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Creating Real Prosperity
Frances Moore Lappé, Yes! Magazine’s Go Local! edition
Critics of “go local” movements warn that buying local deprives people in the Global South of jobs that could lift them out of poverty. But are multinationals really helping?
There’s only one thing worse for the poor in the Global South, we’re told, than a job in a sweatshop: It’s the alternative–no job. That’s basically what New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof argued recently. If true, then “buy local” campaigns in the North that cut imports could harm the planet’s poorest people.
But before accepting this heart-rending story, let’s ground ourselves in the real global economy.
Shedding corporate-media filters, we see that the poor are not languishing in their sad villages and grimy shantytowns just waiting to be saved by corporate giants from abroad. Many poor people are themselves creating the real job growth in much of the Global South. They are the small shopkeepers, street vendors, and home-based workers whose jobs make up what’s called the “informal economy” not counted by authorities.
In Latin America, 85 percent of new jobs created during the 1990s were in this sector, not the corporate one.
Independence from the Corporate Global Economy
Ethan Miller, Yes! Magazine
The old story says we have to depend on big corporations. The new story tells us we can earn a livelihood, gain freedom, and build community through cooperation.
Call it “globalization,” or the “free market,” or “capitalism.” Whatever its name, people across the United States and throughout the world are experiencing the devastating effects of an economy that places profit above all else.
None of this, of course, is news. Many of us have come to believe that the crucial economic decisions affecting our lives are made not by us, but by far-away “experts” and mysterious “market forces.” A friend asked me recently, “Since when did the American people decide to send their manufacturing sector south to exploit people in El Salvador or the Dominican Republic?” We didn’t, and nobody ever asked.
But what’s the alternative? We’re taught that there are only two possible economic choices: capitalism – a system in which rich people and corporations have the power, make the decisions, and control our lives; or communism – a system where state bureaucrats have the power, make the decisions, and control our lives. What a choice!
When it comes to real economic alternatives, our imaginations are stuck. Clearly, we need something different, but what would it look like? How do we start to imagine and create other ways of meeting our economic needs?
Economics of Life in Balance
Regina Gregory, Yes! Magazine
For several years I studied the economics of decolonization in the Pacific Islands. I came to the conclusion that what is really needed is the decolonization of economics itself.
Pacific Islands culture (and indeed most indigenous cultures) is based on values that simply do not fit the neoclassical model of “economic rationality,” based on materialism and individualistic self-interest as the main motivating forces. This culture – in particular its communal land tenure and lack of individualistic go-getting spirit – is often referred to as an impediment to economic “development.” The thinking seems to be that since the realities of Pacific societies do not fit the development model, the societies should be changed. But of course the reverse is true: the model must be changed to suit the society.
I call the more appropriate model “Pononomics,” from the Hawaiian word pono, meaning goodness, righteousness, balance. Apart from being more culturally appropriate, it is more ecologically sustainable as well.
An imaginary conversation between Adam Smith and “Bula Vinaka,” a typical islander, illustrates the difference…
Many more great article in this quarter’s ‘Go Local’ themed Yes! magazine.