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Small Isn’t Beautiful

The Case Against Localism

By Trevor Latimer
Small Isn't Beautiful

“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.

Praise for Small Isn't Beautiful

“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.” — Russell Muirhead, Robert Clements Professor of Democracy and Politics, Dartmouth College, and coauthor of A Lot of People Are Saying: The New Conspiracism and the Assault on Democracy

“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!” — Stephen Macedo, Laurance S. Rockefeller Professor of Politics and the University Center for Human Values, Princeton University, and author of Just Married: Same-Sex Couples, Monogamy, and the Future of Marriage

“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.” — Daniel Treisman, Professor of Political Science, UCLA, and author of The Architecture of Government: Rethinking Political Decentralization

“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.” — Alan Ryan, author of On Politics

“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.” — Paulina Ochoa Espejo, Professor of Political Science, Haverford College, author of On Borders and coeditor of The Oxford Handbook of Populism

“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.” — Henry C. Clark, Senior Lecturer and Program Director, Political Economy Project, Dartmouth College

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