What is a local economy? Compliments of Wendell Berry & SLOWest



“So far as I can see, the idea of a local economy

rests upon only two principles: neighborhood and

subsistence. In a viable neighborhood, neighbors

ask themselves what they can do or provide for one

another, and they find answers that they and their

place can afford. This, and nothing else, is the

practice of neighborhood. This practice must be,

in part, charitable, but it must also be economic,

and the economic part must be equitable; there is

a significant charity in just prices.

Of course, everything needed locally cannot be

produced locally. But a viable neighborhood is a

community; and a viable community is made up

of neighbors who cherish and protect what they

have in common. This is the principle of subsistence.

A viable community, like a viable farm,

protects its own production capacities. It does not

import products that it can produce for itself. And

it does not export local products until local needs

have been met. The economic products of a viable

community are understood either as belonging to

the community’s subsistence or as surplus, and only

the surplus is considered to be marketable abroad.

A community, if it is to be viable, cannot think of

producing solely for export, and it cannot permit

importers to use cheaper labor and goods from

other places to destroy the local capacity to produce

goods that are needed locally. In charity, moreover,

it must refuse to import goods that are produced at

the cost of human or ecological degradation elsewhere.

This principle applies not just to localities,

but to regions and nations as well.”

Wendell Berry

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