the more cars and houses we have to buy, and so forth. So we're shown the nuclear family, or individuals, in media, in advertising, in films and magazines and books, in all manner of things. We're never shown larger groups living in one place without them being made out to be strange, temporary, or outright wrong.
Houses are built for the nuclear family by builders because the builder can, for the same materials and costs, get a lot more for two small houses than for one big one. And then we're treated to the bizarre sight of large houses - inherited from a time when families were bigger - which are either divided into apartments and sold off individually, or have parts of them closed up and left unused because the single family occupying them can't afford the heating.
This has all happened in the late 20th century. I'm wondering if it's a blip in the numbers in domestic history, or if it's something that will now take hold and stay in place.