Open main menu

Magic, Inc. is an intentional community, "educational think tank," and public service organization in Palo Alto,[1] California co-founded by David Schrom to explore and promote the application of scientific principles to questions of value, or Valuescience. It has received recognition for its conservationist, community service, and educational contributions, and Stanford University has provided a course in Valuescience through Magic since 1979.


Magic grew out of David Schrom's dissatisfaction with his life and its "underpinnings," as he phrases it, as a senior at Yale University in 1968.[2] After attending Yale Law School, he worked in a variety of jobs but remained "really disgusted" by the "immorality, dishonesty and pointlessness of what he was doing."[3] In 1972, he and a group of friends who were "camping out in life - home was a backpack or a van or a gym lockers (sic)"[4] decided to rent a post office box to keep in touch with each other, and when the clerk informed them that unrelated individuals could not rent a box together but that an organization could, Schrom picked the name Magic on the spur of the moment. When Schrom and others incorporated in 1979, they decided to keep the name.[5] Schrom moved to Palo Alto in 1973; the group rented their first house together in 1975; since 1988 Magic has been located on Oxford Avenue, currently in three houses.[6][7]


Permanent residents and interns, sometimes called Magicians, live on donations and income from programs such as teaching,[8] make decisions cooperatively, including whether to have children,[9] and eat dinner together.[3] The community practices frugal and ecologically sound living, with no cars or televisions, wearing secondhand clothes and eating a primarily vegetarian diet including organic food past its sale cut-off date donated by local businesses. Smoking and drugs are not allowed in the houses, and members avoid "psychoactive substances" including alcohol and caffeine.[7]


Valuescience, the philosophy behind Magic, is defined by the group as "scientific methods and principles applied to questions of value."[10] Or as Hilary Hug, a Magic resident, told an interviewer from Stanford Magazine in 2004, "We call it an ecological approach to value. We’re aiming to apply the scientific method - questioning, observing, reasoning, testing, repeating - to look at, 'What do we want? What’s important to us?'"[7][11]

The organization's website describes its mission as working "in a radical, integrated, scientific way to increase human satisfaction and reduce human suffering," since they regard dissatisfaction and suffering as rooted "in misinformation about value - about what people want, how to get it, and most importantly, how we can know these things."

Since 1979, Schrom and other Magic members have taught an evolving class on Valuescience at Stanford University.[12]


Schrom and Magic have been involved in local and national ecological activism, both independently and in association with other groups. Thirty years ago, partly in gratitude to the university, Schrom started planting trees on Stanford's property in the Palo Alto foothills, and was eventually hired to manage it with volunteer labor.[12][13][14]


Stanford has given Magic an award for public service; other awards the group has received include one from the International Oaks Society for work on the impact of climate change, one from the Journal of Arboriculture for urban forest planning, one for mediation and community development from the American Society of Landscape Architects, and one for swimming instruction from New Zealand Triathlete.[3][15]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ In one publication by members it appears as "Magic Box, Stanford."
  2. ^ Holbrook, p.15,19
  3. ^ a b c Holbrook, p. 23.
  4. ^ "Why Magic?". Magic Inc. Retrieved 2009-12-05.
  5. ^ Holbrook, pp. 24-25.
  6. ^ Holbrook, p. 20.
  7. ^ a b c Fried, Joshua (January 2004). "A Different Path: In the heart of Palo Alto, a Group called Magic Lives and Works Cooperatively". Stanford Magazine. Stanford Alumni Association. Retrieved 2009-12-09.
  8. ^ Rauh, Grace (2003-07-30). "A Magical World: Cooperative House an Island in a Chaotic World". Palo Alto Weekly. Palo Alto Online. Retrieved 2009-12-09. Magic receives approximately $70,000 a year in cash income -- approximately half from gifts and half from fees for service -- and in-kind gifts valuing approximately $50,000.
  9. ^ Fried gives an example of the community establishing consensus that one dependent per resident would be allowed, in response to requests from some members to bear children, and of subsequent research of options and discussions when a member conceived twins, who were then communally cared for.
  10. ^ "About Us". Magic Inc. Retrieved 2009-12-05.
  11. ^ Schrom, David (April 2004). "Letters to the Editor - Can We Use Science to Know Our Ends?". BioScience. 54 (4). doi:10.1641/0006-3568(2004)054[0284:CWUSTK]2.0.CO;2. Retrieved 2009-12-09. perceive in what Ehrlich calls our “intensifying human predicament” mounting evidence that we are extensively and fundamentally misinformed about how we know and realize value. To redress this, we require a sweeping revolution in thinking. We catalyze that revolution when we recognize science as the sole demonstrated means to more accurately discern means and ends,
  12. ^ a b Holbrook, p. 24.
  13. ^ Rawlings, John (2006-11-29). "Quercus -- Oak Notes:". Trees of Stanford. Stanford University Grounds Services. Retrieved 2009-12-09. The savanna of coast live oaks, valley oaks, and blue oaks supported by the Stanford foothills has been under study since the 1980s by David Schrom and Joan Schwan of Magic, Inc., in collaboration with Stanford and with the participation of community residents.
  14. ^ Allen, Jenny (2006-01-18). "Volunteers plant Calif. native species, care for Farm's grounds". Stanford Daily. Stanford University. Retrieved 2009-12-13. According to Magic fellow David Schrom, 2006 is the second year of large-scale grass plantings and the 26th year of oak plantings. By the end of January, Magic plans to have planted 30,000 grasses, for a two-year total of 80,000, and 50 oaks, for a 25-year total of 2,500.
  15. ^ "Our Accomplishments". Magic Inc. Retrieved 2009-12-08.


  • Holbrook, Stett (2009-12-02). "Magic vs. Illusion". Metro Silicon Valley. San Jose: Metro Newspapers. pp. 14–23. Retrieved 2009-12-09.

External linksEdit