Localism – small scale alternatives can’t change the world


No Local says the well-meaning localism movement can’t work because it will still be dependent on the market and thus to large-scale capitalism and its exploits. A friend in rural Utah believes firmly in localism as a way to free oneself from the grasp of the system. I don’t quite see how it would work. Sure, you could grow your own food, barter for services, and the like. But you will still need vehicles, gasoline, and guns, and tractors, things that can’t be made on a local basis. The local bank may well be sane, solvent, and invest in local real estate. yet it probably has lines of credits with bigger banks elsewhere and may well sell its mortgages to them.

Climate and Capitalism sums up the main points of No Local in their review:

Localism is incapable of displacing capitalism or even effectively challenging it because it fails to understand how capitalism works. “It sees the effect of unbridled competition, but not its cause.” By failing to understand how profit drives production, localism is blind to the pressures capitalism applies to its proposed remedies, which rely on the market or involve time and money that most working-class people don’t have. More utopian ideology than political framework, and too often served with a dose of moral superiority, localism never adequately explains by what magic small businesses or collectives can eclipse giant corporations.


  1. There are millions living totally outside their official economies, subsisting at a purely local level. What the writer is really saying is that he wouldn’t want to live like that.


  2. Our current economy relies on cheap, government-subsidized fossil fuels for energy and transportation – as well as taxpayer-funded superhighways on which trucks do not pay their share. Let the price of diesel rise to global levels, for example, and the trucks stop rolling and Walmart has nothing to sell. So-called “Capitalism,” with its TBTF banks, purchased governments, and fiscal manipulation, doesn’t need a challenger. It is driving itself into the ground at full speed. Rather, it needs a successor.

    The beauty of localism is that it inherently values things differently. Imagine: if guns and clothes and shoes were no longer available at Walmart, how the local economy would change! Gun values would rise, and people would trade what exists rather than buy new ones. (Seriously, there are plenty in circulation.) Clothing would be patched and/or home-made. Shoes would once again be made in our hemisphere, and even our communities. Many things that are now thrown away at the first sign of trouble – including vehicles – would be repaired and reused.

    You can see this kind of economy in many parts of the world already. In Sri Lanka, they had street-side stalls that would repair your umbrella. Imagine: repairing rather than trashing a broken umbrella!! Toasters and other small appliances were also commonly repaired.

    Localism does not necessarily mean environmentalism, but it does trend toward a more sustainable economy. Capitalism as we know it relies on the exploitation of raw materials, people, and communities. Localism presumes that raw materials are limited and that community is what keeps us alive. It is a much more rational system of economics.

    Regional and international trade has been around as long as the written word, and it’s not going away. But for cheap plastic goods being shipped halfway around the world to supplant local jobs requires a huge, taxpayer- and debt-supported infrastructure. That may be profitable, but it isn’t sustainable. Our government now owes more than seven times its annual revenues in unsecured debt. The golden goose is sick, and it’s looking terminal.

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