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One important step would be to move investment capital out of failing Fortune 500 companies and into promising local businesses. There’s currently a significant capital-market anomaly: Half of our economy consists of small and local business, yet none of our investment dollars touch local business! This is a total market failure. One way to address it is by revisiting our securities laws and making it much easier for small investors to invest in small businesses. I would like to see the Obama administration waive securities-registration requirements for microbusinesses.
How can people get involved at the grassroots level in supporting the Buy Local movement?
The first thing to do is actually to “Think Local First”—that is, to prioritize locally owned businesses over nonlocal ones. People can also educate themselves at sites like smallmart.org and livingeconomies.org.
People can also get more “activistly” involved, for instance by developing a Local First campaign. These are programs to educate people about the benefits of buying locally.
Where do you think the Buy Local movement will be in five years’ time? What’s your reality-based vision of the future?
Ultimately, my vision for planetary prosperity is a world of increasingly self-reliant communities that trade only in the diminishing number of goods and services that they cannot provide for themselves. Paradoxically, a world of self-reliant communities might well see an increase in global trade, since self-reliance is a way of growing local wealth and global purchasing power. To give you a personal example of what I mean, I moved my mortgage from Bank of America to a credit union several years back. This made me several thousand dollars a year wealthier, some of which I now spend on single-malt whiskey from Scotland. A world of more self-reliant communities, moreover, is also a world with fewer causes of war, human rights abuses, and environmental malfeasance.
We won’t get to this world in five years. But I do believe that our economic paradigm will begin to shift in this direction, along with changes in our policies governing economic development and global poverty alleviation. We will start to understand that every innovation the Hudson Valley does for, say, food self-reliance, can, if shared globally, move the entire planet in a fundamentally more hopeful direction.