We make much of local economy in Chattanooga and are excited by arrival of digital overcapacity in the Gig, real estate on the Northshore and highly touted entrepreneurial culture exemplified by Lamp Post Group and other capital ventures.
How should we handle the counterarguments of local economy and the free market? They are ever present in national media, in the buzz that arises from many sources and knits together progressive presuppositions about modern Chattanooga and the people who live here.
By David Tulis
The arguments against local economy are as follows:
➤ Far is better than near.
➤ Big is better than small.
➤ Corporate is better than personal.
➤ Complex is better than simple.
➤ Abstract is better than physical.
What about the argument for loving local over remote? The argument of far is better than near is another way of saying national is better than local.
Problems in locales that pile up into national problems can be solved only by those in the highest places of military and political authority.
Far is better than near presupposes that people in Washington and Nashville are more intelligent than the people in Chattanooga or your hometown. It presupposes that graduates in the universities and white-collar strategists in think tanks and Beltway government offices are wiser, more perspicacious and more intelligent in determining the nature of the problem and solving it.
National is better than local argues that power centers are more important than local centers where people solve local problems voluntarily. If your solutions to national problems come from the center of authority and power, then the solutions will tend to require submission to authority and power and force.
What about the arguments that complex is better than simple? This argument is often implied in the analyses and solutions offered by university doctorates and people who work for think tanks and government agencies. Because the field in which their solutions lie is riddled as if it were a minefield by traps of Law and earlier statues in earlier laws that have not been rescinded, their solutions necessarily are complex to get around the existing legal superstructure.
Because they believe that their solutions come from within the grid of statute and the power centers in Nashville and Washington, their solutions necessarily must use all these landmarks and minefields as part of their structure. But with enough money, it’s possible that they are not unreasoning to think that they can solve the problems in every locality.
What about the argument for national economy that big is better than small? This argument is very similar to the one that we hear that far is better than here because. Because the centers from which the solutions are generated are far, they’re also big. They are centralized. Centralization invites size. Centralization requires size and it requires complexity, so really the past two points on complexity and size are connected.
But the argument that large is better than small is also attractive in its own right. Because Americans are drawn to large things they tend to be confident in large programs, large companies, large-scale solutions. This perspective is explored by the work author Kirkpatrick Sale, whose book is Human Scale.
Avatars & corporate persons
What about the argument that corporate is better than personal? This argument that we hear from national economy as against local economy implies a confidence in the corporate sector.
Corporations are rational legal entities, artificial persons that bring efficiency in the marketplace. Several histories describe the rise of the corporation. They are not necessarily evil. They’re not necessarily malicious. They allow for the rational operation of people in a group. They also have the advantage and our day of offering limited liability.
But the corporation has many problems. No. 1, corporations allow for the offloading of risk on the others. In our day combinations of people through corporations offload incredible financial risk upon the public and the taxpayer. This is the problem of moral hazard. Corporate is better than personal implies the argument that personal is necessarily small and therefore faulty and incapable of bringing family or prosperity solutions.
The fear of the personal is the fear of personal responsibility and liability. People act in a corporate capacity so they are not personally liable for their faults or their injuries to others. Personal implies that whatever is being discussed is small and therefore lacking capacity, influence, sway, or market strength. The reason corporate is better than personal is that personal simply is quaint and old-fashioned and does not suffice for the great tasks to be accomplished this year and next.
The coming financial meltdown will be the result of the impossibility of civilization to bring about the fruits of the progressive ideal. Progressivism for all its liberality has brought has brought about tyrannies far worse than those imposed by monarchies or ancient republics. The argument being made (despite the lateness of the hour and despite the dropping off of underlying strength to the dollar and the American stock market) is that extolling centralization.
Centralization is the short form of the five arguments made against local economy and the free market.
As Lamennais, the conservative French philosopher, said in the early 1800s, “Centralization brings apoplexy at the center and paralysis at the extremities.”
If Chattanooga is going to survive the coming crash with more of its capital rather than less, its residents should try to understand the arguments of national economy against local. And its residents should consciously make an effort to think and act in terms of local economy and the free market, though structurally the U.S. economic system is highly centralized.
Too little, too late
In many ways the arguments for local economy are too little and too late. There are so many inducements to disbelieve them. The credit markets primarily and the glitter media, the immediacy of media, the notice of media, the appeal of media and advertising will make the argument for local economy difficult to hear.
The parties most likely to be able to make use of the local economy argument are Christians. Christians have the gospel. They have Jesus Christ, who is not just their savior but also their example and their living argument for a local and personal economy versus a corporate and impersonal economy.
The gospel is the template of the marketplace. The gospel is the grid for capitalism with all of its ideals of service, thinking of the other, its liberty allowing the best allocation of resources, its conception of property rights, its decentralized mechanism of market price that determines who gets what and when.
But the United States is in the sway and influence of premillennial dispensationalism and what Gary North calls pessimillennialism. This is a privatization and subjectivization of Christianity, a malformation into a utility for personal holiness, a rejection of what Ian Murray calls The Puritan Hope (Banner of Truth, 1971). This majority conception of Christianity makes it difficult for the arguments of a decentralized political, economic and social order implied in the scriptures as a fruit of Christianity to be attractive and gain respect.
Still, the people of God through the person of Jesus Christ are to some degree committed to the the optimistic and personal approach to living and thinking that we call “local economy.”