Localisation: A Move Away From Globalisation

Localisation has to be the route forward for a Europe that wants more jobs, better social conditions, and an improved environment, and at the same time a non-exploitative relationship with eastern Europe and the developing world. -- Caroline Lucas MEP

It is becoming increasingly clear that to tackle unemployment and rebuild healthy, stable and sustainable societies can only be done when citizens and nations take back control of their economies. Localisation is the route to achieve this. -- Colin Hines

The collapse of the global market place would be a traumatic event with unimaginable consequences. Yet I find it easier to imagine than the continuation of the present regime. - George Soros

The arguments against globalisation are well known and well rehearsed, as is the need to fight those promoting globalisation, WTO, IMF, World Bank, and the multinationals who benefit from globalisation, McDonald's, Balfour Beatty, Coca-Cola, Wal-Mart, BAE Systems.

We can fight the agents of globalisation and should continue to do so, but we have to do more. We have to offer an alternative. That was the criticism levelled at those on the streets of Seattle. We can offer an alternative, not the Big Idea, we have had too many of those already, Fascism, Communism, Globalisation, one hat fits all. What we need is Localisation, varied solutions suited to local needs.

The WTO is past reform. We can reform what are basically sound systems, like Western democracies that have become corrupted by big business, but the WTO is past reform. Its whole structure was designed by and for big business. Too many NGOs have been seduced by the promise of reform, but all we will get is cosmetics, behind which it will be business as usual. We have to demolish the WTO.

We have to move away from a world dominated by big business and structured in the image of big business.

Globalisation is dominated by the neo-liberal idea of Free Trade, as though we can somehow measure our well-being by the volume of goods and services moving around the world. In the rush to dismantle all controls and barriers to Free Trade we are in a race to the bottom. A race where everything is determined by the lowest price. A price that does not reflect poor labour conditions, destruction of the soul, families and communities or environmental damage.

Western workers have a gun held to their heads, if they don't accept poorer working conditions their work will be relocated to Third World sweatshops. Western governments are forced to offer bribes to prevent relocation or to attract new business, and to water down legislation designed to protect workers, communities and the environment (and where legislatures fail to show willing the WTO is only to happy to step in to force distortions that favour big business).

Many of the Asian sweatshops have relocated to China. But even here, relocation is taking place back to Thailand to take advantage of a plummeting currency, and from the southern coastal strip bordering Hong Kong to northern China.

Localisation is to move to local self-sufficiency. Local self-sufficiency does not mean we produce everything locally, or that we move into a new round of protectionism. It means we produce most of what we need and are able to locally. Local is flexible in its definition. In can be the neighbourhood, town, region or country.

We have always traded. We didn't go to India for coals or wood. We went for spices and cotton.

Localisation puts production back under democratic control. To this end we would introduce the right to a referendum for major planning decisions. Too often these are decided by a corrupt planning process and corrupt politicians.

It would no longer be permissible to bribe major corporations to relocate. September 2000, a US corporation was bribed 28 million to take over a moth-balled Siemens semiconductor plant. Money would be available for local initiatives, small scale community projects and local businesses.

Corporations would be barred from donating to political parties. There would be a limit in place on the size of individual donations, all above a specified amount would be declared. Political parties would be limited as to what they are permitted to spend on election campaigns.

Citizens groups, like residents associations and NGOs, would be encouraged to take a more political role and help shape the local community for the benefit of the local community. Bioregional initiatives would be encouraged.

Local currencies would be introduced to decouple the local economy from international incidents. At the same time a Tobin Tax would be introduced to slow down large scale destabilising international currency flows. The move to the euro and a single European currency would be opposed.

Local food production and sale would be encouraged. More Farmers Markets would spring up. Food production would be organic. Organic food production is more than stocking supermarket shelves with chemical free food, it's about the whole philosophy of how we produce our food, our relationship with the land. Organic farms should be small family or community farms.

Local food does not require subsidised long distance transport systems or preservatives.

Production methods would be those of Natural Capitalism, where we emulate and integrate with natural Gaian life-cycles. Output would be useful and non-toxic. Unwanted elements or those products that reach the end of their life-cycle would be biodegradable or reusable.

When goods and services are sourced locally we have more say in what happens as we can see what is happening. One of the problems that we have in controlling sweatshop factories at the far end of the world is that they are too far away for us to know what is going on, the supply line is too long and fragile for us to be able to trace back to source. If production is local we don't have to only rely on formal methods of control, there will always be someone we know who knows someone who knows what is going on.

Energy would be sourced locally. Supply would match need in quality, scale and geographical location. The power grid would be used to smooth out temporal differences in electricity supply and demand. Localisation would remove the reliance upon long fragile supply chains. It would also minimise the use of carbon fuels. Localisation would depend on Soft Energy Paths not Hard Paths.

Localisation would not rule out international trade as it would be perverse to attempt to produce locally what can be sourced elsewhere. The entire European Agricultural Policy is built on such a perversion.

The emphasis of international trade would not be on neo-liberal Free Trade, but on sustainable development Fair Trade. The flow of goods would benefit workers, communities and the environment, not as at present destroy.

The flow of information would be encouraged. In Gaviotas in Columbia and Curitiba in Brazil a number of interesting practical projects have been implemented. Many of these ideas could be implemented elsewhere.

All citizens would have a local Citizens Income, or in other words negative taxation would come into play. This would stop the humiliation of Jobseekers Allowance and other measures that treat unemployed and alternatively employed as substandard citizens. A progressive taxation system would protect this income and encourage remunerative employment, rather than as at present a regressive taxation system that imposes on those of low income a marginal taxation of 100% and often in excess of this rate.

Corporations would face a regressive tax, the larger they are, the higher the profit, the more tax they would pay. Taxation would emphasise the principle 'the polluter shall pay'. The use of raw materials would attract a higher rate of tax than recycled or reused materials.

Michael Shuman of the Washington-based Institute for Policy Studies summed up localisation thus:

... does not mean walling of the outside world. It means nurturing locally owned businesses which use local resources sustainably, employ local workers at decent wages, and serve primarily local consumers. It means becoming more self sufficient and less dependent on imports. Control moves from the boardrooms of distant corporations and back to the community where it belongs.

Localisation requires a political realignment. New Labour and the Tories are in the pockets of big business. LibDems have a fetish about Europe. Only the Green Party has been able to see the need for a sustainable local economy. Radical socialists, and conservatives with a small 'c' who see the need to preserve local communities, would be encouraged to sign up to Localisation.

The 1960s slogan of 'Think globally, Act locally' no longer applies. We have to simultaneously think local and global, and act locally and globally.

The old battle lines were drawn between East and West, between Left and Right; the new battle lines are between the people and big business and big government, between the local and the global, between the poor and the rich.

Localisation is not Utopia, it is the only viable future we have.

Web Resources


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Keith Parkins, Wendell Berry, June 1999

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Gaia index ~ WTO ~ global corporations ~ sweatshop labour ~ global finance ~ soft energy paths ~ natural capitalism
(c) Keith Parkins 2000 -- November 2000 rev 1