King of the Mountain

opinion

Remember playing “King of the Mountain” when you were a kid? Walking by a pile of dirt at a construction site, someone would jump on the pile and shout “King of the Mountain!” The game was on. The rest would rush in and try to force the “king” off the mountain until someone could hold off the rest long enough to claim the mountain and be declared King.

“King of the Mountain” has a lot in common with our economic system. Both attempt to “corner the market” by monopolizing real estate and natural resources. Both emphasize winners and losers. Both are contentious and require tons of energy just to keep the activity going.

Today’s economic system shuns democratic control, banks on self-dealing, avoids cooperation, complicates the pursuit of happiness and erects barriers against “freedom from want.”

The daily news leaves no doubt: “King of the Mountain” style economics has no future. Because money and energy are becoming scarce, we need to adjust to an economic system that consumes less money and energy. While consuming less we can create a system where everyone gets to pursue happiness and enjoy freedom from want.

Taking control of our local economy allows us to create more economic happiness for ourselves and future generations. We can replace unprofitable development schemes that choose winners and losers with a democratic economy that opens the door to opportunity for all.

Michael Shuman, an expert on building local economies, suggests three fundamental ideas for improving and sustaining these economies in good times and bad. First, every community can satisfy its basic needs simply by encouraging entrepreneurs to establish locally-based industries that fulfill those needs. Next, more of us can create “community” corporations where ownership and shares are limited to local citizens and profits are re-cycled through the local economy. Finally many of the negative side effects of growth can be avoided as communities foster local savings, and investment that satisfies local needs.

We can start building our local economy this season so more of our local dollars whip around our community instead of flying off to banks and corporations elsewhere. Spending and investing more locally in the coming years will create a more personal and accountable economy.

Democratically controlling that economy will improve the lives of our friends, families and neighbors. Think of an economy where all of us can be “King of the Mountain” and you get the idea.

Richard moved to Salem in 1975. Concerned that community development was costing taxpayers more than it was contributing, he helped found CityWatch in 1997. CityWatch led the coalition and campaign that brought the right to vote on annexations to Salem voters. Through the years CityWatch has helped elect six City Councilors and one Mayor known for their leadership and dedication to citizen-based local government. CityWatch encourages citizen involvement in local land use, transportation and environmental issues. Richard is current President of CityWatch. You can reach CityWatch at (c)971-218-0400.

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