Welcome to The Standard’s inaugural book club. Our first book is a classic that underpins much of the sustainability movement around the world,
Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if people mattered by E. F. Schumacher.
Schumacher lived from 1911 until 1977. He was a statistician and economist in the UK. Small is Beautiful was published in 1973 and was part of his critique of Western economies and his proposals for human-scale, decentralised and appropriate technologies.
The book is divided into four parts: “The Modern World”, “Resources”, “The Third World”, and “Organization and Ownership”.
In the first chapter, “The Problem of Production”, Schumacher argues that the modern economy is unsustainable. Natural resources (like fossil fuels), are treated as expendable income, when in fact they should be treated as capital, since they are not renewable, and thus subject to eventual depletion. He further argues that nature’s resistance to pollution is limited as well. He concludes that government effort must be concentrated on sustainable development, because relatively minor improvements, for example, technology transfer to Third World countries, will not solve the underlying problem of an unsustainable economy.
Schumacher’s philosophy is one of “enoughness”, appreciating both human needs and limitations, and appropriate use of technology. It grew out of his study of village-based economics, which he later termed Buddhist economics, which is the subject of the book’s fourth chapter.
There is an ebook version here (online and download)
“I certainly never feel discouraged. I can’t myself raise the winds that might blow us or this ship into a better world. But I can at least put up the sail so that when the wind comes, I can catch it.” E.F. Schumacher
Discussions welcome below.
Please also feel free to make suggestions for next month’s book.