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Why Local Self-Reliance? – Episode 22 of the Building Local Power Podcast

| Written by Nick Stumo-Langer | No Comments | Updated on Jun 15, 2017 The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at

In this week’s episode of Building Local Power, host Christopher Mitchell (of our Community Broadband Networks initiative) interviews ILSR co-founder David Morris about the history of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and why the message of local self-reliance is as relevant today as it was in the 1970s. This wide-ranging conversation takes in the role that new communications technology is facilitating concentration and how cities are rising to the moment by exerting their own power.

Full transcript is available here.

“No matter whether you’re a conservative or a radical, you hate your utility company, and you hate your utility company because it’s a monopoly, and it’s remote, and it’s not responsive, and for a whole bunch of reasons,” says David Morris “So when you’re starting to talk about energy that can be harnessed at the local level, and the rooftop level, and the neighborhood level, and the metropolitan level, people are extremely enthusiastic. That cuts across ideologies, and it’s that political, I think, as well as environmental dynamic that’s the most important of all.”


Get caught up with the latest work from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance on fighting monopoly power across a variety of sectors:

Mayors Take on Preemption to Defend Local Solutions – Episode 17 of the Building Local Power Podcast

Decentralizing Economic Power, Reinvigorating Democracy: ILSR’s Impact in 2016

Taking on the Billionaires

Breaking Through Partisanship: Left-Right-Local – Episode 14 of the Building Local Power Podcast

Here are the reading/watching recommendations from the group this week:

From Christopher Mitchell:

From David Morris:

View the full transcript of the podcast, below.If you missed our previous episodes make sure to bookmark our Building Local Power Podcast Homepage. Please give us a review and rating on iTunes or wherever you subscribe to podcasts.

Full Transcript of Podcast:

Christopher Mitchell: David, when I tell people that I work for the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, they’ll often say, “Who could be against that?” So let me ask you, in 43 years of experience, who is against local self-reliance?
David Morris: Well, in one respect, no one’s against local self-reliance if you define it as communities, you define it as mutual aid, you define it as self-help, so in that sense, both conservatives and liberals and radicals are all in favor of local self-reliance, but if you define it as the exercise of collective authority at the local level in order to make rules that can establish a firm wealth-producing economy, then you do tend to get a difference of opinion.
Christopher Mitchell: You start to make enemies.
David Morris: You start to make enemies. Conservatives are all for decentralization of political authority, as long as it’s not an exercise of political authority. Liberals would like a centralization or have, traditionally until very recently, wanted the federal government to exercise significant authority because they thought communities were parochial and racist and xenophobic, so both of them subscribe to the concept of local self-reliance, but they are very different when you’re talking about the exercise of authority and power.
Christopher Mitchell: And this is what we’re going to be talking about today, local self-reliance, what does it mean? Where does it come from? Where are we going? Those sorts of things. I’m Chris Mitchell with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. I direct our broadband work, and David Morris, one of the co-founders of the organization is back with us for, I believe, a third episode of Building Local Power.
David Morris: Thanks, Chris, for having me on for a third episode.
Christopher Mitchell: Well, many more are on the way, I have no doubt. So let’s explore this, and maybe we’ll start at the beginning, a time in which there was a polarizing president, discussion of horrible corruption at the federal level, a president under attack, 1974, not the modern era, so you get together with a couple of friends and decide you’re going to create the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. What did you have in mind, in terms of what was the idea of what local self-reliance meant then?
David Morris: Well, local self-reliance in 1974 and in 2017 means a focus on cities, and a focus on cities for a number of different reasons. One is that historically, cities are the basis of innovation. That goes back hundreds and even a thousand years. The second is that in the United States, the population shifts are such that we went from being a rural nation before 1920, to being an urban nation, to being an almost entirely urban urban nation. 80% of the people in the United States live in cities.
Christopher Mitchell: When you say “cities”, some people might think metro areas of more than a million people, but having worked with you, my sense is you actually just mean defined units. You’re not talking about a specific scale. It’s more the idea of people that live in close proximity to each other.
David Morris: It’s people who live in close proximity to each other and also that have a certain amount of authority to make decisions on their own behalf collectively, yes. And it could be a city of 10,000 people. In fact, if you take a look at what used to be the Bureau of Statistics, when we used to have a Bureau of Statistics at the federal level, and you take a look, you’ll find that there’s a greater population in the United States in smaller cities than there are in larger cities.
Christopher Mitchell: So the third factor, what was that?
David Morris: The third factor was that cities have become increasingly competent. They have created an internal capacity, and that wasn’t true in the 19th century, that wasn’t true in the early 20th century. It was early 20th century when cities began to essentially run municipal electric utilities, run their streetcar companies.
Christopher Mitchell: Water and sewer.
David Morris: Water and sewer. They also began to develop the municipal planning profession. They began to create data so they could compare each other on the basis of efficiencies and that has continued, and so cities are now very capable. The fourth reason that we focus on cities is that’s where the rubber meets the road, and no matter what happens at the federal level, you feel it at the local level, and they have to clean up the mess. They have to enact. What you have is congress makes a law, and then the executive branch defines the regulations related to the law, and then the states have to, and then the localities have to interpret that and then put them down on the ground, and so when it comes to an energy crisis, for example, the federal government can worry about the oil reserves, but it’s the mayor that has to worry about your utility bills going up and people not being able to pay their utility bills.

And the final reason for it, and a very important recent reason, is that technology is now decentralizing in its impact. In the 19th century and much of the 20th century, technology was centralizing when we shifted from renewable resources to fossil fuels to concentrated energy sources, we shifted from small to big. When we shifted from batch manufacturing to mass production, we shifted from small to big. When we shifted from wood to steel, we shifted from small to big, and so we created institutions and we created laws, and we even created behaviors that assumed that bigger was better, and bigger was more efficient, but at the end of the 20th century and certainly in the 21st century, technology is moving us in the other direction, and that means that cities are not on the outside looking in to these huge structures, whether they be power plants or whether they be steel mills, but they’re actually there where the economy, that is the real economy, the productive economy is increasingly based.

Christopher Mitchell: One of the technologies that I would just highlight is the communications technology, which in many ways, led to that centralizing, I think, in that you had a telegraph which was one to one over great distances, and then eventually you had broadcast, which was one to many over great distances, but it’s only more recently when we have the possibility for many to many over the internet as people are connected that I think also leads to a different way of sharing information that leads to decentralization.
David Morris: It does lead to decentralization, although one can have a whole ‘nother discussion here about whether the internet has led to decentralization or centralization in many ways because it does allow for a corporate control which we’ve never had before, a very intimate corporate control.
Christopher Mitchell: Right. There’s billions of websites, but Facebook has billions of users, and there’s no sense of how you’d ever take them on.
David Morris: That’s exactly right. Billions and billions and billions of us communicating with each other every day, and there’s about half a dozen corporations that own that process.
Christopher Mitchell: Most of it, yes. So what I’m interested in really making sure we hit on is the trend, because it strikes me, having worked for ILSR for the last 10 years, that I’m really hearing the glory days in the sense that you started this focus on cities at a time when cities were, if anything, becoming less popular. People were fleeing cities for many years. Budgets were difficult. I live in a time now, and I’m working in a time in which everyone wants to live in cities. Not everyone, but they’re incredibly sexy. People are flocking to them. I think budgets are looking better than they have in decades. So what can you tell us about the change over this time with that sense of the city as an exciting place?
David Morris: Well, that’s a very good summary, actually. In 1974, people were still fleeing the Detroits, and the Clevelands, and the old industrial cities, the Pittsburghs and the like, and everybody was talking about the growth of the suburbs and the shrinking, especially of the central cities, at that time, and so the institute was promoting an idea that had relatively little currency. The environmentalists hated cities. They hated cities because they thought that they were resource-consuming, that they in fact exploited the land in a poor way.
Christopher Mitchell: There was a sense at one time that the solution to pollution is dilution, and so cities, you just concentrated all the pollution. If you just could spread it out, it wouldn’t be as much of a problem.
David Morris: That’s exactly right. I sometimes tell the story when someone asks, “So what would a good rule be that’s sort of a local self-reliance principle in the environmental movement?” And I talk about the 1970 Clean Air Act, and the 1970 Clean Air Act essentially said that in order to deal with the particulate pollution that was coming out of the smokestacks in cities where people lived, you would raise the height of the smokestacks, and what that then created was a regional problem of acid rain and the like, and I thought, “Well, what about if instead of that, we had a law that said that the end of the smokestack had to be curved, and the end of it would come into the boardroom of the corporation?” And I bet you that if we did that, that is if we married responsibility and authority, we would have heard about clean and zero emission manufacturing a generation ago.
Christopher Mitchell: If you were listening to another podcast right now, they might take a break because Goldman Sachs had bought advertisements on their show, but we don’t do that, and it’s not because we’re against advertising, but because the model is much harder for small businesses, and so we hope that you’re going to be supporting us with a donation through, our website, and we certainly hope that you’re also patronizing your local businesses for whom doing centralized advertising on podcasts may not work as well, and if you enjoyed this show, certainly consider other podcasts like our Community Broadband Bits. If you like my voice, you can hear a lot more of it there, and Local Energy Rules with John Farrell, where they’ve recently been talking about solar power and electric vehicles. Pretty exciting stuff.

Coming back from our short break, we recently did a digitizing project in which we were looking back at old columns that you had written, David, and in the ’80’s, you wrote about 3D printing, and how 3D printing could fundamentally change the economy, and it’s happening now, certainly, and we’re seeing this incredible new technology that really lends itself to local manufacturing on a small scale. What are some of these other technologies?

David Morris: Well, there’s many technologies like that. When I was writing about it in the late 1980’s, it was called desktop manufacturing, but certainly 3D printing is exactly what it is, but when we look at different aspects of the economy, for example in energy, it’s obvious to people in terms of energy, that it used to be that you had very specific parts of the globe that had resources that you could use to generate energy, and you dug them out, and you transported them long distances, and you burned them in either large power plants or through distribution networks at your gas stations and in your cars, and you created institutions, and you created a national infrastructure as a result of it, but the sunlight falls on your roof, and the wind blows through your backyard, and so when we’re talking about moving to renewable resources, we’re also talking about resources that can be claimed, that can be harnessed at the very, very local level, I mean, even at your rooftop level, and that’s been true forever, but the new technologies allow us actually to do that in an economical way and to generate electricity.

Previously, in thousands of years, you generated heat and you generated mechanical power, but right now, you can generate electricity which is, of course, the premier form of energy. So that’s something that’s very, very new. It’s very new. In fact, in 1974 when the institute started, literally three months before that, 20 miles away from our headquarters, the first factory was set up that produced solar cells for terrestrial applications. They had been used for space satellites before that, and in a year’s output, it generated enough solar cells to power one house. That was 1974. And in 1999 was the first time where the amount of solar capacity that was installed connected to a grid exceeded the amount of solar capacity that was installed in remote cabins and remote outposts. So that’s less than 20 years ago.

Christopher Mitchell: Let me ask you why that matters in the sense that certainly there’s less pollution from not digging fossil fuels up, transporting them long distances and whatnot, but what we care about is the electricity. Why does the economy care where it comes from?
David Morris: Well, the economy doesn’t care where it comes from, absolutely, but politically, it has a dynamic that’s extremely different. No matter whether you’re a conservative or a radical, you hate your utility company, and you hate your utility company because it’s a monopoly, and it’s remote, and it’s not responsive, and for a whole bunch of reasons, and so when you’re starting to talk about energy that can be harnessed at the local level, and the rooftop level, and the neighborhood level, and the metropolitan level, people are extremely enthusiastic. That cuts across ideologies, and it’s that political, I think, as well as environmental dynamic that’s the most important of all.
Christopher Mitchell: Well, I just wanted to actually reinforce your point, and David, as you know, I love disagreeing with you. 75% of Americans, I think, undoubtedly hate their electric company because it’s mostly investor-owned companies that are not meeting their needs, but I was just in Newport, Tennessee, which has a municipal electric company, which is locally owned, and though they are a monopoly, I was talking with them about how they were viewed in the community. One of the things they told me was that their installers were often offered beer and people would be like, “Oh, you want a drink?” They just had such a good reputation, so this local does matter, certainly, I just wanted to throw that out there because I would hesitate for anyone who thinks that all the utility companies are hated. We see the municipal ones tend to be really loved.
David Morris: No, that’s absolutely true. They do. Well, they tend to be respected, and sometimes they tend to be admired, and-
Christopher Mitchell: Rarely loved, maybe.
David Morris: … sometimes there’s a tension, but the same is true about government. I mean, most everybody hates remote government, which means the federal government. Many people, if not most people, don’t like their state governments, which are remote and controlled by people that they don’t even know, but most people do like their local government. They may scream about, and yell about, and so forth. “The snow wasn’t plowed when it should have been plowed,” and so forth, but there’s a real clear connection to your local government, and so scale does matter both in terms of the economy and politics.
Christopher Mitchell: But sticking with electricity, how important is it that when you’re generating locally, it just means that more of that money is staying in the community versus going, some portion of your bill is going to the company that’s extracting the coal, some portion of your bill is going to the railroad monopoly that’s moving it, some portion of your money is then going to a generation facility that could be in a different state. How important is it that that money stays in the community in terms of why we’re concerned about it?
David Morris: Well, it’s very important. It’s important. It’s part of the recycling of local resources. Part of the maxim of local self-reliance is that you extract the maximum amount of value you can from your local resource base, and that includes your human resource base, that includes your natural resource base, that includes your capital, and in terms of capital, you want to recycle your money as much as you can. I don’t want to overemphasize that point, however, although it’s a useful point to talk to people about, but when you buy from a locally owned business, you actually have influence on that locally owned business. That business probably knows you. You certainly do know them. If you want to complain, you can complain to them directly.

The owner of that business may very well live locally. If they live locally, they pay property taxes to the schools that their kids go to, so there’s a lot of reasons why you want to keep your money local, and one of them is economic, but again, one of them is political in the sense that you have more say, more participation, more influence over small business than you do remote business, and locally owned structures rather than remotely owned structures.

Christopher Mitchell: Since you mentioned both economic and political, I think it’s worth noting something that I’ve certainly learned over the years, which is that it doesn’t seem to be possible to have local and distributed political power if you do not have local and distributed economic power.
David Morris: That’s exactly right. We talk about authority, responsibility, and capacity, the kind of arc of local self-reliance. You can’t really have the exercise of authority if you don’t have a productive capacity. Now Thomas Jefferson, by the way, who hated cities, he hated cities, he thought that when people went to cities, they became property-less, they became mobs, and they became part of political machines and boss machines, and the reason that he supported the yeoman peasant was that the yeoman peasant, in fact, could be self-sufficient. He didn’t preach self-sufficiency, but could be self-sufficient. He or she had the skills and also had land and had the productive capacity, and because they had productive capacity, they would be informed in their decision making, collective decision making process, that is, they would be able to participate in politics knowing how the world worked, and so needing that capacity is extremely important.
Christopher Mitchell: You mentioned self-sufficiency, it’s just worth noting, are we expecting cities to be self-sufficient?
David Morris: No. We’re expecting cities to be self-reliant.
Christopher Mitchell: Oh, that goes back to the name, I think.
David Morris: Yes. Indeed, it did. One biologist talked about self-reliance being the capacity for self-sufficiency, but not self-sufficiency itself. I like, and I think it’s useful for us to use the metaphor of nation that I think we view cities as nations. Not autarchic, autarchy is a terrible thing. Only North Korea believes in autarchy and look what that got them, right? We don’t believe in self-sufficiency for cities, but if they treat themselves as nations, they become self-conscious. They become self-aware. They track the flow of resources through their borders. They make decisions that try to maximize the value to the people within those borders of those resource flows, and so that’s what we’re talking about in terms of local self-reliance.
Christopher Mitchell: Now I want to take this conversation and go to a different spot, which is I think one of the greatest problems that we face as a nation right now is how we think of areas outside of our communities, and I would point to an article that I’ll be recommending people read at the end of the show, which was by James Fallows in which he traveled around the country and talked to people, often from areas that have been seen as being really hard hit in recent economic times, cities that are not doing as well, like Allentown, where I was born, and one of the things he found was that people generally had a sense that things were going well in their community, but that nationwide, we were falling apart, and that locally, they liked the immigrants that were coming in to their community because they were contributing and they were helpful.

But nationwide, we had this problem with immigrants, and it didn’t matter where he went in the country, he felt that people locally felt their immigrants were helpful, and to some extent, I think we’re a nation of 330 million people with an incredibly flawed news media. In some sense, I feel like our philosophy is one of the rare ones I can see that actually can figure out how we can all get along in some ways.

David Morris: Yes, absolutely. Knowledge breeds respect, I think, and admiration, and it’s absolutely true. You find the same thing is true in schools. If you ask people whether the school system is good or bad, they say, “It’s terrible. It’s awful. It’s not educating.” You ask them whether their school is working, they say, “Yeah, my school is working just fine, thank you very much.” And the same thing is true with local politicians versus national politicians, that is, if you know them, you may be angry at them for one reason or another, but you don’t think of them immediately as corrupt or ineffective.
Christopher Mitchell: To some extent, I actually feel like, and you have a much broader view of this than I do, I wonder if things are so specialized now. I mean, we’re so far past the point in which an intelligent person can know most things in most fields, that we simply cannot have policymaking at such a high level. We need to push it down where there’s more local expertise because I think when we look at the state level and the federal level, we’re expecting far too much expertise from people who often don’t have staff at the state level, and at the federal level, we can get into what all the problems are in a different show, but fundamentally, it seems to me that the economy has gotten much more complicated. The solutions to our problems in many ways are more complicated, and there’s a lack of expertise, and if we bring it more to the local level, we will address that. Is that a dynamic that’s-
David Morris: Yes, it is a dynamic. I mean, you can also look at it as the costs and the benefits of a particular policy when you’re talking about large scale institutions, fall on different actors, if you will. And so the heads of corporations make a decision. Let’s say closing a plant, for example, but that doesn’t affect them negatively, it actually affects them positively. The more that we can, in fact, decentralize, distribute, push down to the community level, both the costs and the benefits, then we can have a better decision making process, that’s why I had talked about the curved smokestack coming in through the board window. That was one where you, in fact, began to marry authority and responsibility. Those who made the decisions were those who were going to feel the impact of those decisions, and you end up with very good decisions. In that case, the decision would have been to reduce pollution in the first place, rather than to spread it around.
Christopher Mitchell: Right, and obviously, you can only do that when the boardroom is in proximity to the factory.
David Morris: That’s right. Exactly. Exactly. Exactly. That’s another point. It could be in another continent, I suppose. You were talking about James Fallows’s piece about immigrants, migrants, and I think that would lead one to the proposition that decisions related to deportation should be pushed down to the local level. Now in saying that, I get it, that people out there are going, “Boo hoo hoo, wait a minute, the communities are xenophobic. They can be racist. They have a history of, in fact, pushing out people who don’t look like them,” and I can see that point, but also because you know these people in your community, or people down the block know these people in your community, that you will probably find a community saying, “You know, there are 10% of them who are criminals. We can put them in jail or we can send them out of the country, but 90% of them are law-abiding citizens, are just like you and me, are striving and insecure, and what we should do is nurture them, not to make them afraid.”

Now that’s a decision I think that would be done at the local level, and in fact, is being done at the local level. You look at Los Angeles, you look at a number of different cities that in fact have provided money for legal support of their immigrants, and when one talks about sanctuary communities, one should realize that this is not a theoretical term, sanctuary communities, this is a term that says, “We are going to protect our neighbors against the despotism,” really, of a remote government in Washington, D.C.

We are at a point now, as you indicated, a new generation is growing up that does focus on cities, and at the same time, you have a federal government that essentially is trying to preempt and destroy the authority of cities and move us back 40 or 50 years in terms of the progress that we have made, and so the fight right now is at the city level both in defending what is good, and promoting even better, and so in terms of local self-reliance, we do need to not only explain the term and promote the term, but get into the nitty gritty of what does it mean in terms of specific policymaking? What does it mean in terms of specific strategies? What can a city do?

Christopher Mitchell: You mentioned that cities are increasingly more competent and whatnot, and with the Trump administration pulling out of the Paris Accord relating to climate change, we’re seeing increasingly, talk of cities having their own foreign policy now, so where does this fit in, and I have to say that I am somewhat nervous about it as someone who does believe that the nation needs a cohesive foreign policy that’s unified, but I’m curious what your thoughts are in terms of, from the city point of view.
David Morris: Yeah, from a city point of view, when you talk about foreign policy and the climate change issue, it has foreign implications, what a city does. It’s a local policy. A city, in terms of energy, in the past, cities could only get involved in the energy situation by promoting energy efficiency and energy conservation, but now, they can talk about local energy production, and as they do that, they in fact, say, “We are going to comply with this treaty or with this negotiation,” and I think that that’s very useful. But the term “foreign policy”, and I looked up some of the recent literature in terms of people promoting it, and there are many people promoting city foreign policy, what they mean is that cities should try to be global in attracting capital.

And I think that this is understandable, and we certainly should pursue that, but we should also be careful about what that means, if in fact, a city foreign policy is that you make yourself as attractive as possible to the creative class, to the investment class, to the people in the rest of the world who want to buy citizenship in the United States so that they come into your community and invest in your community, then I think that’s a dangerous road, and once again, it’s a road that looks outward rather than inward. Now that doesn’t mean we should be parochial. Clearly, we live in a globe, and one of the wonderful things about the internet is that in fact we can communicate horizontally with the rest of the world. We don’t have to communicate through intermediaries. We don’t have to go up to a mass media and then down to the people who are listening to that.

So I think that we do need to look outward, but I’m concerned if foreign policy means that we should, as individual cities, make ourselves as attractive to foreign investment as the nation has tried to make itself attractive to foreign investment.

Christopher Mitchell: Right. I think one of the concerns that just springs into my mind, of course, is that then you’re potentially displacing local investment, and you don’t want to privilege foreign investment over your local investment.
David Morris: Well, that’s true, but I think more importantly than that, you are giving control. I mean, when somebody invests in your community, they try, if they can, to gain control over that investment and the productive capacity that they have invested in, so I think that that’s more problematic than just the fact that there will be … I don’t think that foreign investment will displace local investment. I think it might distort local investment, but it also brings absentee ownership, and that in itself is a significant problem.
Christopher Mitchell: So let’s talk about recommendations. What do you have in mind for something that a person who’s listening to this show might want to read to learn a little bit more, or just something that’ll blow their mind?
David Morris: Well, I have two things. One is a book that is not available in your local library, and is not in print, and has not been … Well, it is probably not in print, but you can download from the web, which is a book called Mutual Aid by a man named Peter Kropotkin.
Christopher Mitchell: I would be surprised if that’s not in a local library.
David Morris: Well, you can look. It’s not in my local library, but it probably is in one of the branches of your local library.
Christopher Mitchell: It’s in my library in my house.
David Morris: Yes. Yes. It’s probably still in print in some edition. It was published more than 100 years ago, and Peter Kropotkin was an anarchist in the best sense of the term, which meant that he believed that people could take the future into their own hands and localize the means of production, but Mutual Aid is a fascinating book in and of itself, but what I would suggest people do is to read the chapter on medieval cities. Now, Peter Kropotkin, without going through a long discussion, was a naturalist and a botanist and a scientist of the first order, and he lived at a time where Charles Darwin had come out with his theory of evolution, and Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution was translated into survival of the fittest, competition, tooth and claw, and what he found in his research about nature was that nature worked by cooperation. It didn’t work through competition, and he then took that as his thesis and looked at human society as well as agricultural and animal society, and posited that in fact it was cooperation that was the fittest, if you will.

And there’s a chapter in Mutual Aid about medieval cities, and people who think of the period of time, 900 to 1000 AD, we think of as the dark ages. It was not a dark age. It was an age where city states arose.

Christopher Mitchell: People were having so much time, they didn’t bother to record history.
David Morris: Well, people could read … It’s an easy chapter read. It’s probably 25 pages, but it talks about the astonishing progress, the astonishing innovation that was done when small, we’re talking about cities of maybe 5,000 people, 10,000 people, when they came together, and mutually created codes, and forms of behaviors, and local economies, and technologies, and the like, so I suggest that, number one.
Christopher Mitchell: Let me build on that with a book that references that book and that work, and Kropotkin’s work in general, and that’s a more recent work that uses more recent studies to make similar points called The Penguin and the Leviathan by Yochai Benkler, who’s a brilliant professor at Harvard who often talks about decentralization. I just recently read this book, and it talked about a number of different studies, and I actually think makes a very nuanced case for how we overemphasize the role of selfishness. We are motivated by selfishness, but we are motivated by lots of things, and we need to appreciate that.
David Morris: Mm-hmm (affirmative). That’s very good. The second book is one that most people might know of, especially people who are listening to this podcast, and that is the book The Economy of Cities by Jane Jacobs, and it came out in the early 1970’s, maybe mid to late 1970’s, and her thesis is that most innovation came from cities, that cities are the reason that we have modern civilization, and there’s a whole bunch of reasons why that might be the case, but she goes through it very well in terms of providing examples and the like, and I think that both the cities of 5,000 and 10,000 people in 900 and 1000 AD, and also in terms of the modern city and its ability to generate wealth internal to itself, those would be the two books that I would suggest.
Christopher Mitchell: Great. And I suggested this James Fallows article, I believe it was a cover story on The Atlantic sometime last year, How America is Putting Itself Back Together, and then just because I’m just going to go crazy with recommendations, I did recently read a book by Katherine Cramer, who’s a professor at the University of Wisconsin, called The Politics of Resentment. She did a ton of interviews across Wisconsin looking at how people get their identity and how that informs their political views, and actually not so much where they get their information. I thought that was a major weakness of the book, but just how they think about a lot of these different things, and how they reacted over the past five years as we went through these elections, basically ever since Obama took office, and then also in Wisconsin with Walker, and it was a pretty interesting read.
David Morris: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Christopher Mitchell: So thank you, everyone, for listening. Thank you, David, for coming back on. We look forward to having you again soon, I hope.
David Morris: Thanks. I’m looking forward to it, as well. Thanks for the conversation.
Christopher Mitchell: As we wrap up the show, I strongly encourage you to rate our show. Please share it on Facebook, on one of those massive tech monopoly companies that we can’t get away from because it’s the only way to get the word out that there is another way ultimately, and we can build structures that will give us more freedom, and build stronger local economies, but make sure you’re rating us where you found this show so that other people will find it. Thank you.
Lisa Gonzalez: That was David Morris, co-founder of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, who now heads up our Public Good Initiative. He and Christopher, Director of the Community Broadband Initiative at the institute, were discussing local self-reliance and what it means for local communities. This was episode number 22 of the Building Local Power Podcast. Check out more of David’s articles and interviews at In addition to David’s ongoing contributions, we have many of his previous writings archived at our website. We encourage you to subscribe to this podcast and all of our other podcasts on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever else you get your podcasts. Never miss out on our original research. Subscribe to our monthly newsletter at Thanks to Dysfunction-Al for the music licensed through Creative Commons. The song is Funk Interlude. I’m Lisa Gonzalez from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. Thanks again for listening to the Building Local Power Podcast.

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Audio Credit: Funk Interlude by Dysfunction_AL Ft: Fourstones – Scomber (Bonus Track). Copyright 2016 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial (3.0) license.

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