February 8, 2002

ILR Alum Speaks On Globalization

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In a colloquium entitled “Globalization and What to Do about it,” Neil Seldman ’66 presented ideas yesterday in Snee Hall that he believes could bring changes to America and the world.

As president of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) and director of its Waste to Wealth program, Seldman described economic strategies that could potentially make the economy more efficient.

“Early socialists said that capitalism cannot exist in our world without exploiting people and nature,” Seldman said. “The [current] system still depends on the original exploitation.”

The Cornell Institute for Public Affairs (CIPA) sponsored the colloquium, which is part of a series of lectures on globalization.

“We’re concerned about globalization, and the purpose of these lectures is to disseminate information about public affairs,” said David Filiberto grad, president of CIPA.

Local authorities

Many of the ideas supported by Seldman and ILSR focus on the importance of local authorities.

“Decisions should be made in places where people will feel the effects of those decisions,” Seldman said.

Noting that Brazil has strong local governments, Seldman said, “The central government is so incompetent [in Brazil] that the local government must do better jobs.”

Seldman also contended that the energy industry should be de-centralized, saying that using biomass to produce ethanol in local areas is more efficient than importing oil from central locations. One audience member noted that the amount of energy to produce ethanol from biomass might be inefficient.


In addition to discussing de-centralization, Seldman had much criticism for capitalism.

“The nature of capitalism hasn’t [fundamentally] changed,” Seldman said. “Globalization has changed it in terms of the amount of volume and debt, but no country or economy is safe [from capitalism].”

He added that capitalism is “in the same light as a monster that is insatiable.”

“A free market economy ends democracy,” Seldman said. “It becomes one dollar, one vote instead of one person, one vote.”

Certain people in history have shown that ideas not founded in capitalism can succeed, according to Seldman.

“In 1802, Robert Owen stunned the world, being the first person to master factory management.” After a depression in England ended in 1805, Owen’s company survived, Seldman said.

“Owen kept his people together, giving them houses and education. Owen says that all you have to do is make sure that people are taken care of,” Seldman noted.

One audience member wondered whether the idea of de-construction is a form of capitalism.


During the colloquium, Seldman also proposed new rules that he said should be implemented by the government.

The Community Re-investment Act (CRA), implemented in the mid-1970s, “[currently] makes banks give loans,” to certain districts, which helps new businesses. Seldman said that all financial institutions should be subject to the CRA, which could eventually add billions of dollars to local communities.

Seldman also supported the idea that, “garbage is not commerce,” saying that each state can and should take care of its own waste disposal, which should not include incineration.

In order to implement policy changes, Seldman advocated grassroots campaigns.

“Grassroots [campaigns] are the permanent solution” to improving company practices, he said.

Archived article by Peter Lin