As I head off to the Balle conference, I have one thought in my head. How does Neighborhood Economics fit into the localist world? What do they have that we can learn from as we put on an event with that title the day after the Slow Money conference and the day before the Biodynamic Farming conference, all in Louisville, Ky the week of November 10.

Our fall event is deeply speculative; it’s asking a simple, but complex question: how can you tame the market, grand tool that it is, and make it serve all of us fairly? We suspect that change can best be implemented systemically on a densely connected, socially constructed local level, so we are in agreement with where Balle has been for years. So we are coming (there are two of us, me and I think Tim Soerens) is going to make it, as part of an inquiry into how can you make the market serve the commons, and not reward a few at the expense of the rest?

We think by changing the grander narrative, going from a story that is about an empire that has morphed into the market as empire to a narrative that is about the community. Our current economic system is not making us happy or safe, regardless of how much we have. The need to hold onto systems that preserve wealth for the few paralyzes the ones on top; stuck in rictus and just as trapped as the oppressed. That is something I learned from long time civil rights for all crusader and author Will Campbell, with whom i spent some time when I lived in Mississippi for 20 long years. He had an epiphany that the racist redneck was just as trapped as the black people he was oppressing. So both needed to be set free. Maybe something like that could be applied as a strategy to the brittle, threatened haves holding on to what they have, because it is great stuff, yet fearing they are living on borrowed time, that things will not always go their way. Boomers looking back and beginning to count the cost of their privilege is an interesting area to explore as we try to create an economy that works for all.

We will be keying everything at Neighborhood Economics off of Walter Brueggeman and Peter Block, talking together. Brueggeman is perhaps the best known and most widely respected Christian theologian, but his work on the Jewish scriptures is appealing to many Jewish people as well. Block started as a corporate organizational consultant, but evolved to become an expert  and author on building communities. It was Block who said what I think is maybe the clearest explanation of why this topic of Neighborhood Economics needs to be explored now: “Our current system is not making us happy or safe.” This system is not working for anybody, the haves and the have nots. As we look at changing the system and impacting the people who have a vested stake in the current system, we need to remember that; this system is not working for them, either. Here are Block and Brueggeman are talking together about data versus narrative.

 

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