|Cities where small, locally owned businesses account for a relatively large share of the economy have stronger social networks, more engaged citizens, and better success solving problems, according to several recently published studies.
And in the face of climate change, those are just the sort of traits that communities most need if they are to survive massive storms, adapt to changing conditions, find new ways of living more lightly on the planet, and, most important, nurture a vigorous citizenship that can drive major changes in policy.
That there’s a connection between the ownership structure of our economy and the vitality of our democracy may sound a bit odd to modern ears. But this was an article of faith among 18th- and 19th-century Americans, who strictly limited the lifespan of corporations and enacted antitrust laws whose express aim was to protect democracy by maintaining an economy of small businesses. […]
Today, as we find ourselves struggling with a climate crisis that demands a far more active and creative democracy than we currently have, a new body of research is once again illustrating the civic advantages of decentralizing ownership and transitioning more of our economy to community-scaled enterprises.
“Residents of communities with highly concentrated economies tend to vote less and are less likely to keep up with local affairs, participate in associations, engage in reform efforts or participate in protest activities at the same levels as their counterparts in economically dispersed environments,” sociologists Troy Blanchard and Todd L. Matthews concluded in a 2006 study published in the journal Social Forces. In studies of both agricultural (2001) and manufacturing (2006) communities, the late Cornell sociologist Thomas Lyson also found that those places with a diversity of small-scale enterprises had higher levels of civic participation and better social outcomes than those controlled by a few outside corporations.
It’s not just that cities with more social capital are better able to foster local enterprises and resist corporate consolidation. The causality actually seems to go the other way: Where economic power is diffused, political power is more widely and democratically exercised. And, likewise, as economic power becomes more concentrated, civic engagement slumps. Sociologists Stephan Goetz and Anil Rupasingha, for example, have documented a decline in civic participation, including voter turnout and the number of active nonprofit organizations, after Walmart moves into a community. And, with each Walmart store that opens in a city, social capital further erodes, their 2006 study finds.
Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2005—The D Brand:
|Ask any person on the street what a Republican stands for, and you'll get a single answer -- smaller government and lower taxes, family values, and a strong national defense. We can quibble about the GOP's real commitment to those values, but at the end of the day, they form a strong brand around which the GOP's entire agenda can be framed.
Ask 10 people what the Democrats stand for, and you'll get 10 different answers. Ask me what the Democrats stand for, and I'll stare back speechless.
On today's Kagro in the Morning show: An FAA sequester fix is in the works, just as Congress heads to the airport. For procedure fans: there's parliamentary irony involved. A new craze in #GunFAIL: "home invasion shooting." Wholesale pension theft vs. petty pension theft. Armando on the continuing Reinhart-Rogoff backlash; a new low in the Benghazi craze; losing the sequester game piece by piece; and a sneak peek at his Sunday Kos piece on a new lunatic right-wing legal theory. Lastly, a gun enthusiast's online post explains why #GunFAIL has real value to gun guys.