Time to move on: Why I am building a website devoted to localism

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I must now spend more time promoting the idea of localism.

Since I retired from local government employment, I have been trying to fathom how decentralisation might work on the ground rather than in my head.

Centralisation of the state is an inalienable part of the growing economy. Decentralisation, as it was advocated in the early years of this century and enacted in the Localism Act of 2011, was just another way of organising top-down governance. Neighbourhood Plans are now implemented following Unitary Authority policies, which the government prescribes.

During the past 20 years, economic growth has been created by ever-increasing lending by the government and, more generally, by shadow banking. This view is hidden from the mindsets of everyone with a job who is looking forward to growth in wages and a retirement pension. A financial situation that seems to me to be unlikely to be sustainable.

Sure enough, the signs of unsustainable growth are now all around us, with the collapse of the NHS due to a lack of funds and every other public service lined up to follow.

It is not a recession that will return to growth in due course. It is the way things will be for the foreseeable future.

The economy is now in transition from growth to post-growth.

The transition prompted me to write a short book, How to Find Our Way into the Future which outlines how the UK’s shrinking economy is heading to an era where old ways of living dissolve.

 Though the future remains uncertain, signs of change are evident, albeit not openly discussed.

The book guides individuals and families to understand these shifts, celebrating the transition from rigid financial structures to the adaptable ethos of localism.  This transition promises a wealth of opportunity and innovation, liberating us from bureaucratic constraints and embracing individual freedom.

A recent post by Tim Morgan, in his blog Surplus Energy Economics, discusses this problem:

Why is the world at large so often “surprised” when the materially impossible doesn’t happen?

In economics, the consensus line – a narrative shared by government, business and, for the most part, the general public – is that the economy will carry on growing as we shift from climate-harming fossil fuels to cleaner alternatives such as wind and solar power.  This process, boosted by advances in technology, will increase our leisure time, and give us more money to spend on discretionary (non-essential) products and services.

In reality, none of this can happen, yet we keep being “surprised” when it doesn’t.

Renewable energy cannot replicate all of the economic value hitherto sourced from oil, natural gas and coal, and the supposedly “green” credentials of renewables are, to put it mildly, highly debatable.  EVs can’t replace all of the world’s ICE-powered vehicles on a like-for-like basis.

As top-line prosperity decreases, and the costs of energy-intensive necessities carry on rising, the affordability of discretionary products and services will decline.  A string of sectors and activities widely regarded as highly growth-capable are, in reality, heading into relentless contraction.

This same process of affordability compression is going to undermine the ability of the household and corporate sectors to service, let alone honour, their enormous debt and quasi-debt obligations.

In short, the much-cherished consensus view of the economic future is founded on a series of material impossibilities.

And, as Tim Watkins has suggested in his blog:

North Korea and Cuba provide us with two very different examples of states responding to a sudden energetic collapse as their supply of fossil fuels was cut.  Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, both countries, which were subject to western sanctions, had to respond to a collapse of fossil fuel imports.  In North Korea, the state acted as a surrogate parent on steroids – imposing rationing and attempting to control every aspect of agricultural and industrial production. The result was a horrendous famine. In Cuba, things weren’t good. But because the Cuban state acted as an enabler rather than a surrogate parent – allowing people to plant and harvest food on any uncultivated land they could find – starvation was avoided.

This is likely the real choice for western populations once we get through the anger caused by state and corporate complicity in collapsing the economy. Our current path is clearly and decisively in the North Korean direction (which is one reason why I have little time for political activists of all stripes). Whether a Cuban direction is possible, we shall have to wait and see. At present there is no strong movement in favour of a genuine rolling back of the state (rather than the confidence trick sold by Thatcher) a return to common law, and which treats us as responsible adults rather than spoiled children… but should one emerge, I will give it my support and my vote (for whatever that is worth).

So, Tim Morgan points out the impossibility of maintaining the consensus view of the future of the economy, and Tim Watkins suggests a Cuban direction because the Cuban state acted as an enabler rather than a surrogate parent – allowing people to plant and harvest food on any uncultivated land they could find – starvation was avoided.

The Cuban direction is localism. Which I see to be the best long-term future for the UK.  A future grounded in localism and individual empowerment. A vision which will challenge norms, urging a re-examination of assumptions and a reimagination of possibilities.

At its essence, localism signifies a fundamental change in governance and community development. Empowering individuals and communities to unleash creativity and resourcefulness, liberating them from distant bureaucracy to grow their destinies.

Localism’s benefits extend across domains, from healthcare to education, fostering innovation and collaboration. Environmental stewardship offers sustainability by managing natural resources and mitigating climate change.

Economically, localism fosters vibrant communities and shared prosperity through investment in local enterprises, without top-down intervention apart from matters of state-wide importance.

My book, How to Find Our Way into the Future, describes a future of resilience, sustainability, and social justice. This future, defined by the transition to localism, offers hope and inspiration.

Tim Morgan says:

The inflexion of the economy from growth into contraction will trigger enormous changes, not least in business, society, government and attitudes. In some areas, we may need to reconstruct from the bottom up. Barry Cooper’s book is an excellent source on this.

As we embark on this journey, we must recognise our power to shape destiny. By embracing localism and community creativity, we can overcome obstacles and forge a promising future for future generations.

(How to Find Our Way into the Future can be purchased at Amazon at https://www.amazon.co.uk/How-Find-Our-Into-Future/dp/1912119366/)

The next stage in my thinking about the future is focusing on what localism will entail.

My wife and I have spent the last six months developing a website about localism.  You are invited to think with us about the future of localism.

There are no charges to access the website and no restrictions on copying it to your friends, which can be quickly done by PDF files, which can be created and downloaded from anywhere on the website. Again, free of charge.

To watch the  development of the localist website, go to https://orcop-prospecta.com/

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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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