Friday, March 26, 2004

Localization

"The most obvious benefits of localization are:

(1) It protects local industries and economies from being undercut and undermined by distant competitors and global forces beyond their control.

(2 It prevents land-use systems, which are dependent upon these local economies, from collapsing.

(3) It helps people maintain control over their local natural resources. As George has himself reported, when crops are grown for export, peasants tend to be dispossessed of their lands by large commercial interests.

(4) It prevents wealth being siphoned away from the locality by distant interests or amorphous corporations. The more distant the market, the less the primary producer is likely to receive out of the final retail price and the more is likely to go to middlemen.

(5) It is easier to take stock of the environmental, social and animal welfare impacts of any product if it is derived locally. The UK government recognizes this under what it terms ³informed consent².

(6) It safeguards cultural diversity. Cultures and societies are defined to a large degree by what they produce and consume from the land and resources around them. Globalized trade destroys these differences and leads ultimately to one global McCulture.

(7) It promotes human-scale social structures. Localization rejects economies of scale in favour of economies of distribution, leading to more human-scale corporations and institutions, less division of labour and factory-style conditions. Lots of little brothers, instead of one big one.

(8) Reduced transport. Localization leads to reductions in carbon emissions, pollution and other transport impacts in respect of road and air freight (less so in respect of waterborne goods). In particular it cuts out the absurdity of ³cross haulage² (ferrying separate consignments of an identical product in opposite directions). " 1

"George Monbiot opposes localization because he thinks it will prevent poor countries becoming wealthier . . ." 1

"Localization doesn¹t, on its own, explain how the poorest countries can obtain the resources necessary to bring their standard of living and opportunity up onto a level with ours, even if ours should diminish to sustainable levels." 1

"However, if we accept that localization does not in itself satisfactorily address the issue of inequality between nations, it does not necessarily follow from this that localization is incompatible with a programme that does address this inequality." 1

"Here is a list of some of the main categories of potential wealth transfer from rich to poor countries consistent with a programme of localization;

- Processed materials. A key principle of fair trade is that added value through processing should generally take place in the country of origin of the materials, particularly where it is ergonomically or ecologically preferable (in line with the proximity principle). So coffee gets made into instant coffee in Tanzania or Mexico; timber is sawn into planks or made into plywood in Russia or New Guinea, rather than exported to timber-deficient countries as logs; copper wire could be manufactured in Zambia; West African bauxite could be turned into aluminium in West Africa, with West African oil or possibly solar energy; Third World oil could be refined or converted into plastics in Nigeria or Azerbaidjan, rather than exported as crude. All of this is consistent with localization policies: local industries typically grew up around a key resource, or a happy conjunction of two, such as grass, water power, woodland, iron ore deposits, or coal. George doesn¹t mention this at all.

- Specialist and quality goods. These are goods whose high quality or cultural distinction would allow them to remain competitive even if tariffs were imposed (eg Cuban and Indonesian cigars, oriental carpets, local crafts and textiles, Austrian scythe blades and Ferraris.) George doesn¹t mention this either.

- Tourism. Tourism is becoming increasingly important as a means of transferring wealth from North to South, and is expected to be the world's largest industry bt 2010. . A lot of its effects are extremely undesirable, both socially and environmentally. But an economic system which gave local people greater control over what sort of tourism they found acceptable would almost certainly improve matters. Once again, George doesn¹t mention tourism

- Economic Migrants. If rich people are allowed to travel round the globe for leisure purposes, then why should not poor people be allowed to travel for work purposes? ³Everything has been globalized except our consent² is the opening sentence of The Age of Consent; but George forgets that labour has not been globalized either. The WTO forces countries to open up their borders to goods, but not to migrants . If there were a free trade in labour the differences in wealth between countries would fade away in a very short time ‹ but there would be a host of other problems! To parrot George¹s phrase, there is no argument founded on justice for permitting corporations to sell their products wherever they like whilst preventing people from selling their labour wherever they like. It means that corporations can play the labour market to their advantage, but people can¹t. If justice is your aim, you must either allow free movement of goods and free movement of people ‹ or neither. As the Tupamaros used to say ³Everyone dances . . . or no one dances.²

- Aid. George does mention aid: ³Redistribution is simply not going to happen through aid . . . But even if, in a sudden fit of compassion, the rich world were to start pouring its money freely into the hands of the poor, this would merely trap the poor nations in patronage, dependency and blackmail . . .There has been a great deal of talk within the global justice movement of the need to compensate the poor world for centuries of colonial plunder, slavery and environmental destruction. But some of the proposals raised appear paternalistic: the rich world should forgive the debts of the poor world, or should raise significantly the aid it provides. What better compensation could there be than to permit the poor world to pursue its own path to development, if necessary at the expense of the rich world?² " 1

"Colin Hines¹ book calls for a ³redirection of aid, geared to help the rebuilding of local economies, rather than international competitiveness.² He cites land reform, micro credit , energy conservation, waste reduction, public transport systems, food production on allotments and wasteland and enhanced lobbying power for community groups as being suitable targets for aid. George gives no reasons or evidence as to why aid directed towards the empowerment of local self-reliant communities could not be an effective way of transferring wealth from North to South." 1

"Who will produce all these cheap goods once everyone is rich,? The people of China and Ethiopia ‹ however much money they may claw back from us ‹ can never enjoy the abundance that we do because there will be no further pool of cheap labour to manufacture their shoes and washing machines and answer their telephone enquiries at a fraction of their minimum wage. (but massive increase in living standards there) To become as wealthy as we are in the North, poor countries don¹t simply have to become free from exploitation; they have to have someone else to exploit. The advocates of unbridled trade are purveyors of illusions: the illusion that there are limitless resources somewhere the other side of the blue mountains; and the illusion that one day all the worlds¹ people will be able to enjoy the abundance that comes from exploiting a distant proletariat." 1

"The transfer of wealth from nation to nation, may seem important in remedying global inequalities, but it is far more important to make sure that all people have access to land, shelter, education, health care, shared transport, local food and some imported food for things they can't grow." 2

1. Simon Fairlie, 26th March 2004. Battle of the Manifestos, Chapter 7 debate.
2. Jyoti Fernandes, , 26th March 2004. Battle of the Manifestos, Chapter 7 debate.