Localize it - Page 3

Local action: a new initiative aims to deglobalize the Bay Area's economy
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And the professors' initial objections to localization — including the notion that it would return economies to a more primitive state and that it is isolationist in principle — were mostly rhetorical and unrelated to the coalition's specific recommendations.

Two of the professors — Daniel M. Kammen, who teaches in the Energy Resources Group as well as the Goldman School of Public Policy and the Department of Nuclear Engineering, and David Vogel, who teaches in the Haas School of Business, the Political Science Department, and the Goldman School — were immediately opposed to the idea of a comprehensive localization strategy.

Vogel, in particular, seemed at first to make light of economic localization, calling it a "romantic notion that periodically resurfaces," and more than once asked laughingly whether the coalition "expects Bay Area residents to watch only movies made in the Bay Area."

Another professor, Lee Friedman, a PhD economist who teaches at the Goldman School, said, "Globalization is a lot like the problem of gays in the military: mend it, don't end it."

But Friedman likes the idea — a central one in the report — of including all costs in the price of goods. That's particularly true of environmental costs. This might raise the price of electronics to pay for their disposal or of gas-guzzling vehicles to pay for their global-warming impacts — both ideas being explored by the European Union.

All three professors also had some very positive things to say about economic localization. Kammen, like Friedman, strongly believes that communities should pursue local — and low-carbon — energy production because the environmental impact associated with producing in a foreign country and shipping to the United States is far greater than that of local production.

"Localization advocates are making some excellent points that people ought to pay attention to," Friedman said. He agreed the Bay Area imports too much of its food. Vogel expressed a similar sentiment, saying that buying locally is a "great idea." He also said localization could help to address urban sprawl. By the end of the interview, Vogel softened his initially dismissive attitude toward localization, deeming "aspects of it interesting and attractive."

Talberth and other coalition members say challenging the economic concepts supporting globalization — like those taught by Friedman and most other economics scholars — is a central task of their campaign.

Critics of traditional economic theory have for a long time been saying that too many economists base their research and resulting recommendations on economic models that bear little resemblance to the way the real world operates.

Although economists often bristle at that criticism, Friedman has acknowledged to his students the flaws in prevailing economic models but said, "Until someone comes up with better models, people shouldn't complain about the existing ones."

Yet Hazel Henderson, a coalition member and the author of Beyond Globalization, and Talberth say alternatives to the current models are well established and have been around for years. They criticize the fact that economic growth is measured by the gross domestic product (GDP), a simplistic calculus that doesn't take into account economic activity that is harmful to people or the planet.

They prefer new indicators, like the genuine progress indicator (GPI), that account for costs and benefits the traditional indicators do not factor in. The report calculates the GPI for each of the Bay Area's nine counties. The European Union has already adopted this kind of alternative measure of an economy's well-being.

WHAT'S NEXT?

Engaging the public is the coalition's next big goal.

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