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TRANSITIONING TO A LOCAL ECONOMY

Frank Taylor details a programme of re-localisation. This article was published originally in the October 2007 issue of Sovereignty, under the title "Calming the Bedlam".

Many people sneer at localisation as some impossible Luddite philosophy which aims at enclosed local autarky.

This is a preposterous caricature. Complete autarky is not on any agenda. Even before Roman times, such commodities as tin, salt, iron and wool were traded across Europe.

As societies industrialise, they become highly mobile. Yet this mobility has resulted in the fabric of family, clan, locale, and the fundamental social adhesive of mutual knowledge and trust that goes with all that, being eroded to the point of social disintegration.

Many functions which would once have been carried out by the extended family and the community are now carried out by vast, impersonal bureaucracies. The much-vaunted ideal of labour mobility has been achieved at a terrible, yet largely unacknowledged, cost. It is probably the greatest cost externality of all.

As the world becomes more mobile it becomes more frenetic and, in turn, more stressful. Turn the world into a bedlam, fill it with highly mobile strangers and then fill their heads with all manner of greedy, materialistic, psychopathic garbage and you will get social breakdown as assuredly as you will get an epidemic by pouring cholera into the water system.

Most of our social, economic and environmental problems are iatrogenic. When faced with a problem the corporate mindset is always to apply ever-thicker layers of the very processes that caused the initial problem. If one dose of regulation, vertical institution building, mass surveillance and advanced technology doesn't work then ever-stiffer doses must be applied.

So the iatrogenic hydra's head multiplies and we find ourselves drowning in programmes, plans, initiatives, laws, regulations, bureaucracies and surveillance systems. In an effort to understand and control this societal cauldron whole new reaches of academia and management have been conjured from thin air.

The alternative is to deconstruct.

Deconstruction starts from admitting errors, not compounding them. It simplifies institutional frameworks, moves from vertical to horizontal structures, slows the pace of life, reduces excessive mobility, moves from a high pressure stressed out world, to a slower and more convivial one, reduces debt dependency, moves from quantity to quality in our demand patterns, respects the planet; all allowing the fabric of mutual trust and civil society to regrow and rebond.

RE-LOCALISATION is CENTRAL to the PROCESS
Indeed it is becoming ever clearer that the principle political choice confronting the modern world is one between a major devolution of political and economic power on the one hand and a progressive slide into a form of Orwellian tyranny on the other.

Economic devolution in a world of multi-national corporations and agencies such as the WTO and EU is neither more nor less difficult. It depends on the ability and willingness to confront such entities to whom the holy trinity of 'free markets', 'competition' and 'efficiency' rules all else.

A distinction needs to be drawn between rivalry and competition. Rivalry may often be a creative stimulus but only if limited and counterbalanced by the sort of conviviality, which might -- or ought to -- be witnessed on the sportsfield.

Shorn of that conviviality, we get the destructive maelstrom of unbridled competition, of dog-eat-dog. But when one dog starts barking the others will join in.

Selfish, greedy and aggressive attitudes will inevitably metastase throughout the social fabric. Those who sow the dragon's teeth of interpersonal aggression and unbridled competition, who gladly promote a world of bared fangs where everyone is scratching each other's eyes out over whether an electric toaster has three bells and whistles on it or four, are so often the first to start whinging when the skeletons of crime and social dysfunction come marching up their well-gravelled driveways.

Globalisation has meant the abdication of civil government to a transnational cartel of multinationals.

Most governments, our own included, find themselves in office but not in power. For a nation to lose control of its economy means the loss of control of everything.

The transfer of primary production from First to Third Worlds has been of little benefit to either. As the multinationals grind down wages ever further, the working poor of the Third World have gained little. Such benefits fall to the bottom line of the corporations.

Meanwhile the First World countries are left with shallow-rooted cappuccino economies that make little and grow even less.

A 10-Point HERESY to NAIL to the DOORS of the WTO and EU
Here are 10 measures which could begin the process of calming the bedlam, clipping the wings of the multinationals, regaining economic control, restoring democratic accountability, and enhancing genuine prosperity:

1) Turn monopolies policy on its head by reversing the assumption in favour of mergers.

2) Disaggregate the oligopolies. Set strict limits on market share. The beer orders of the 1980s serve as a precedent, as do the trust-busters in the American oil and banking sectors between the wars.

3) Introduce unfair competition as a key factor in planning policy. Supermarkets, shopping malls and out-of-town development have devastated many local business communities. We must create a climate in which small local enterprise could once again start to sprout and flourish.

4) Reduce the ability of the multinationals to disinvest. If we have a tenants' right to buy then why not a right to buy for workers, managers and local communities? It should be illegal to close down any plant. Any company wishing to offshore production should be compelled to offer the plant, together with any patents or copyrights it uses for sale at a fair going price.

5) Attack the myth of 'free trade'. International trade, so distorted by oligopolies, subsidies and unfair practices by the USA and the EU, Third World serf labour and unsustainably cheap travel is emphatically not 'free'. Trade must not only be genuinely free, but fair and sustainable.

6) Further restrict the ability of the multinationals to engage in disinvestment blackmail by insisting that any farm or factory exporting to the UK must have minimum wages and conditions commensurate with our own (See Sovereignty, Sept 07), after taking living costs and exchange rates into account. By giving decent wages to Third World workers, we might also stem the tide of economic hypermobility.

7) Site-here-to-sell-here.

8) No company or individual could do business in the UK whilst holding assets in tax havens.

9) As an antidote to dis-investment blackmail by individuals, direct taxes should be based on nationality not domicile, payable wherever that individual is living. Failure to pay would have the consequence of preventing any company in which that individual had an interest from trading in the UK.

10) A limited reimposition of resale price maintenance -- the means by which a manufacturer can decree the retail price of the merchandise. For example, 40 years ago, tinned merchandise had the retail price printed on the tin because the manufacturer could declare what the price should be. It was abolished by Edward Heath and its demise was almost universally applauded. With hindsight we can see how it accelerated the growth of retail oligopolies and brought about the holocaust of small local businesses, and in consequence a flight of money from many local communities. In Italy, its continued use has been able to help the small shops stand against the tide of the supermarkets. Merchandise might be a bit more expensive but there will be more chance of the money being recycled through the local economy.


 
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