Friday, August 22, 2008

Another good bookshelf to explore

A number of times in the last two years or so I have linked to Phil Paine's blog over at his multipurpose website. Not so often often I have mentioned his latest reading section. The last few entries in that section gives me the excuse to remedy that lack.

Two books particularly caught my attention. The first is #16396 -- yeah, Phil reads a lot -- (Michael H. Shuman) The Small-Mart Revolution ― How Local Businesses are Beating the Global Competition. Here are the comments that caught my attention:

I would like to see everyone involved with urban reform and with democratic renewal activism to read this book. There is a powerful undercurrent of change going on in both the United States and Canada, definitely something moving up from the grass roots and ignored by both the media and the elite political drones. It's something far more creative and significant than a mere flaky fashion for "anti-globalism" demonstrations, with which the reader might at first confuse it. It's the fact that people — ordinary people — are starting to question the orthodoxies they have been taught about how things "have to be", and realizing that their self-interest, as well as their future, depends on re-envigorating local economic and political power...

At the heart of his study are the premises that every consumer choice that prefers local sourcing over distant sourcing increases the "multiplier effect" of transactions in an economy, and that import substitution is the engine economic growth. He exposes the disastrous consequences of bribing and luring distant corporate powers into a locality rather than creating conditions for organic local economic creativity...

He also grasps that those same governments will quickly "agree" with rational critics and make a big, but entirely phony, show of following the rational path, while changing nothing. This shows that he has some real-life experience of trying to reform things. But he is at his best when he describes situations where dedicated people have actually made advances in democracy and prosperity, despite all the obstacles. The good news is that those advances are more numerous and vigorous than one would guess. The media have no interest in telling you about them. To describe these successful initiatives, Shuman coins the acronym LOIS ("local ownership and import substitution").


A much briefer comment on another book struck close to home:

16397. (Robert McCloskey) Homer Price.

This was one of the "children's classics" that I had glanced at as a child, but never actually read. A pity. McCloskey was a gentle humorist with a charming style and great human empathy, who chose to write for children rather than, say, subscribers to the New Yorker. He was also a talented artist, in a style reminiscent of Ernie Pyle. The world he writes about now seems so far away that a contemporary child might have some problems interpret it. It would seem exotic, rather than comfortingly familiar. But if you are an adult with any feeling for American social history, the child-viewpoint stories about pet skunks, donut machines, and giant balls of string will be fascinating.


I read that book as a kid and more or less recognized the environment, even though it was about pre-World War II times and I was born after the war. after all, Homer Price lived near me!



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