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  • Writer's pictureStuart Williams

The People of Sharon Springs Should Run America

Many people throughout America are beginning to realize that change must start from within and on a local level, and as such, are reverting back to building local living economies that support all stakeholders within a community.

There are now numerous incredible examples of how communities have banded together and exponentially increased the velocity of capital within their local economies and ecosystems, resulting in meaningful positive impact for themselves, their neighbors and their environment.

In my opinion, the “poster children” for this is the community of Sharon Springs in Upstate New York. This is a community that was dying, but with a small group of purposed collaborators that includes the famous and fabulous “Beekman Boys” (Google them), the community is now flourishing beyond what anyone thought possible.

  • The Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) describes local living economies as places where:

  • Economic power resides locally to the greatest extent possible, sustaining vibrant, livable communities and healthy ecosystems in the process.

  • All stakeholders are guided by the principles of producing and exchanging locally as many products needed by their citizens as they reasonably can, while reaching out to other communities to trade fairly in those products they cannot reasonably produce at home. These communities value their unique character and encourage cultural exchange and cooperation.

  • Public policies support decentralized ownership of businesses and farms, fair wages, taxes, and budget allocations, trade policies benefiting local economies, and stewardship of the natural environment.

  • Citizens appreciate the benefits of buying from living economy businesses and, if necessary, are willing to pay a premium price to secure those personal and community benefits.

  • Investors value businesses that are community stewards, and as such, accept a "living return" on their financial investments, rather than a maximum return, recognizing the value derived from enjoying a healthy and vibrant community and sustainable global economy.

  • Media provides sources of news independent of corporate control, so that citizens can make informed decisions in the best interests of their communities and natural environment.

  • Businesses that are independent, primarily locally owned, and value the needs and interests of all stakeholders while building long-term profitability. They strive to source products from businesses with similar values, with a preference for local procurement, provide employees a healthy workplace with meaningful living-wage jobs, and offer customers personal service and useful, safe, quality products. They work with suppliers to establish a fair exchange, cooperate with other businesses in ways that balance their self-interest with their obligation to the community and future generations, and use their business practices to support an inclusive and healthy community, and to protect our natural environment and yield a "living return" to owners and investors.

The Building Blocks of a Local Living Economy are:

  • Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resources

  • Renewable Energy

  • Zero-Waste Manufacturing

  • Independent Retail and Service

  • Community Capital

  • Green Building

  • Health and Wellness

  • Independent Media

  • Arts and CultureEducation

  • Reuse and Waste Management

  • Sustainable Transportation & Infrastructure

Somewhere along the way Washington has forgotten much of the above, and hence, we find our national community:

  • Laden with debt;

  • Experiencing a growing gap between the “have’s and the have not’s”;

  • Watching record amounts of capital exit the local economy due to interest payments, unhealthy balance of trade numbers, corporate tax laws, etc.; and

  • Trying to fix health and education systems that are almost broken beyond repair

Etc., etc.

This is not about “feel good socialism” as in a local living economy there is nothing wrong with making profits as long as it is not done so at the expense of the human and environmental resources used to make it. Needless to say, if every village, town, municipality and city in the country would focus on eradicating the human and environmental inequalities found within them, America could become the largest local living economy in the world.

I am not suggesting it would solve all of the problems, but if we take a leaf out of the Sharon Springs playbook we might just be able to solve some of them, while at the same time creating positive impact for all of our citizens and our imperative environmental ecosystem.

America is populated with wonderful hard working and industrious people who are more than capable of solving many of the countries problems, one community at a time. People who have successfully developed local living economies are more often that not only too happy to help others do the same thing so there is no need to reinvent the wheel.

And just for transparency, I am conservative when it comes to fiscal policy, and hence, believe in market and above profits and investment returns. I am also socially and environmentally liberal, so to sum it all up, I believe in “Making a Profit While Making a Difference”.

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