Wendell Berry on “The Idea of a Local Economy”

In these days of international economic crisis–days when the economic underpinnings of the global economy are being exposed as seriously flawed–it is worth looking at other ways forward.  What is new about this global financial crisis is that no one can see how it can be reversed by policy intervention: the fiscal and monetary levers that have been used to stimulate economic growth seem to have been almost entirely exhausted.  Policy-makers are reduced to the expedient of printing money: the last stand of a bankrupt system of thought and practice.  I am ruminating on the need to write a book entitled “The end of economics”; because surely, if economics regards itself as a science, subject to the scientific discipline of “conjecture and refutation” (to quote Karl Popper), then the present extended series of crises begins to look like a serious refutation which threatens the legitimacy of its intellectual foundations.  So it is useful, as I say, to look at other ways forward.

In 2001 Wendell Berry wrote a piece for Orion magazine on “The Idea of a Local Economy.”  He has written many other pieces along these lines, gathered in such publications as “Home Economics” (1987) and “What Matters?  Economics for a Renewed Commonwealth” (2010).   This piece seems to me to be particularly apposite to the times. Wendell Berry is one of those rare writers who think clearly, write beautifully and are fearless in taking disparaged positions on moral grounds.  Often, I find, he simply says (very well) what everyone knows to be true, on the family and community level, but which national populations and their policy-makers find it convenient, for reasons of short-term self-interest, to ignore.  A particular virtue of his critiques is that they don’t remain critiques: he has something to offer in place of the current conventional wisdoms.  He writes on behalf of  ordinary people and their ordinary, human concern for the welfare of their families and neighbours, and for the welfare of the world–a conspicious contribution to the public discourse on how we are to live.

There is a proverb of sorts, variously attributed (I like Benjamin Franklin, as it sounds like him, although it probably wasn’t), to the effect that “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.”  I leave you to draw the implications.  Wendell Berry offers a different thing.  At the very least he seems to be in and around the right place, which he firmly believes–and I agree–is likely to be local, not global.

Wendell Berry The Idea of a Local Economy

Publication: “Sustainability in Australian business: fundamental principles and practice”

Here is a little book I recently wrote for Wiley, on Sustainable Business, published in 2010.  The idea was to ‘map’ the emerging sustainable business space, and to connect it where possible to Australian business practice.  Wiley is distributing it in the Australasian market alongside its academic business textbooks.

Here is the back cover summary:

“Sustainability is moving from the margins of business to the centre. Key factors and major global events transforming the business environment include climate change, renewable energy, oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico and the Timor Sea, Asian sweatshops, patterns of global poverty, and indigenous rights. A new paradigm of business – sustainable business – is emerging: firms are accepting a wider responsibility for environmental and social wellbeing. At the same time, sustainable business offers enhanced business value: better management of risk and new market opportunities. Firms that actively engage with it are positioning themselves for globalmarket leadership.

This work presents a map of the new principles of business and a guide to their application in core disciplines: accounting, finance, marketing, operations and organisation. It presents a challenging and stimulating view of contemporary business for undergraduate university studies. It is a guide to business in the sustainability age.”

http://au.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-1742465005.html