The Farm Stand at Chattanooga's Crabtree Farms draws members of the public who want fresh locally grown fare. The ideas of local economy and local food have implications for the size of nations. (Photo Crabtree Farms.

The Farm Stand at Chattanooga’s Crabtree Farms draws members of the public who want fresh locally grown fare. The ideas of local economy and local food have implications for the size of nations. (Photo Crabtree Farms.)

By David Tulis

If the concept of local economy appears quaint and inward looking, consider its “foreign policy” implications. By that I mean, consider the big ideas that flow from a conception of self-government, lococentrism and the friendly sort of “we-first”-ism implied in our argument local economy. They are world changing.

If the idea of local economy is taking hold in our hearts, it’s because we have been able to turn our eyes away from the bright temptations of national government and the vast American corporate and national economy. Considering local economy, we think that people of all political stripes and philosophical conceptions in a particular place are able to unite over that place and the need to improve its prospects.

Provincialism, localism, lococentrism, then, give their adherents a view toward local food, local control, local economy and self-government. These conceptions may seem narrow minded, insular, even prejudiced

Decentralization on large scale

The political conception of local economy, of “divest national, invest local,” is that decentralization works better than centralization, that local and state government are better than federal or national or even global government.

Local economy boosters in 2007 gathered in Chattanooga to propose a peaceful breakup of the federal empire into its constituent elements — states such as Tennessee.

The Second North American Secessionist Convention brought together those on the left — and on the right. Among them, Patrick Sale, a Vermont intellectual. “For half a century, he’s written more or less from the left on issues of decentralization, the environment and technology,” reported the New York Times, “ — in praise of Luddites, envisioning with dread the rise of the Sun Belt, lambasting Christopher Columbus as a despoiler of the American Eden and predicting environmental doom in a way that is making him at the moment look more prescient than cranky.”

Dr. Sale has papers promoting national breakup and the beauty of small at the website of Middlebury Institute for the Study of Separatism, Secession, & Self-Determination.

Agreeing that power should be restored to local towns and states is League of the South, whose overseer also is a former university academician.

“The League’s goal is good government for the Southern people,” says Michael Hill of Killen, Ala. “We believe secession — and independence — is the best way to restore good government to the South. Since 1861 the republican system of government has been steadily eroded. Today that government has become the cruel master rather than the obedient servant of the citizens of the several States. We see no way of reforming the corruption within the present system; therefore, the League seeks to spread acceptance of the idea of secession among the people of the South and elsewhere.

“We believe in the Jeffersonian principle that free people may change their government if it refuses to protect their lives, liberty, and property. As the present government of the United States has violated the original compact of 1789 and no longer offers its citizens such protection, we believe that the time has come for the Southern States to consider the merits of secession.”

Chattanooga Declaration

A statement Oct. 4, 2007, of the Second North American Secessionist Convention said the group acknowledged differences among participants but agreed to affirm the following:

  1. The deepest questions of human liberty and government facing our time go beyond right and left, and in fact have made the old left-right split meaningless and dead.

  2. The privileges, monopolies, and powers that private corporations have won from government threaten everyone’s health, prosperity, and liberty, and have already killed American self-government by the people.

  3. The power of corporations endangers liberty as much as government power, especially when they are combined as in the American Empire.

  4. Liberty can only survive if political power is returned from faraway and self-interested centers to local communities and states.

  5. The American Empire is no longer a nation or a republic, but has become a tyrant aggressive abroad and despotic at home.

  6. The states of the American union are and of right ought to be, free and self-governing.

The statement concludes that “without secession, liberty and self-government can never be sustained, and diversity among human societies can never survive.”

If local economy is to make an objection to the views of secessionists such as Dr. Hill, it is that he wants to centralize politically in the South. The war to prevent southern independence sought to replicate the U.S. system in the South with a similar constitutional confederation of states. Local economy, I think, objects to political centralization, whether in New England or the South. Centralization in politics brings about economic centralization, warmaking, inflation and eventual control by the national state.

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