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Featured Article filed under The Public Good | Written by David Morris | No Comments | Updated on Jul 5, 2016

How to Make a Political Revolution

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at https://ilsr.org/how-to-make-a-political-revolution/

On June 14th, North Dakotans voted to overrule their government’s decision to allow corporate ownership of farms. That they had the power to do so was a result of a political revolution that occurred almost exactly a century before, a revolution that may hold lessons for those like Bernie Sanders’ supporters who seek to establish a bottom-up political movement in the face of hostile political parties today.

Here’s the story. In the early 1900s North Dakota was effectively an economic colony of Minneapolis/Saint Paul. A Saint Paul based railroad tycoon controlled its freight prices. Minnesota companies owned many of the grain elevators that sat next to the rail lines and often cheated farmers by giving their wheat a lower grade than deserved. Since the flour mills were in Minneapolis, shipping costs reduced the price wheat farmers received. Minneapolis banks held farmers’ mortgages and their operating loans to farmers carried a higher interest than they charged at home.

Farmers, who represented a majority of the population, tried to free themselves from bondage by making the political system more responsive. In 1913 they gained an important victory when the legislature gave them the right, by petition, to initiate a law or constitutional amendment as well as to overturn a law passed by the legislature.

But this was a limited victory for while the people could enable they could not compel.

In 1914, for example, after a 30-year effort, voters authorized the legislature to build a state-owned grain elevator and mill. But in January 1915 a state legislative committee concluded it “would be a waste of the people’s money as well as a humiliating disappointment to the people of the state.” The legislature refused funding.

A few weeks later, two former candidates on the Socialist Party ticket, Arthur C. Townley and Albert Bowen, launched a new political organization, the Non Partisan League (NPL). The name conveyed their strategy: To rely more on program-based politics than party-based politics. According to the NPL its program intended to end the “utterly unendurable” situation in which “the people of this state have always been dependent on their existence on industries, banks, markets, storage and transportation facilities either existing altogether outside of the state or controlled by great private interests outside the state.”

The NPL’s platform contained concrete and specific measures: state ownership of elevators, flour mills, packing houses and cold storage plants; state inspection of grain grading and dockage; state hail insurance; rural credit banks operating at cost; exemption of farm improvements from taxation.

In his recent book, Insurgent Democracy Michael Lansing explains, “Small-property holders anxious to use government to create a more equitable form of capitalism cannot be easily categorized in contemporary political term.” The NPL “reminded Americans that corporate capitalism was not the only way forward.” Supporters of the NPL wanted state sponsored market fairness but not state control. They wanted public options, not public monopolies. Continue reading

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Featured Article, Rule filed under Composting, Waste to Wealth | Written by Brenda Platt | No Comments | Updated on Jul 14, 2016

Montgomery Co. MD Bill Requires Distributed Composting

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at https://ilsr.org/moco-food-waste-bill-hearing/

On June 28, 2016, Montgomery County Council (Maryland) Vice President, Roger Berliner, introduced legislation to require the development of a comprehensive composting and food recovery strategic plan. The bill might be the first in the country to stipulate a diverse and distributed plan that considers food rescue, backyard composting, community scale composting, on-site institutional and commercial… Continue reading

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Featured Article filed under Broadband | Written by ILSR | No Comments | Updated on Jul 2, 2016

Liberty and the Farm: Internet Access

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at https://ilsr.org/liberty-and-the-farm-internet-access/

The 4th of July invites us to celebrate the accomplishments of our country. But, 23 million people in rural areas remain without high-speed Internet access. Rural areas cannot stay unconnected. Agriculture has become a high-tech endeavor, and high-speed Internet access is necessary. Cooperatives, those democratic institutions formed by rural farmers years ago, are becoming an… Continue reading

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Featured Article filed under Broadband | Written by Rebecca Toews | No Comments | Updated on Jul 14, 2016

The Secrets Behind Partnerships to Improve Internet Access

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at https://ilsr.org/ppp-fiber/

A growing number of US cities have broken up monopoly control of the Internet marketplace locally. They’re promoting entrepreneurship, and giving residents and businesses real choice in how they connect and reach new audiences. They’ve brought a new wrinkle to an old model: the public-private partnership. “Communities desperately need better Internet access, but not all local… Continue reading

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Featured Article, Resource filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | No Comments | Updated on Jun 23, 2016

Local Utilities Have Lost Local Control

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at https://ilsr.org/local-utilities-have-lost-local-control/

This post made possible by the tireless efforts of ILSR intern Abbigail Feola. She dug up the data, identified the story worth sharing, and wrote the following piece below. Historically, the purpose of both municipal and cooperative utility agencies has been to bring energy services to communities that for-profit corporations thought unprofitable to serve. This… Continue reading