Local Must Replace Global

By Hines, Colin | New Statesman (1996), September 18, 2000 | Go to article overview

Local Must Replace Global


Hines, Colin, New Statesman (1996)


Colin Hines argues that globalisation cannot be tamed; it must be stopped in its tracks

We have seen them on the streets in Seattle, London and Melbourne. We shall soon see them in Prague. But it is time for the anti-globalisation protesters to move from opposition to proposition. What is it that will achieve all the goals -- job security, a less polluted planet, the relief of poverty--sought by the disparate coalition that mounts the protests? The answer, I believe, is to replace globalisation with localisation.

This alternative insists that everything that can sensibly be produced within a nation or region should be so produced. Long-distance trade is reduced to supplying what cannot come from within one country or geographical grouping of countries. Technology and information would still be encouraged to flow, but only where they can strengthen local economies. Under these circumstances, beggar-your-neighbour globalisation would give way to the potentially more co-operative better-your-neighbour localisation.

Globalisation cannot be tinkered with. Campaigns for labour standards or "fair trade" or voluntary ethical codes fundamentally mistake the nature of the trade liberalisation beast. These attempts are like trying to lasso a tiger with cotton. We should aim, instead, to return the tiger to its original habitat.

International trade was originally a search for the novel; Europeans went to India for spices and other exotics, not for coal. That is precisely the "localisation" approach, but without the disastrous social effects of colonialism. Long-distance trade should be only for acquiring what cannot be provided within the region where people live.

We must play the globalisers at their own game. They have a clear goal: maximum trade and money flows for maximum profit. They frame policies and trade rules that will achieve this. Those who want a more just, secure, environmentally sustainable future must have an equally clear goal and equally detailed policies for achieving it. …

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