Your Very Own Local.alt Economy

Those Occupy guys who rail against capitalism are wasting their breath. Capitalism ain’t going away in their lifetimes. But there is another way.

Let’s call it “Local.alt Economy” for now.

The idea isn’t that you replace the dominant paradigm, which is a quixotic quest at best. Rather, you withdraw from it to the extent you can. It takes effort.

We had a good demonstration of what this might mean last week when people closed their Big Bank accounts and moved their money to more benign local institutions, such as local banks and credit unions. We don’t yet know how significant this action was, but at the very least, it caught the Big Banks’ attention. It may be a few months before the full effect dawns on them, because most of us had to keep our old account open until all the automatic payments get transferred to the new account.

Now, I view Wikileaks as a heroic endeavor that shines light on many shameful things our government and certain oversize corporations perpetrate. (I’m not so sanguine about Julian Assange, who needs to answer the sexual charges against him.) Wikileaks has uncovered hundreds of instances of secret, illegal, and immoral acts, none of which can be tolerated in an open and democratic society. That doesn’t seem to make any difference to Visa, MasterCard, and PayPal, who have established a blockade to prevent funding from reaching Wikileaks. That pissed me off, but so far I’ve only been able to cancel my PayPal account, and mail a check or two to other countries. (Google it.)

One of the best and most effective ways to withdraw from the clutches of the plutocracy is to be employed by a worker-owned business, which I have written about several times. [here] The huge advantage of worker-owned is that you don’t give the money you earn to some rich owner. You are the owner, you and the others, and you decide together how to use the company profit. Such companies often embrace a triple bottom line. That is, they figure company success on the money generated, how well they serve the local community, and how well they protect the environment. There are some practical things you can do to put you on this path.

Then we come to the Local movement. Buy local. Don’t just buy local. Get local. Be local. The oligarchs/plutocrats cannot control what is local, small, and decentralized. Local businesses elude their clutches, for the most part. As far as possible, make everything you do local. Buy at local markets and stores, farmers markets, and the like. I even manage to attend music events at small places I can walk to, which of course is not available to everyone.

Always buy Fair Trade, even though that’s not local. There are negative arguments about Fair Trade, but they essentially say that Fair Trade artificially inflates wages. Apparently it’s OK if the Magic of the Market determines that people in less developed countries should always live at poverty level. Personally, I don’t want what I buy to contribute to anyone’s misery. Not so easily done, but that’s the goal.

We mainly know Fair Trade through Fair Trade coffee, but there are other things coming, and we should watch for them. Colleges got ahead of us here. Students all around the US questioned the ethicality of school sweats and the like available at their bookstores. This gave rise to a movement, represented now by Alta Gracia clothing, where workers in other countries earn a decent living, and you can be assured that the college-branded goods you buy from them are not sweatshop products. There are others coming, through such sources as Ethix Merch. But so far the products are few and hard to find. I’m still looking for fair trade men’s clothing or locally made men’s clothing.

The times are changing, again, and we each must be alert to ways we can foil the plutocracy, who are doing everything they can to make themselves richer and the rest of us poorer.

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