The Local and the Global: Lessons from Detroit

imageIn The Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle articulates three types of friendship: friendship based on utility, friendship based on pleasure, and perfect friendship based on goodness. When it comes to the relationship between multi-national corporations and local places within the context of the global economy, I cannot help but think Aristotle’s description of friendship based on utility hits it on the head. Continue reading

Our Repair Economy: Are Low Prices the Enemy of Sustainability?

imageI was preparing for work one morning when disaster struck; my trusty beard trimmer wasn’t trimming. There was plenty of strange whirring but absolutely no movement of the blades. I spent a few minutes tinkering with it but to no avail. At this point, what are my options? It seemed to me that the problem was fixable. I have a two-year-old son who is fascinated with shaving; maybe he got a hold of it and dropped it, knocking something loose. If I couldn’t fix it myself, could a repair shop handle it? What would they charge me? How would that compare with the cost of a brand new beard trimmer? But maybe the biggest question was this: do repair shops for small electronics even exist any more? Continue reading

Building a Local Economy: Where to Start?

P1000350Quite a lot has happened in the Golbabai house since I lased posted. After months of studying, I passed my American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) certification exam so I can now write this blog as a certified planner! A few days later, Paula and I welcomed the newest addition to our family, our beautiful baby daughter. Both Mom and baby are doing well and we’re all adjusting to this new reality of life as a family of four!

Over the past few weeks I’ve been really struck by my two children. Looking at our newborn daughter, I’m amazed at just how completely dependent we are on others when we come into the world. Continue reading

Growing Deep

imageThe unique flavor of local businesses is as beautiful as it is important, helping to make each place special and combating the spread of “Anywhere, USA” towns. Yet one thing that has perplexed me is how do these same businesses retain their local image in the face of success? Isn’t expansion and the franchising of stores the logical next step?

Well, I recently discovered that growing deep in place can be an alternative to growing broadly. Here are two great examples of this concept: Continue reading

Small Town Decline: 1920s & the Rise of Chain Stores

Money MultiplierOne of the things I enjoy most about this blog is being able to test my own ideas and assumptions on the wider world. Any feedback I get, whether harsh criticism, enthusiastic agreement, or fraternal correction, presents an opportunity for deeper investigation and growth. The publication of my recent post, 1940s America – The Start of Small Town Decline, gave me just such an opportunity, as a number of readers wrote to me expressing their belief that the start of small town decline predated the war mobilization efforts of World War II. I agree that while war mobilization may well be one piece of the puzzle it is far from the whole story.  So what are some of the other culprits? To get a more comprehensive view of what happened to the small town, I took another look into our economic past. Continue reading

Store Brands to Cover Bands: The Lost Art of Local Imitation

imageI blame Michael Pollan. Not too long ago my wife and I both read his excellent book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and our food consumption hasn’t been the same since. We started thinking more about what we were eating and shopped for foods with simpler ingredients, less processing, and fewer artificial sweeteners and preservatives. One of our favorite new finds was an incredibly delicious loaf of bread with the simplest of ingredients – wheat, yeast, honey, water, and salt – that’s it! It was so good in fact that we initially ignored the $6 price tag as the price of shopping with our values.  As we kept eating and our grocery bill kept growing, however, we started thinking of alternatives. Continue reading