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By: Colin Hines.

Localization: A Global Manifesto

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Ecosystem Services from Agriculture and Agroforestry. Unnatural Selection. Developing this case is crucial if the raw energy of the streets is to be translated into concrete gains in the corridors of power. Hines does not favour an outright block on international trade, aid or capital flows — only on global regimes that discriminate against local interests.

Localization: for people and the Earth

So far so good, but Hines underestimates the difficulty of achieving large-scale, sustained improvements in material prosperity where local economies are weak, and consequently is too hard on the prospects for responsible export-led growth. As countries like South Korea, Mauritius and Chile have shown, significant increases in income do not come from localization as such, but from a dynamic balance between protection and integration that enables societies to take advantage of the opportunities of a global market without being swamped by outside competition.

But it is not the solution, especially where communities differ radically in terms of their pre-existing resource endowments, productive potential and purchasing power — self reliance may be good for your quality of life in Greenwich Village but not so useful in subsistence economies in Africa and Asia. Most people seem to want both the advantages of local autonomy and the fruits of global integration, and until the protestors marshal an argument that encompasses both these objectives their efforts are unlikely to build sufficient public and political support to see them through.

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Localization is not an easy read, and Hines has the annoying habit of citing a small coterie of intellectual and political friends while ignoring huge areas of research and experience that challenge his assumptions. Nevertheless, his thesis is an important one and deserves a hearing.

Localization : a global manifesto / Colin Hines | National Library of Australia

At root, this is a debate about democracy, not economics, and the right of each society to determine its own path into the future. Societies may not choose the path of localization, especially where poverty is endemic, but they should have the opportunity to do so. At the very least, all communities should have a chance to enter global markets from the strongest possible local foundation, since this is probably the most important determinant of their future success.

Hines and his colleagues have begun to provide a roadmap to help communities harness the forces of both globalization and localization to a vision of the good life for all.