The spring issue of The New Atlantis features a symposium on place. Check it out. Of special interest is a piece by Brian Brown titled “The Rise of Localist Politics.” Here is a taste:
Meanwhile, a small “new right” has begun to emerge: more localist than nationalist, more Burke than Hayek, and fairly amicable with the New Left (many of its members are not Republicans). In Britain, a similar coterie has gained significant political influence with the ascendancy of Prime Minister David Cameron and his “Big Society,” encouraging people to get involved in their communities instead of relying on the government for services. In the United States, it is mainly comprised of offbeat academics, has few formal organizations, and has the Internet for its main intellectual outlet, on sites such as FrontPorchRepublic.com — an opinion source for so-called “crunchy cons,” as Rod Dreher called them in his book of the same name. “There are hopeful signs that people are beginning to think seriously about the importance of localism, human scale, limits, and stewardship, the very things woefully lacking in the current spending orgy,” writes Mark Mitchell, a professor at Patrick Henry College and a regular contributor to FrontPorchRepublic.com. “While a return to these ideals is still only in its infancy, change is afoot. This represents a glimmer of sanity in a world succumbing to the apparent security promised by centralization.”
But overall, the new right is still at a theoretical stage: its adherents rarely offer specific policy proposals, and too frequently, its ideas are unspecific or unrealistic. This new right has little political influence and no organized strategy. But, like the right in general, it has devoted a great deal of thought to foundational ideas from which specific policies could be developed.
While localism has so far been a movement mostly on the left, it seems ripe for the right to take it up as its own. Indeed, it remains difficult to fully reconcile localism with the left’s remaining adherence to centralized government and rational planning. Localism is philosophically more at home on the right: at the heart of conservatism is a belief in the value of relationships, self-government, and local institutions. It is high time for the right to put the policy together with the principles. We are, after all, the change that we’ve been waiting for.
Yes, we at FPR have, I think, “devoted a great deal of thought to foundational ideas from which specific policies could be developed.” While it is true that we thus far have “little political influence and no organized strategy” we don’t apologize for attempting to articulate a coherent theory of localism. Our up-coming conference is a first formal step in our effort to focus more intentionally on practice, policy, and an organized strategy. If you are interested in attending, register here.