5: Book Review: Colin Hines, Localisation—a Global Manifesto

Earthscan, 2000 SBN 1 85383 612 5 10.95

This book is a very welcome head-on challenge to Tina—the belief that "There Is No Alternative" to "globalisation". It details the falseness of the claims both to its inevitability and to its benefits for any but a tiny minority of people, and proposes in detail the steps required to move instead to local self-reliant economies, trading genuine surpluses with near-neighbours for mutual benefit, and only trading over long distances for the few things not otherwise available.

This move is essential not only to restore the social networks and economic inter-dependence of local communities, but also to save the environment from further destruction and embark on its restoration.

It is "Global" in the sense that it should be the normal way of organising throughout the world, and also in that it should aim for global welfare, sharing aid, knowledge and technology freely.

The book is well organised and referenced, in three Parts—The Problem, The Solution, and How Localisation Might Come About—and 19 chapters, with two appendices (255 pages in all), but I have two main reservations in recommending this book.

Firstly, although it advocates Citizens' Incomes, its author, perhaps unconciously, is slave to the orthodox belief that a major purpose of 'the economy' is to create work.

This unthinking belief is strongly promoted by apologists for the status quo, supporting Tina. Rational use of technology for human benefit should aim to reduce humanity's need to toil, and free it for higher things. The greatest achievements of civilisation are achieved by people relieved of undue work loads, and social relationships need leisure to flourish.

While many of the changes Colin advocates at least in part because they would create jobs deserve support, this is despite this disadvantage! Equitable sharing of resources and fostering of social values are basic needs for economy of use of resources and preservation of the environment, and while initially there is much work to be done to put right all that is wrong at present, we should be looking forward to a leisured, caring future. Citizens' Incomes are an important reform to facilitate this.

This leads to my second reservation: While in the body of the book Colin makes reference to money creation and local currencies, and his Appendix II moves from Citizens' Incomes to monetary reform, which is certainly welcome, awareness of the fundamental need for this latter does not inform his analysis.

All through my reading of the book I was aware how much these two reforms, especially if combined with land reform—making the rental/use value of ‘land’, including all natural resources, a communal, shared resource, through changes in taxation—would both make many of his proposed regulations and treaties superfluous and of itself tend to produce the changes he seeks—it is, after all, the efforts to survive despite the mounting debts created by the present system of (debt-)money creation which are the basic driving force behind globalisation. Removal of this debt-pressure would allow the local economy to flourish—and make it easy to fund adequate Citizens’ Incomes. I wonder, too, how far his reforms could be implemented, even with massive public support, without the reform of the global money system which he considers in his appendix.

It is notable that though his appendix quotes from Rowbotham's The Grip of Death, it is missing from his Suggested Reading list, as are any other books advocating monetary reform. Despite this, though, it is to be recommended for its thorough refutation of the case for "globalisation" and promotion of the much-needed alternative: localisation, globally.

Brian Leslie