E. F. Schumacher, “Small Is Beautiful” (1973)

Fifty years later, Schumacher’s critique of modern society has been confirmed by events.

He was ignored, of course, by economists, Wall Street, and politicians, and now we see the results that he predicted.

  • environmental collapse
  • pandemics
  • mass migrations into cities, and from poor countries to wealthy countries
  • rural areas and poor countries empty out and become backwaters of poverty, drug addiction, and resentment
  • the enormous wealth and income gap between the tiny billionaire class and everyone else

All of this has been driven by the greed of the ruling classes and justified by the misguided priorities of economic theory that pursue profits and growth, not universal prosperity and quality of life.

Some tasters:

Scientific or technological ‘solutions’ which poison the environment or degrade the social structure . . . are of no benefit, no matter how brilliantly conceived or how great their superficial attraction. . . .

Modern economics does not distinguish between renewable and non-renewable materials, as its very method is to equalise and quantify everything by means of a money price. Thus, taking various alternative fuels, like coal, oil, wood, or waterpower: the only difference between them recognised by modern economics is relative cost per equivalent unit. The cheapest is automatically the one to be preferred, as to do otherwise would be irrational and ‘uneconomic’. . . .

Economics, which Lord Keynes had hoped would settle down as a modest occupation similar to dentistry, suddenly becomes the most important subject of all. Economic policies absorb almost the entire attention of government . . . . It tends to absorb the whole of ethics and to take precedence over all other human considerations. Now, quite clearly, this is a pathological development . . . .

It is a strange phenomenon indeed that the conventional wisdom of present-day economics can do nothing to help the poor.

Invariably it proves that only such policies are viable as have in fact the result of making those already rich and powerful, richer and more powerful. . . .

An entirely new system of thought is needed, a system based on attention to people, and not primarily attention to goods . . . .

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