The economist, Fritz Schumacher, author of Small Is Beautiful, commented that if everyone were for “small,” he’d be for “big.” It was not just to be contrarian. It was a question of balance. Our global economy has grown so big, our production processes so divided and so distant from the places where the goods are actually consumed, that in balance it is necessary to re-emphasize the small and local.
For the past thirty years, the Schumacher Center for a New Economics has worked in its own region of the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts to build local economic systems that positively favor small and local production—the SHARE micro-credit program collateralized loans for new small businesses, the first Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm started at neighboring Indian Line Farm and launched a movement, the Community Land Trust in the Southern Berkshires showed a way for citizens to create permanently affordable access to land for farmers growing for local markets, and the BerkShares local currency program continues to inspire other regions to shape their own local purchasing campaigns.
In its report “The Great Transition”, the New Economics Foundation include a relocalization of production as essential to a balanced economy.
This process [of rebalancing] is central to the ideas set out in the Great Localization. Here we argue for an expanded concept of ‘subsidiarity’ – the idea that decisions are best taken at as local a scale as possible. This is enshrined in the principle, if not always the practice, of the European Union with regard to political participation and decision-making, which needs to be made more genuinely participatory and democratic but also more meaningful. By this we mean moving real power away from the center to devolved democratic bodies and giving local people a real say in how this power is exercised. The principle of subsidiarity should also apply to the private sector. Redefining ‘efficiency’ beyond its narrow economic focus, we suggest a more rounded view, where the impact on the social fabric of cities, towns and rural areas is important when considering issues such as the production of goods and services. Exploring the question of what things are best produced locally, regionally, nationally and internationally, we suggest some criteria that might help in this judgment and make the case for greater local self-sufficiency in some areas, combined with regional, national and international trade in others. Big is clearly not always ‘best’ but neither, necessarily, is small. What we need is appropriate scale and, crucially, a clear means of deciding what this should be.
The sections of the report include: the Great Revaluing, the Great Redistribution, the Great Rebalancing, the Great Localization and Engagement, the Great Reskilling, the Great Economic Irrigation, and the Great Interdependence.
We will focus on each element separately in a series of eNewsletters.