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An Agenda to Build Neighborhood Commerce

“In a healthy community, people will be richer in . . . the health and pleasure of neighborhood than in their bank accounts.” -Wendell Berry From the essay, “Conservation is Good Work,” published 1991, appearing in Sex, Economy, Freedom & Community by Wendell Berry, Pantheon, 1993, pp. 40-41.

If we think of this task of rebuilding local economies as one large task that must be done in a hurry, then we will … be overwhelmed and will want the government to do it. If, on the other hand, we define the task as beginning the reformation of our private or household economies, then the way is plain.

  • What we must do is use well the considerable power we have as consumers: the power of choice.
  • We can choose to buy or not to buy, and we can choose what to buy.
  • The standard by which we choose must be the health of the community — and by that we must mean the whole community: ourselves, the place where we live, and all the humans and other creatures who live there with us.
  • In a healthy community, people will be richer in their neighbors, in neighborhood, in the health and pleasure of neighborhood, than in their bank accounts. It is better, therefore, even if the cost is greater, to buy near at hand than to buy at a distance.
  • It is better to buy from a small, privately owned local store than from a chain store.
  • It is better to buy a good product than a bad one.
  • Do not buy anything you don’t need.
  • Do as much as you can for yourself.
  • If you cannot do something for yourself, see if you have a neighbor who can do it for you.
  • Do everything you can to see that your money stays as long as possible in the local community.
  • If you have money to invest, try to invest it locally, both to help the local community and to keep from helping the larger economy that is destroying local communities.
  • Begin to ask yourself how your money could be put at minimal interest into the hands of a young person who wants to start a farm, a store, a shop, or a small business that the community needs.

This agenda can be followed by individuals and single families. If it is followed by people in groups — churches, conservation organizations, neighborhood associations, groups of small farmers, and the like — the possibilities multiply and the effects will be larger. Riverwest Currents – Volume 1 – Issue 2 – March 2002