In a piece titled The Revival of Localism, World’s editor Marvin Olasky describes how many young conservatives are rethinking the kind of headlong pursuit of upward mobility that generally requires pulling up stakes and moving on.

Some of his evidence:

• The media movement two decades ago was toward more centralization, with USA Today and networks riding high. Now the hot area of interest is localism and hyper-localism, with new journalistic websites aimed at small geographic areas popping up and national media like AOL, CNN, and MSNBC seeding neighborhood publications.

• An American’s 19th-century question upon first meeting another often was “Who are your people?” The 20th-century question was “What do you do?” The question in the 21st century is “Where do you live?” Many people put roots above shoots, choosing to live in a place rather than moving to advance a career.

• An emphasis on local control of government, local production and consumption of goods, and local culture is popular among young Christians. Their favorite author is often a pre-baby-boom author and Kentucky farmer, 76-year-old Wendell Berry. Berry praises reverence for God and life, the pleasures of good work, good food, and frugality. He says those joys are more likely to be found in healthy rural communities that value small farms and don’t overdose on technology.

He describes, by way of example, several individuals who have consciously chosen to remain committed to particular places. One example is Caleb Stegall. Although tempted by opportunities in various places, Caleb and his wife decided to remain in Kansas.

Why? They had two sons at that time (three more now) and wanted a good place to raise kids, but also a good place to raise themselves: Stegall says, “We lose and leave behind a lot when we conceive of society as this great ladder to climb. Our eyes are always on the next rung up, and what is left behind never gets a backward glance. This has led to a tremendous amount of dispossession and displacement: spiritual angst, and also real-world destruction and exploitation of different places and people. I didn’t want to have any part of that, so we made the decision to stay.

Olasky sees a trend. That is a hopeful sign.

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Local Culture
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Mark T. Mitchell
Mark T. Mitchell teaches political theory at Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, VA. He is the author Michael Polanyi: The Art of Knowing and The Politics of Gratitude: Scale, Place, and Community in a Global Age (Potomac Books, 2012). He is co-editor of another book titled, The Humane Vision of Wendell Berry. Currently he is writing a book on private property. In 2008-9, while on sabbatical at Princeton University, he and Jeremy Beer hatched a plan to start a website dedicated to political decentralism, economic localism, and cultural regionalism. A group of like-minded people quickly formed around these ideas, and in March 2009, FPR was launched. Although he was raised in Montana and still occasionally longs for the west, he lives in Virginia with his wife, three sons and one daughter where they are in the process of turning a few acres into a small farm.

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