Localism: how to recognise it emerging


There is a growing belief that localism will become increasingly important in the UK economy.

Underlying this belief, most people think that today’s governance systems will be adapted to enable more local work, but otherwise, it will remain the same.

According to Wikipedia, localism is “a range of political philosophies that prioritise the local. Generally, localism supports local production and consumption of goods, local control of government, and promotion of local history, local culture and local identity“.

https://orcop.com/ is a collection of posts that seem relevant to the future. Gathering these snippets has helped to develop a mental image of the current collapse and disorganisation of the UK state. What is happening, and what this is leading to.

My current project is to develop a narrative model of the localist future. It will be a narrative model of blocks – narrative blocks about different aspects of a localist future based on past and current evidence and conjecture about possibilities.

In thinking about the future, the following facts have to be taken into account:

The climate is changing and will continue to do so.
Fossil fuels and derivatives will become increasingly expensive and unaffordable.
The UK economy is shrinking and will continue to do so indefinitely.

As a result:

Prosperity is declining.
Discretionary spending and markets are declining.
Essential spending is becoming unaffordable for an increasing number of people.
Public sector discretionary and essential services are being reduced.

Changes we now must watch out for, in no particular order, will include:

The variety of foods in supermarkets will decrease.
Unemployment and poverty will increase.
Homelessness will increase as a result of which the number of people seeking temporary accommodation will increase. Temporary accommodation will include caravans and tents.
People with relatives who cannot care for themselves will be expected to care for them.
Shops and other venues selling discretionary goods and services will close.
All kinds of discretionary travel will be reduced. Car ownership will become unaffordable and will decline.
Domestic fruit and vegetable gardening will increase.
The number of TV and telecom services will reduce.
Law and order will deteriorate.
Road surfaces will deteriorate, and little-used lanes, especially unclassified ones, will revert to tracks.
The condition of all kinds of buildings will deteriorate.
Families will share homes.
Mains electricity will be rationed.
Mains water will be disrupted due to pump failures and leakages.

One way to think about the future is to imagine what will happen when the economy gets smaller. Those who lived through WW2 and the 20 or so post-war years, when the economy was much smaller, will understand.

Much of what happens now is in addition to how things were in the 1950s. They are happenings enabled by the growing economy and borrowing, increasing prosperity and affordability.

The UK GDP has grown from roughly £5 million in the 1950s to £674 million in 2023. This is hard to believe!

A specific new house on an estate in Hampshire cost £4,950 in 1968. It was for sale for £389,000 in 2023.

Figures which include inflation and borrowing to enable growth. Backpedalling to find out what happens when the economy is shrinking, assuming deflation and some repayment of debts, implies that the value of property and other physical assets, including farmland, will decline. The rate of shrinkage is unknown.

Localism is a natural process of transition to new ways.

As the economy shrinks, production processes will simplify. The elimination of layers of management will be part of the shrinkage, which, in some cases, will lead to radical reductions in end-user prices. The transition from industrially grown, processed, distributed and retailed food to home-grown, processed and consumed food is an obvious example.

Things which some see as the products of greedy consumerism will “disappear” if they can’t be made domestically. These will account for a surprisingly large part of the shrinkage. As much as 50 per cent.

Perhaps the most contentious transition will be the natural migration from high-density urban living to lower-density lifestyles. Homelessness will lead to tented villages on rented land, with the potential for development into villages of smallholders.

How people and communities react to the changes will depend on local leadership and vested interests.

Neither county/unitary nor parish councils are legally responsible for dealing with the changes. They could ease the transition by removing and relaxing regulations and enforcement relating to public transport, food and physical development.

All of which is neither good nor bad. Shrinking occurs because individuals and organisations cease to exist legally, leaving behind no debts. This is a natural process of reduction in the amount of assets which make up the economy.

All things to look out for.

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Radix is the radical centre think tank. We welcome all contributions which promote system change, challenge established notions and re-imagine our societies. The views expressed here are those of the individual contributor and not necessarily shared by Radix.

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