Morgantown’s People Mover

Transportation is one of my favorite topics here at The New Localization. It’s so basic and yet it’s such an economic, environmental, social, and political heavyweight. It has everything to do with the design of our cities. As late as the 1970s, we Americans were still dreaming of new and innovative ways to move people from Point A to Point B, but fresh ideas today seem a bit harder to come by.

That’s why I was pretty excited to discover this radical transportation mode operating in Morgantown, West, Virginia: Continue reading

The Commerce Clause & the Ban on Economic Protectionism

imageA few weeks ago I posted an article about the efforts of small towns to protect their unique character and resist becoming another generic “Anywhere, USA.”  This is no small feat, in large part because the courts have said that it’s a violation of the Constitution’s Commerce Clause for local municipalities to protect their local businesses against non-local competition.  This ruling by the court has been a pebble in my shoe ever since I came across it because the wording of the Commerce Clause itself – that Congress has the power “To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes” – does not mention economic protectionism.  Given the far-reaching effects on local economies, I had to wonder how this interpretation came to be. Continue reading

The Economic Case for Local Currency

In Small Town Decline: 1920s & the Rise of Chain Stores, I wrote about how locally owned shops keep on average 3.7 times more money in the local economy than their chain store counterparts, an important benefit to be encouraged and supported. But as compelling as this number is, our family finds that on a practical level backing up our localist principles with our wallets is not always easy. Why? Well, as with most families, the Golbabais operate within a fairly strict budget. From groceries, to clothes, to books and entertainment – the very reason chains, and now the Internet, have been so successful is that they are able to, in reality or simply in perception, offer cheaper prices than the local competition. Yet patronizing these chains in lieu of local stores in the long term leads to poorer, clone towns. 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