When I first read Small Is Beautiful by E. F. Schumacher I was mainly a long distance backpacker who took some college courses on the side. I enjoyed the book as a long-distance backpacker would; the heartfelt appeal to “Economics as if People Matters” strikes a chord with a person who has enjoyed the simplicity of wilderness travel.
But, hey, what do I know about economics? That was a pertinent question back then. So when I read later reviews from what I now call the Powell Cabal disparaging the book as not being economically sound I figured those folks knew what they were talking about and left it at that. Well, I still proudly proclaim that I am no economist, but I now know a few things about the field of resource distribution known as economics. I also know a few things about the misinformation network that, among other things, searches out threatening alternative ideas to squelch them before they get any legs.
I will concede this to laissez faire economists: being small is not the point in terms of what is good for an economy. What is the point is diversity, as described in the previous entry. It just so happens that many small things will contribute to diversity more than concentrations of large things, such as multinational corporations.
I also know a little bit about cultural anthropology at this point that I did not know when I first read Small Is Beautiful. What Schumacher describes is an economic system that is only natural, not far off from the domestic modes of production that Marshall Sahlins describes in his work on early cultures called Stone Age Economics. That does not mean that Schumacher details an economic system that would be best for generating wealth because, quite frankly, it would not. But Schumacher’s view of an “Economics as if People Mattered” would lead to greater well-being, because it relates closer to how we naturally evolved.
The ideal is no doubt a compromise of sorts, but you won’t get that type of opinion from Puppet Libertarians and the Powell Cabal. It’s all or nothing for dogmatic scholars. What these folks really want is a tunnel focus on wealth, with the ultimate consequence of tremendous global wealth disparity and well-being denied to the many.
The scary thing is that I’m essentially the same person I was over 30 years ago, including my enjoyment of the simple things in life. Yet back then I simply took the word of folks I figured knew more about economics than me. In truth, they do, but in a scholarly fashion that accepts no alternatives, possesses no real ability to learn from experience. For all of their “objective” numbers and impressive scholarship they nevertheless play the fools because of a blindness to what is really going on in the real world that exists outside the realm of business corporations. Our biggest problem is that these fools drag so many of us along with them.
Tags: Economic Misinformation