Seminar addresses concerns for local economies, brings speakers

Contributing Writer

An economics seminar was held in Bonchek Lecture Hall inside the Ann & Richard Barshinger Life Science and Philosophy building Tuesday. The seminar, entitled “Building the New Economy,” brought three guest speakers to F&M to discuss local economics.

Michael Shuman, author of The Small Mart Revolution: How Local Business are Beating Global Competition, discussed the logistics behind local investment and the control of funds.

He spoke about his “6-P’s” to nurture local economics: planning, people, partners, purse, purchasing, and policymaking.

Shuman scoffed at the hypocrisy of big businesses and people’s interest in them.

“Why are [Americans] overinvesting in huge companies who don’t support our community?” he questioned.

To solve this “top-heavy” capital problem, Shuman proposed the transfer of billions of dollars into local economies around the country.

The challenge entailed getting around security law, which governs the selling and trading of securities, or assets — in this case, investment. Shuman highlighted the importance of innovation and experimentation.

“If something exists, then its possible,” he said.

Michael Krauss ’71, the second speaker, is the founding director of the Public Banking Institute and chairman of the Pennsylvania Project, which focuses on creating public banking systems within Pennsylvania.

Krauss discussed the political fortune of potential change to private banking systems. Acknowledging political
gridlock, Krauss emphasized gradual, yet consistent political change at the state and local level.

“Public banks offer solutions to an utterly failed private banking system,” Krauss said.

Lastly, Vaughn Spencer, mayor of Reading, Pennsylvania, offered a unique perspective from within the governmental system. Last year, Spencer became mayor of an ailing city, deep in debt and racked by deindustrialization, crime, and poverty. His challenge was simple: to steer Reading away from bankruptcy.

“I was staring at the red, not the blue,” Spencer said.

In order to improve the situation, Spencer first had to surround himself with a group of intelligent and pragmatic thinkers. The mayor gave his committee free reign, albeit for one rule: no privatization.

Barely two years into Spencer’s revitalization of Reading, a new paper company, sourced from Canada, is locating a plant in the city. Reading also added a land-value tax, which dissuades landowners from leaving abandoned buildings on their sites, and the city has invested funds into a microloan program to spur business interest.

In planning this event, Sean Flaherty, professor of economics, hoped to spread his interest in economics and, more specifically, the local economy. He hoped the panel would encourage experimentation and challenge orthodox economic practices. He reasoned that if those practices that are so popular today were effective, America would find itself amidst a different economic situation.

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