No, no -- not that one; the structural one. Cut for those on the F-list who couldn't care less. :)
[This is posted as background for you guys, particularly those of you who have the ears of decision-makers. As always, feel free to comment, but please do not link or repost elsewhere. Thanks! :D ]
As a mere Minerval (since 1994 EV), without local body membership, I have largely stayed out of the current discussions of OTO local dues issues...but as someone interested in (and devoted to) AC's intentions, I think we may be nearing a real turning point in OTO's nature and purpose, which might be worth a few words here. (Hey, better this than the massive three-post analysis I wrote last week, believe me. ;) )
As "Liber CXCIV" makes plain, OTO was (re-)organized by AC as an avenue for those whose Will it is to practice Thelema through the formula of service. As such, its design intentionally ties increased responsibility to those who voluntarily increase their own commitment.* This explains why, in AC's design, Minervals -- at the bottom of the degrees -- paid no dues whatsoever beyond their one-time initiation fee**, and by Seventh one was expected to vest real property in the Order: these are not accidental details, but intentional and crucial aspects of AC's design for the Order.***
Among other things, this arrangement was supposed to ensure that those further down the degree scale would feel a real gratitude for the sacrifice of those in the invitational degrees, as well as acquiesce in their decisions: Hey, they're giving the most, they obviously care the most, they should make the rules. Unfortunately (if predictably), this set-up can also make for a certain amount of resentment aimed back down the degree scale from the invitational degrees, and a desire on their part to shift more of the burden downwards.
Briefly, I believe that any policy which breaks away from AC's basic design -- "tying increased responsibility to those who voluntarily increase their own commitment" -- threatens the survival of the Order itself.
Concretely, then, brief unsolicited advice from a nobody to those who govern OTO.
(1) You should be moving as many people as high up through the degrees as you possibly can, particularly up to Fifth. Doubtless you are; if so, sorry I mentioned it. But if not -- if you're thinking, "We should be careful not to let too many people into the invitational degrees" -- then (among other things) you're voluntarily limiting your revenue stream, and working against the whole model that has made Freemasonry and its ilk so successful.
(2) The existing (national) dues schedule should, I very strongly believe, both be adjusted dramatically upwards for inflation, and returned to AC's original design for it -- i.e., the original proportions of payment**** should be restored, including, sooner or later, the exemption from payment for Minervals. Yes, this will mean increased cost for everyone above First, particularly those in higher degrees, and revenue to replace as we end Minerval payments. I suspect it will still benefit the system itself enormously. Among other things, providing what looks like "something for nothing" for those on the bottom, we encourage many of them to take on greater commitment by that very act. LJ itself is a prime example of this business model: free accounts, for which many people voluntarily pay, in part from gratitude alone (ditto for listener-supported radio and TV). Mandatory local dues -- a very good idea, IMO -- must, I believe, follow the same proportionality: dues must increase on a sliding scale by member degree. That the people who care the most should (and will) pay the most is inherent in the design of OTO itself.
(3) Finally -- and this may be the hardest part -- I think mandating local membership (and local dues) for those who don't choose to join a local body is a poor idea, virtually the opposite of the OTO model: again, "tying increased responsibility to those who voluntarily increase their own commitment."
The present circumstance, IMO, tests the initiation of higher-degree members as perhaps nothing else has. Having been privileged to interact with, and occasionally meet, a number of such folks, I have no doubt whatsoever they're up to the task. Still, were the advice above taken, it would require even more from those in higher degrees -- who have already given so much! -- and markedly less from at least some of those in their charge. To quote AC, from "Liber CLXI":
"You reply that this can only be by generosity, by divine charity of the high toward the low, of the rich toward the poor, of the great toward the small? You are a thousand times right; you have understood the secret of the O.T.O."
93 93/93 -- AJ
* Quick examples: "[W]ith us Government is Service, and nothing else."; "The Man of Earth takes no share in the Government of the Order; for he is not yet called upon to give his life to it in service[...]"; and "[T]o proceed farther [than Fifth degree], as will appear, involves renunciation of the sternest kind."
** The Minerval degree exists to extract one all-important thing from as many people on earth as is humanly possible. That thing is not, as it happens, cash; hence the total exemption from all further payment, unless and until one voluntarily advances beyond Minerval. (As AC envisioned it, anyway. At present Minervals are charged the same minimal annual dues as Firsts; I've always kept mine paid up in advance.)
*** I will briefly note that the Ninth degree was always intended to be rather a different matter, its own dues and fees drawn from below; and there are specific inducements offered (in the original design, anyway) to encourage people to take higher degrees. As a general thing, the greater the perceived benefits, the likelier folks will be to agree to increased duties.
**** Equinox III (1) 246.