Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Toledo Choose Local and BALLE?

There's a lot to be said for a 'buy local' campaign. After all, what could be more innocent than supporting your local businesses when it comes to your buying or purchasing, either individually or from a business perspective?

But our Toledo Choose Local (TCL) organization has affiliated with BALLE, (pronounced ball-ee) the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies. According to Stacy Jurich, the executive director of TCL, they pay dues to be a member of the BALLE network.

BALLE, on the surface, seems reasonable. Their mission is to "catalyze, strengthen, and connect local business networks dedicated to building strong Local Living Economies ... A Living Economy ensures that economic power resides locally, sustaining healthy community life and natural life as well as long-term economic viability." And what could be wrong with that?

When you dig deeper into the organization and their Board members, especially when you discover the philosophies of the members of their Board of Trustees and their Advisory Board, you see that there are many reasons to be concerned about this affiliation.

What I found actually scared me because of the insidious way the socialist concepts they propose are woven into such innocent-sounding programs like 'buy local.'

So let's take a look at just a few of the BALLE board members and some of the statements and philosophies they have:

Merrian Fuller from the E.F. Schumaker Society:
* believes we need to decommoditize land and place it under the control of a regional organization.
* wants an alternative monetary system (fits in with 'local currencies' or 'buy local dollars').
* said: "Businesses should champion social justice" and "Truly responsible businesses would be owned by all members of the community."

Basically, she espouses no private ownership - the foundation on which this nation was built.

Laury Hammel believes that social responsibility should be the guiding principle of a business - not profit.

Doug Hammond could be considered the founder or originator of the corporate social responsibility movement. He thinks we should "move from a world shaped by privilege to a world created by community."

These two believe that businesses should not be motivated by profit for the owners/shareholders, but by the good they can do for society as a whole. Much has been written about the CSR movement, so there's no need to list all the pros and cons here. But CSR's aim is a fundamental change from capitalism to socialism starting from within the agents of capitalism - the business. A business doesn't exist for the owner's benefit - but for the benefit of society as a whole ... and that's socialism.

Michelle Long, BALLE co-chair, believes there should be a new type of corporation (called a "B Corp") that focuses the corporation on 'benefits' to the community as a whole. She said: "The interests of employees, the community and the environment should be embedded into a corporation's governing documents so they can survive new investors, new management and new owners."

In several talks, she emphasizes that local economy movements can be a great laboratory for global change. "It's both difficult and risky to make deep systemic changes to an enormous system like the global economy, but it is easy to change smaller-scale systems..."

David Korten, author and founder of People-Centered Development Forum, founder of Positive Futures Network and an associate of International Forum on Globalization. Key beliefs:
* "Capitalism is destroying things of real value in the world - like cancer destroys life."
* enterprises should be based on stakeholder ownership limited to those with a stake in the firm like workers, customers and the community in which it's located.
* publicly-traded LLCs are anti-democratic and anti-market.
* wants to replace corporations with living fair-profit and non-profit enterprises.
* supports 20-hour work week, guaranteed income, 50% tax on advertising and the disbanding of armies.
* "corporations are parasites on humanity"
* says BALLE's goal is to replace our current 'suicide economy' with local living economies with locally rooted ownership.
* believes we should measure economic performance by indicators of social and environmental health.
* supports graduated taxes for corporations and individuals. "Those whom society most benefits benefit properly pay the greatest share of taxes for its maintenance. A fair tax system is a graduate tax system by which the wealthiest corporations and individuals contribute a growing share of their income to support the well-being of the whole."
* "achieving equitable distribution of ownership is an essential cornerstone of our work" at BALLE.
* his writings have been described as similar to Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.

I'll do a separate post on Korten and his organizations, especially in relation to the International Fund on Globalization.

But, in general, what I've found is that many of the board and advisory board members belong to or run anti-capitalist organizations. Many BALLE individuals serve on multiple boards - either as trustees or advisers - and many share funding sources or fund the same 'partner' organizations.

While these individuals have their own organizations and goals, they are joined together in BALLE with the idea that BALLE is the way to 'tell a new story' that is more compelling than capitalism. At least, that's what Korten said in 2004 in his keynote address to the BALLE annual conference:

"Listen carefully to the familiar elitist power story, as an important part of our work is to replace it in the public mind with a story both more democratic and more truthful.

Economic growth creates prosperity and expands the pie of wealth for all. It depends on investment. Since the poor have no money to invest, a wealthy investor class is essential to the prosperity of all. The greater the return to the investor class, the more it invests, the faster the economy grows, and the faster the lives of all improve. The market in turn rewards individual investors in proportion to their contribution.
The free market will then put people to work, eliminate poverty, get money in people’s pockets so they can make their own choices, create the wealth necessary to protect the environment, and provide people with better services at a cheaper price. The rich may get richer, but so does everyone else.
We progressives have many stories about redistributing wealth to help the poor and save the environment, but we have no prosperity story.

This allows the far right to accuse us of wanting to tax the productive to reward the lazy; and to sacrifice people to save exotic species. No matter how truthful our progressive claim that elitist policies actually destroy wealth, take from the poor to give to the rich, and threaten human survival, the elitist story will carry the day until we are able to counter it consistently and convincingly with a coherent prosperity story.
It is not enough merely to point out the flawed and ethically challenged assumptions of an established story. A story that embodies a flawed theory can be challenged successfully only by a more compelling story.
They cannot compete with the stories of creative human possibility that are ours to tell.

The prosperity story for a new Era is implicit in the work and vision of BALLE.
The old physics was based on a premise that only matter is real. The new physics suggests the sharply contrasting conclusion that matter is an illusion, only relationships are real. There is a parallel in biology. The old biology taught that each living being is engaged in a ruthless competition for survival against every other living being. The new biology concludes that life exists only in relationship to other life; the very existence of life depends on a continuous, cooperative flow of active energy within and between living organisms. Life exists only in community.
True prosperity, security, and meaning are all found in the life of vibrant, interlinked communities that offer every person — without exception — the opportunity to contribute their creative energy through joyful, creative, engaged relationships with one another and the Earth to Creation’s search for ever unfolding possibilities. Life in community is essential to the realization of our humanity.

This is the larger context of the work of BALLE. Our mission is to nurture the formation and connection of living enterprises that function as communities within communities to support the realization of the fullness of our human possibility."

From Korten's view, capitalism cannot be 'defeated' but it can be replaced - and his plan, as stated above, is to start with 'local living economies' and the organization of 'buy local' campaigns - and to spread these campaigns throughout the nation, providing a base from which to launch more of their ideas - eventually leading to a socialist environment.

By this point, you're probably thinking I've been reading too many conspiracy stories and have found my own. And believe me - I've asked myself this very same question - but, as I'll show in further posts, the organizations and individuals are inter-related and, when you connect all the dots, you get a clear picture of an overall plan - intended or not.

But regardless of the connections, the fact that these are the ideas promoted should give local business owners and citizens cause for concern about Toledo Choose Local's affiliation with BALLE, especially when you consider the following principles on which BALLE is based:

~ Living economy public policies support decentralized ownership of businesses and farms, fair wages, taxes, and budget allocations, trade policies benefiting local economies, and stewardship of the natural environment.

~ Living economy investors value businesses that are community stewards and as such accept a "living return" on their financial investments rather than a maximum return, recognizing the value derived from enjoying a healthy and vibrant community and sustainable global economy.

~ Living economy businesses are primarily independent and locally owned, and value the needs and interests of all stakeholders while building long-term profitability. They strive to:

1) Source products from businesses with similar values, with a preference for local procurement
2) Provide employees a healthy workplace with meaningful living-wage jobs
3) Offer customers personal service and useful safe, quality products
4) Work with suppliers to establish a fair exchange
5) Cooperate with other businesses in ways that balance their self-interest with their obligation to the community and future generations
5) Use their business practices to support an inclusive and healthy community, and to protect our natural environment
6) Yield a "living return" to owners and investors

Some of these things don't sound too bad - who could object to offering customers personal service and useful, safe, quality products? But a "living return"? Who gets to define 'living' return? "Meaningful" living-wage jobs? How does an employer ensure that their employee finds 'meaning' in their job? And what if a business cannot afford someone else's definition of 'living-wage'?

And when BALLE says they want 'public policies' that support decentralized ownership and 'fair wages,' does that mean they're going to want their affiliates to advocate for new legislation? And do local business owners really want public policies that support the decentralized ownership of businesses?

And do these ToledoChooseLocal members even know that these are the ideas they support through their membership?

When I asked Stacy Jurich if Toledo Choose Local was advocating socialism, her response was, "Not directly. That's not one of Toledo Choose Local's immediate goals. We're working on very simple steps."

As a friend once told me years ago, 'just because you're paranoid, it doesn't mean they aren't really out to get you.'


John Spalding said...

How do you create communities of sustainability with no desire for community?

Why can't business owners make a choice to care about their world, environment, or community rather than extreme profits? You can value profits and community and those type of business leaders are more appealing to me.

Now, having an alternative local currency is just as scary as the thought of an Amero, but will it ever come to pass.

Conducting business integrated with progressive values is not socialism. No one wants socialism, they want to break up existing monopolies and give people different choices. To let people know that they can live a life using their talents and be successful in business even if you don't try to buy out your suppliers, create monolith corp., and relatively disband customer service and "small business attitude". It is not socialism, it is a better form of capitalism.

Hooda Thunkit said...


"As a friend once told me years ago, 'just because you're paranoid, it doesn't mean they aren't really out to get you.'"

Ain't THAT the truth?

Now, I will admit that i scanned over more that I read, but I caught Capitalist(ic), Anti-Capitalistic and "fair" among a few other key words, which my experience tells me points to overtones of Socialism/Communism, which sends up large red (pun intended) flags, to me.

The only thing hat I think that I nay have missed is the subtle undertone of the creeping incrementalism which is characteristic of democrat/socialist/communist agendas...

Maggie Thurber said...

Ah - yes, John - that's what they say...this is better than capitalism. In fact, that's the game plan so succinctly spelled out by Korten: replace the success story of capitalism with a 'better' story based upon emotional appeal. How, exactly, is this new system supposed to be better than capitalism? They don't say.

I don't have a problem with business owners who decide to do such things - I just think they should know ahead of time that the organization they've joined is paying dues to a national group who has socialism as their aim. These board members are clear in their desire to replace the capitalistic system that works with one that has never worked in any 'sustainable' way.

Perhaps you could explain to me the difference you see between "progressive" and "socialism" so we're sure we're both talking about the same things?

And then could you also explain how capitalism reduces choice and how this new system is supposed to enhance it?

But the point was not that a 'buy local' campaign was bad - it was that this is just the first step in the incremental measures they're promoting with a bigger goal in the end - and that goal is socialism, no matter what name you give it.

John Spalding said...

I just doubt that the end goal is socialism, but say that it is won't it only attract those who want that as a lifestyle?

I think that there is room enough for cooperation among people, cities and businesses without having detrimental consequences to our nation.

People can't even get into debates if they are not registered to a certain party, the riot police will come out if what you predict is true.

John Spalding said...

One Good reason for more good stories and emotion. Rather than read about this story.

Maggie Thurber said...

John - actually, no. I don't want to attract people who want to live in a socialistic society, because - by and large - they don't just want to do so themselves, they want to force (or coerce) others into doing so as well.

If this were just about cooperation among communities, then why do the board members (Korten in particular) publically state that they see BALLE as a way to start to change the global economy?

My biggest problem with socialism - no matter what it's called or how someone 'tells its story' - is that it doesn't work. No socialism-based society has ever been successful in the long term. One of the reasons America has done so well is because we rejected the communalism focus long ago (read about the first pilgrims and you'll see what I mean).

Just because Korten decides they need to market the ideas another way doesn't mean that the product they're peddling has improved. The only reason he talks about telling a 'more compelling story' is because he knows that people reject socialism because of its failures.

You can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig.

As for the tragedy for the family of the fire ... everyone is going to try and blame someone in this terribleness. And, rather cynically, I expect politicians to try and get their share of the media coverage by either calling for a new law or stricter enforcement of existing laws.

If man-with-the-muck-rake wants to jump on that bandwagon, he can. I, however, have more respect for the feelings of the father, family and friends than to do that.

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