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The Problem With Localism

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorJanuary 6, 2011 9:32 PM


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It's "dangerously naive" and an "indulgent form of self-interest," writes an engineering professor in this provocative essay. Oh, and also "seriously mistaken":

An insular community which does not trade regionally or internationally is at risk from the most basic threats, such as crop failure due to local extremes of weather. The evidence for this is all too apparent in the developing world. In a global community, local crop failure is not a life-or-death issue since food can be temporarily imported in exchange for other goods or services. During times of plenty, excess food can be exported and the long-term surplus and deficit balanced out. The community is buffered against extremes of weather through international trade. While an isolated village has to depend on its own grain store to smooth out times of feast and famine, a trading nation has the entire world as its grain store.

Is he throwing out the baby with the bathwater? I shop in local farmer's markets and patronize my local merchants (and I prefer my local independent bookstore over Amazon), but I also have no illusions that I could be self-sufficient if I was to be a strict localist. Is that really what the localism movement advocates, swearing off all global means of production?

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