— Introduction —
The United States is too big—approaching 400 million by 2050—for democratic governance.  The loci of power are either far away in Washington, or hidden in mega-corporate board rooms.  Localization does not mean a return to an agrarian, small-town way of life, which is impossible if not undesirable.  A few whiffs of what localization/regionalization means are given in the following excerpts from leading researchers...  Articles follow.
Localizing Means Cooperation
The global commandment that every nation must contort its economy to outcompete every other country’s is economic, social, and environmental nonsense.  It is a beggar-your-neighbor act of economic warfare...  The alternative is that everything that could be produced within a nation or region should be.  This would allow an increase in local control of the economy and the potential for its being shared out more fairly, locally...  Beggar-your-neighbor globalization gives way to the potentially more cooperative better-your-neighbor localization.
     —Colin Hines, in Localization: A global manifesto (2000), pp vii-viii.
“Protect the Local, Globally”—A Route to Localization       [For Hines, “local”=part of a country; “regional”=several neighboring countries.  However, applied to a reformed United States, local could mean a state or part of a state; regional could mean several neighboring states.]
The end goal of the [new] economy becomes maximum self-reliance rather than open markets and international competitiveness.  The seven basic steps, to be introduced over a suitable transition period, are:
* reintroduction of protective safeguards for domestic economics (tariffs, quotas, etc.);   
* a site-here-to-sell-here policy for manufacturing and services domestically or regionally;  
* localizing money such that the majority stays within its place of origin;
* enforcing a local competition policy to eliminate monopolies from the more protected economies;
* introduction of resource taxes to increase environmental improvements and help fund the transition to Protect the Local, Globally;
* increased democratic involvement both politically and economically to ensure the effectiveness and equity of the movement to more diverse local economies;
* reorientation of the end goals of aid and trade rules such that they contribute to the rebuilding of local economies and local control, particularly through the global transfer of relevant information and technology.
...To take on the powerful international forces of international capital and transnational corporations would require these policies to be introduced, for example, EU-wide or in the whole of North America... Once introduced even in just Europe or North America it would set an example and would almost certainly engender similar approaches in other regions of the world.
      —Colin Hines, Localization: A global manifesto. (2000) Pp 62-62.
Participatory Democracy and Political Follow-through
    ...Many neighborhoods in the US are as organized and as participatory as any in the world, and yet few of the demands and ideas coming from them rise up the political system; neither does the extensive participation... Genuine participatory democracy requires representative government to be maximally open to consideration of the demands coming up through the participatory system.  It needs political pluralism, a fair electoral system, freedom of information, effective scrutiny of the executive, and a free press, all guaranteed in a written constitution...
    —Hilary Wainwright, Reclaim the State (2003), pp 191-192.
    The Pluralist Commonwealth structurally tethers large-scale firms at the top by lodging stock ownership in a Public Trust entity accountable to, and open to scrutiny by, the public.  It steadily expands four major vectors of activity and structure—robust community democracy, steadily increasing free time, greater citizen equality, and regional decentralization—that over the long haul offer expanding opportunities for democratic control from the bottom.  Additional elements of the model include new public chartering requirements, the addition of specific stakeholders to corporate boards, and the democratization of corporate structures from within...
    The specific shape [that] a new Pluralist Commonwealth-oriented regionalism might take over the course of the century...would [initially] likely involve greater state/regional autonomy in connection with economic and environmental matters, reductions in federal preemptive powers with regard to corporate regulation, limitations on the impact of WTO and other trade treaties on state/regional legislative authority, and alterations in current Constitutional Commerce Clause restrictions related to state/regional economic rights.  Beyond this, much larger issues concerning the apportionment of power might well be posed.
    —Gar Alperovitz, America Beyond Capitalism (2005), pp 73-74; 165-166.  (Note: This book abundantly documents the growth of regionalism in the US.)


Keynote and democracy session video from Relocalization Conference, 18 October 2009

Communities 2009 conference on relocalization discuss building civic life and local economies based on sustainability http://www.relocalizemassachusetts.org/

Conference Overview: Chuck Turner welcomes participants to Roxbury Community College and says that the decline of business as usual is our opportunity to build an economy and relationships based on interdependence... Keynoters Frances Moore Lappé and Bill McKibben give their views, and many organizers talk about the need for relocalization and the race, class, political and environmental issues that inform their work. Footage from some breakout sessions, including democracy, which featured Dave Lewit and Ruth Caplan from Alliance for Democracy, and May Louie from the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative. Video by Gene Anderson, Ann Cowan, Joanna Herlihy and David Ludlow, edited by Joanna Herlihy at Cambridge Community Television.

The conference began with "ten slides in ten minutes" powerpoint presentations on various aspects of relocalization. To download the Local Democracy slide show including text, click here. (If you prefer to get a copy snail-mailed on disk, please email afd@thealliancefordemocracy.org.)


Videos of breakout session follow.  Read notes for breakout session here.

Democracy breakout: Participants discuss issues related to 'doing' local democracy in Massachusetts and elsewhere: what are the opportunities and pitfalls of institutions like town meetings and initiative petitions? How do we build a democratic culture and organize people to work toward common goals?