Power to the Locals!
Articles Inspirational articles from Hay House authors
Power to the Locals!Healing the economy close to home.
The buy-local movement offers a promising natural economic trend. It represents the recognition of two cost-effective principles. First, locally produced products are economically and energetically more efficient simply because they eliminate transportation charges. Second, and equally important, locally owned endeavors add to the quality of life and uniqueness of an area while literally multiplying that area’s wealth.
Two recent studies bear this out. The first study concerned four types of businesses in San Francisco: books, sporting goods, toys and gifts, and limited-service dining. The study’s results conclude that a mere 10 percent shift in retail spending from large chains to local stores resulted in nearly $192 million in increased economic output, $72 million in new income for workers, and more than $15 million in new retail activity.1 A second study in Austin, Texas, concluded that if each household shifted $100 of holiday spending from chain stores to local merchants, it would have a $10 million positive impact on the local economy.2 How are these financial benefits possible? Big-box and chain stores take their earnings out of the community. In contrast, locally owned businesses recirculate money close to home: they hire local labor, buy goods and services from regional merchants, support community charities, and spend their profits with neighboring stores.
According to a study by the Go Local organization of Sonoma County, California, when purchases are made from locally owned businesses as opposed to national chains, the proceeds circulate three times longer in the community.3
To counter the daunting task of raising enough food for all 6.5 billion of us, the Go Local movement also has evolved a grow local branch that offers a simple and natural solution. The goal is for every community to become sustainable through food and energy self-sufficiency. And, because the sun and soil are the sources of all wealth, then a healthy, wealthy commonwealth begins with every community having access to this abundance.
Even in the most urbanized and ghettoized areas of our country, food can be grown locally and provide a thriving business opportunity. When inner city residents have access to vacant lots, rooftops, or a corner of a schoolyard or park, they also acquire the possibility to grow, process, sell, and deliver food up the economic food chain.
To take the garden notion one step further, in a sense, each neighborhood, community, city, state, and nation is a garden with the potential to grow not only food but other forms of renewable wealth, including intangibles like happiness. Perhaps we need to follow the lead of the Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan, where back in the 1970s King Jigme Singye Wangchuck decided the true measure of wealth is Gross National Happiness.
And what exactly is happiness? To the Bhutanese, it’s a change in perspective. “The underlying message,” according to an article in Developments Magazine, “is that the country should not sacrifice elements important for people’s happiness to gain material development. In short, GNH takes into account not only the flow of money but also access to healthcare, free time with family, conservation of natural resources and other non-economic factors.4 In keeping with the Buddhist idea that the ultimate purpose of life is inner happiness, the Bhutanese society has decided to curtail the excess use of consumer goods, essentially eliminating the corporate middle man, and cultivate the greatest good of all—happiness. Bhutan’s lead begs the curious question: what if each nation, each region, and each community had a mission for maximizing happiness in the world, in its own unique way? Yes, what if?
We cannot underestimate the economic impact of well-being intangibles like love, happiness, imagination, and awareness. In an evolving economy, these are the multipliers that help us achieve what Buckminster Fuller would have termed a dymaxion economy, which means an economy based on “deriving maximum output from a minimum input of material and energy.”
The indices of well-being—love, happiness, peace, and equanimity—are contagious. For example, one person can walk into a room with love, and hundreds or maybe thousands absorb that love and carry it out of the room with them. The love of the original bearer is not only undiminished but has very likely increased. If ever there was a formula for applying the miracle of loaves and fishes, this is it!
- Civic Economics, “The San Francisco Retail Diversity Study,” Civic Economics, May, 2007, 1-28, http://www.civiceconomics.com/SF/ (accessed March 14, 2009).
- Civic Economics, Economic Impact Analysis: A Case Study, Local Merchants vs. Chain Retailers, (Austin, TX: Civic Economics, 2002), 1–16. http://www.bigboxtoolkit.com/index.php/Economic-Impact-of-Local-Businesses-vs.-Chains.html (accessed April 15, 2009).
- “The San Francisco Retail Diversity Study,” Studies in Economics, Sonoma County GoLocal Coop, April 2007, http://sonomacounty.golocal.coop/?page_id=61 (accessed March 14, 2009).
- Kencho Wandi, “Bhutan - where happiness outranks wealth,” Developments, http://www.developments.org.uk/articles/bhutan-where-happiness-outranks-wealth/ (accessed March 14, 2009).