Localization: The Economics of Happiness

Boy in garden

Credit: Becky White (localfutures.org)

The Occupy movement has transformed our political culture in profound ways. New forms of struggle seem possible now that thousands have braved winter chill, rubber bullets, and pepper spray to voice their dissent. And the struggle has gained newfound public legitimacy: according to polls, a majority of Americans remain firm in their support for the issues Occupy has brought to the fore.

With this widespread support, there is now a rare opportunity to promote fundamental change toward a better economic future. The Occupy movement has managed to highlight the social and environmental effects of corporate rule. It is now time to examine how transnational corporations and banks have become so powerful and how they have been able to capture our governments.

For the past thirty-five years, I have worked with economists, environmentalists, and social activists to study the impact of trade agreements around the world. It has become clear to us that “economic globalization”—the deregulation of trade and finance—has led to a rapid and unprecedented expansion in the power and influence of transnational corporations. In the name of freedom and free trade, constraints on global businesses and banks have been removed, creating an interlinked global empire that has turned our elected representatives into corporate servants. From Sweden to Slovenia, from the United States to South Africa, the picture is frighteningly similar. During election campaigns, political representatives from left to right speak our language; once in power, they implement policies that serve the needs of global capital, rather than the needs of the people.

Shipping containers

Trade deregulation has let transnational corporations run wild. Community gardens and farmers markets offer a glimpse of an alternative system. Will Occupy open new paths to economic localization? Creative Commons/WirralWater

Until quite recently, trade deregulation was a subject that lay beneath most of the public’s radar. Today, however, even market fundamentalists have had to concede that the deregulation of trade and finance led to increasingly reckless speculation and ultimately to a near meltdown of the global financial system. I’m very hopeful that people will soon recognize that deregulation—the core of economic and corporate globalization—is also the single biggest contributor to most of the other major crises of our time, from unemployment to climate change, ethnic conflict to the epidemic of depression.

For decades, deregulation in the name of globalization was presented as a way of bringing the people of the world together. It was seen as the only way toward progress and as an almost evolutionary process. ...

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Helena Norberg-Hodge is a pioneer of the new economy movement and producer of the film The Economics Of Happiness. Director of the International Society for Ecology and Culture, she is a recipient of the “Alternative Nobel Prize.” Her book Ancient Futures has been translated into forty-five languages.

Source Citation

Norberg-Hodge, Helena. 2012. "Localization: The Economics of Happiness." Tikkun 27(2): 29.

tags: Environmental Activism, Global Capitalism   
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