Going Local: Creating Self-Reliant Communities in a Global Age
by Michael H. Shuman
New York: The Free Press, 1998
Communities throughout the world are losing control of their economies. Convinced by mainstream economists that globalization is inevitable, local leaders — whether liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican — are trying to attract outside investment by paying massive subsidies, slashing wages, and weakening environmental standards. These same officials are also flying tens of thousands of miles each year to open up new markets for exports, increasing the vulnerability of their economy to events beyond their control and neglecting the unmet needs of local residents. And to pay for these disastrous strategies, they are simultaneously seeking handouts from an ever-more-strapped federal government.
Going Local details how dozens of communities are regaining control over their economies by employing three new kinds of strategies:
Investing not in outsiders, but in locally owned businesses like credit unions, cooperatives, community land trusts, municipally owned utilities, small worker-owned firms, community development corporations, and local shareholder-owned firms such as the Green Bay Packers.
Focusing on import-replacing rather than export-led development, by reducing dependence on distant sources of energy, water, food, and basic materials.
Asking the federal government for more power, not more pork, by eliminating many subsidies and changing tax and trade laws that disempower communities.
Going Local challenges conservatives and liberals alike to rethink their views about markets, corporations, and devolution. It suggests novel ways in which businesses can blend private ownership and community responsibility, and innovative policies that can balance the virtues of a free market with the critical need — and special ability — of local government to address its shortcomings. After reading this book, no community politician, policymaker, or activist will ever approach economic development in the same way.
Michael H. Shuman, an attorney, is co-director of the Institute for Policy Studies, and the author of five books and numerous articles on the relationship between community and international affairs. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Nation, Foreign Policy, and Parade. He lives in Washington, D.C.