“Eat local” has become a popular marketing slogan in recent years, based on the idea that food grown or raised nearby is better for you and friendlier to the environment than similar products shipped in from many miles away. That slogan reflects a broader worldview suggesting that everything local, including government and knowledge, is better than what originates somewhere else.
Small Isn’t Beautiful acknowledges that some things that are local are good, but denies that what’s local is always or even often better than what’s far away. “Localism” is based on an “undeserved aura of respectability, virtue, and good sense” and can produce results that are misguided or even dangerous. Particularly when it comes to public policies, decisions made at the local level are rarely superior and are sometimes unjust. Small Isn’t Beautiful exposes the supposed “virtue” of localism as a hodgepodge of weak arguments and misleading hunches. Trevor Latimer's engagingly written and provocative book will appeal to all readers who want to understand localism beyond slogans and marketing.
Trevor Latimer received his PhD in Politics from Princeton University. He has published widely on topics such as political equality and plural voting, the principle of subsidiarity, Tocqueville and white supremacy, the presidential veto, sympathy and political representation, and the work of Adam Smith.
If there’s one single book most localists won’t read but should, it’s this one…. I could not think of anything he left out. If he had done nothing more than collect and organize the theory in this way, Latimer would have done localists a good service. But of course he has done more than that. The real "added value" is his exhaustive investigation of the assumptions and implications of each argument…. We should think harder about how to connect our underdeveloped views about jurisdictional issues with our overdeveloped views about "the issues," and we should be willing to change our minds about one or the other or both. Latimer’s excellent book is a good place to start this work.
Latimer makes a thorough argument against localism, arguing that local (or more local) sovereignty would provide no remediation to the woes hobbling our society today.
[T]his is a good and useful book marshaling arguments against localism and in favor of centralization, including with respect to the value of liberty.
Latimer’s original voice shines though in this thoughtful and bracing interruption of the love of localism—local food, local control, local scale. This refreshing and provocative argument against localism gets to the heart of modern politics and reminds us of the best purposes that politics on a large scale is meant to serve. Both those who love localism and those who think they ought to love it need to consult what Latimer has to say.
In crystalline prose and with considerable wit, Trevor Latimer takes aim at localism in its many guises, urging us not so much to scorn the local as to be far more critical and discerning about it. Scholars, policymakers, and citizens take note: a terrific book on politics and community, governance and scale, deeply researched yet great fun to read!
It takes a village, right? Not so fast, says Trevor Latimer. In this broad-ranging, elegant, and often funny romp through the arguments, he sticks a well-sharpened pin into the inflated myth of localism. Anyone tempted to repeat tired clichés about smalltown virtues should definitely read this first.
There is a good deal of sentimental nonsense talked and written about the virtues of what Edmund Burke called “the small platoons.” This book dismantles most arguments in favor of localism, while accepting that there is a good case for the devolution of power, but only sometimes. It is a nice combination of meticulous argument and unabashed polemic.
In this courageous and smart polemic, Trevor Latimer demolishes the assumptions underpinning localism. If, after reading this book, you still believe that local produce is always better, or hold that political decisions should always be made at the lowest level, you will have to come up with better reasons. This is an indispensable book for all those who care about subsidiarity, scale, and place in politics.
Localism is one of those hallowed values that people always subscribe to, but without always remembering why. In his new book, Trevor Latimer offers a thoughtful, sometimes bluntly contrarian challenge to such complacency. Agree or disagree, readers will find Small Isn’t Beautiful to be a bracing experience.
In Small Isn’t Beautiful, Trevor Latimer untangles the complex origins of localism on the left and right and deconstructs the assumptions of its virtue that have become entrenched within U.S. politics. Latimer’s precise, provocative, and engaging arguments are vital reading for scholars of the recent past, community activists, and all of us contending with the promises and dangers of localism.
Is power more responsive to people's needs when exercised at the local level? Is centralization a step on the road to tyranny? Trevor Latimer's brilliant new book examines these perennial questions from a myriad of angles and shows that the answers are not as straightforward as many proponents of "localism" think. This original and thought-provoking analysis is sure to provoke fruitful debate.
There is no study that so convincingly shows the snares and sins of localism. With brilliance and wit, Trevor Latimer shows that prioritizing local authority, decisions, and policies repeatedly leads to unjust outcomes, including the practice of basing rights, privileges, and membership on morally indefensible grounds. Progressives, moderates, and conservatives will find, in this timely book, a profoundly deep and usefully complicated understanding of localism. Trevor Latimer’s extraordinary and important book says something original and startling about something as old as America itself—localism.
[A] key strength of the book is the way in which Latimer takes arguments that are tossed around about what is good about local decision-making and authority and systematically explores their internal logic. He evaluates the extent to which theoretical and empirical literatures undermine the various tenets of these arguments and makes a persuasive case for skepticism. This could be particularly useful for students who are considering the role of scale in shaping political outcomes for the first time, as well as for activists who would like to be armed with arguments against normative localism when advocating for political change.
2/12/23, Marginal Revolution: This book was featured on Tyler Cowen’s “What I’ve Been Reading” list.