For utopian socialists the capitalist state's protection and promotion of property rights is the source of entrenched injustice that alienates individuals from their fundamentally moral nature. Substituting cooperative associations for competition as the basis of economic exchange and social relations would allow justice to be reasserted and society to operate on moral principles. In the late 19th century an attempt was made by a small group of idealistic Australian socialists to put these principles into practice in the jungles of Paraguay by establishing the utopian colonies of New Australia and Cosme. An essential ingredient to their vision was a system of exchange in which goods and services were valued, following Ricardo and Marx, according to their labor content or labor value. This required new forms of accounting to communicate and enhance a set of values, ideals and permitted behavior which was very different from that associated with capitalism. Accounting was also to prove critical to the survival of the colonies beyond their initial establishment by the legitimacy it afforded the decision to revoke the right of members, who withdrew, to a share of assets. The accounting system used at Cosme demonstrated a sophisticated understanding that the contributions of accounting were not dependent on private property.

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