By David Tulis
On the back of the F$1 bill is an engraving of an eagle, a busy bird. On one claw is a clutch of arrows, representing war. In the other, olive branches (for military stasis). In his beak is a ribbon upon which are the words, “E pluribus unum.”
“From many, one.”
The United States are, by some accounts, at their peak, with their erstwhile agent, the government in Washington, D.C., having thrown out his multiple landlords and taken over their property as a permanent tenant, one who no longer pays them a rent but who, instead, exacts tolls upon these 50 shiftless ones. Under Uncle’s authority, they have come under hard times. They have lost connection with common people, residents and citizens, focusing instead on being business operators and economic predators, as has Chattanooga city government in entering business at Lovell Field as a fixed based operator, undercutting TAC Air and finally buying it out. Having been bought off by Washington, they look like Uncle’s progeny in their facial features and all their doings. What Uncle does, they do. Income taxes. Social security number demands, “economic development.” They suffer from detesticularization. They are political and economic eunuchs.
Localism points to reversal
Localism and local economy are an antidote to the problem of economic and political centralization brought on by federal empire. They are not quite as easy to understand as Rev. Charles Stanley’s proposals in a new book, Turning the Tide, in which he argues for renewed “leadership” by high officials. The local economy theory requires no party, president or organization to make it happen. Leadership has brought us to our local and our national crisis. We don’t need more of that. Local economy happens on its own, as the millions of actors in the marketplace start taking things in their own hands and discounting the political solutions offered at every turn.
Local economy is potent as an argument for decentralization because it presides over two conflicting trends. One is the Internet, a power for decentralization that breaks old monopolies and is a jailbreak from the confines of geography and place. The other is a reaction to the placelessness and abstraction of the Internet. And that is a rising sense that an Internet-empowered people more strongly identify with a place — usually the place in which Providence has directed that they live.
The free market exists where people exist. Even in a totalitarian superstate, the free market exists. It thrives in every place state organs overlook or have not the strength in which to penetrate. Uncle, that clumsy oaf, may fill your living room, having crushed the furniture and making the chandelier bob about as the crown of his head brushes the ceiling. But along the line where wall meets floor, under the corner table with the red doily, there in the grille of the air conditioning vent where his corpus does not touch — there is the free market.
The slogan of occultic origin on the Federal Reserve System’s F$1 note and F$5 bill tells about the coming together of colonies and states into a nation. The claim “E pluribus unum” is a bit of nationalistic revisionism of the same sort that appears in the Pledge of Allegiance, with its reference to “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” To say it is indivisible is to deny that 50 states breathe separately from the union, and its government in Washington. Legally, the U.S. is a federal government. Practically, it is a nation-state, a unitary power, a single entity with 50 bureaus carrying out orders from the agent who turned himself into the principal. We have the war to prevent Southern independence to thank for this 150-year-old state of affairs.
Local economy is a reversal of this process. Much news reporting suggests centralization will continue indefinitely (Obamacare, surveillance, inflation). Still, there is much to consider in the libertarian and Christian press suggesting that an alternative ground is being built beneath an unsustainable national economy with its federal overlord.
‘Ex uno, plura’ — from monolith, revived local culture
Local economy isn’t about tearing down giant structures, or fighting against alien powers such as that of the state-run school system in Chattanooga or in your town. It’s not necessarily about entering into a conflict with modern statism and centralization. Rather, it’s about a quiet work of rebuilding in terms of individuals, families, churches and neighborhoods. It’s taking place on the Internet. It’s about real community as opposed to ersatz community or community organization or community activism.
If we were to draw a picture of this process, it wouldn’t contain any sort of imperial warbird such as the eagle. It might, instead, bear the image of a turkey, Ben Franklin’s daffy proposal for the national bird. Perhaps it would be an image out of a novel, Heiland, I’ve read to my sons, a stylized icon that would be a mountaintop with a tree rising from the peak.
In any event, the living, breathing life of a given city won’t be top down. It will be bottom up. The Reformation, as J.H.Merle D’Aubigne tells it in his histories, came from commoners who read or heard the Christian scriptures. The new life of localism comes from the common man. It will, I suspect, not be wordless and inarticulate (as might be a local redneck or hayseed), but self-conscious of its internal principles and its nourishment in Christianity. After decades of the welfare state and mass media, is it any wonder that private life as measured by the existence of civic organizations and associations is half of what it used to be? Local economy will arise, I suggest, from ordinary mortals who rediscover society, who seek once again for association.
The free market and local economy, I surmise, will over decades be fairly described in the phrase, “Ex uno, plura.” Again, in the native tongue, from one, many. ‡
‡ See Donald Livingston, Rethinking the American Union for the Twenty-First Century (Gretna, La.: Pelican Publishing Co., 2012), 272 pp. I am in the middle of this book and highly recommend it.