Sunday Book Club

Written By: - Date published: 8:06 am, March 19th, 2017 - 31 comments
Categories: Economy, sustainability - Tags: , ,

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.

The Small is Beautiful press conference in 1976.

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.

31 comments on “Sunday Book Club”

  1. “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

    That’s beautiful.

  2. Schumaker’s thoughts about appropriate scale interest me the most; methods and technologies that are help to a scale (small) that mean humans have to engage intimately with their work and whatever they do knit can be unravelled with relative ease. When I worked in a museum, long ago, I was told never to do anything to an artifact, drill it, nail it, glue it, screw it, that can’t be elegantly undone, leaving no trace of your work. I think Schumaker would have made a great museum conservator.

  3. Olwyn 3

    Greywarshark, I will be out for most of the morning, but will join this discussion in the afternoon. I have read the book, and liked a lot of what I read in it.

  4. Carolyn_nth 4

    The chapter on economics is inspiring, and I found myself saying: “Yes”, “Yes”, “Yes” throughout.

    However, it does mostly deal with generalities, rather than with evidence-based case studies and examples.

    I liked the way Schumacher demolishes the “religion” of economics, as used in the mainstream in the 20th century. He says it is all a calculation done from the perspective of those supportive of “markets” and “profits”.

    Schumaher talks of how economic calculations are focused on shorty term profits, and on how it is mostly done in a fragmented manner. ie it is assumed that was is good for a part, such as a car industry, is good for the whole of the economic activity of society.

    He is scathing about how economists only measure part of human activity, and fail to account for the way some activities, especially “free goods”, that they don’t select, impact on the overall economy. He particularly focuses how things occurring in the environment make an impact on the economy, and are not taken into the calculations.

    I particularly liked this bit:

    The market therefore represents only the surface of society and its significance relates to the momentary situation as it exists there and then. There is no probing into the depths of things, into the natural or social facts that lie behind them. In a sense, the market is the institutionalisation of individualism and non-responsibility. Neither the buyer nor the seller is responsible for anything but himself. It would be ‘uneconomic’ for a wealthy seller to reduce prices to poor customers merely because they are in need, or for a wealthy buyer to pay an extra price merely because the supplier is poor.

    And the last bit in the quote reminded me of our current housing situation.

    I think mainstream economics has become somewhat more sophisticated these days, with more factors being taken into account. This is partly because of the neoliberal commodification of everything eg water.

    But the underlying idea about mainstream economics and the focus on the market being an institutionalisation of individualism and non-responsibility still remains.

  5. r0b 5

    I first read this book in 1986, it was a pleasure to revisit it. Looking back, it was quite formative in my beliefs. Obviously it helped to lay the foundations of the entire green political movement.

    The fundamental point that we can’t consume finite resources on this planet forever is irrefutable, but not (as it turns out) “un-ignorable” (is there a better word for that?). We ignore it every day. The drive for profit and the mechanisms of the market are not rational, they are destroying the planet.

    I’m less in tune with the religious themes of the book, and the recurring use of Burma as a model have not aged well.

    There’s a paragraph in Chapter 2 (Peace and Permanence) that I think is worth discussing:

    I suggest that the foundations of peace cannot be laid by universal prosperity, in the modem sense, because such prosperity, if attainable at all. is attainable only by cultivating such drives of human nature as greed and envy, which destroy intelligence, happiness, serenity, and thereby the peacefulness of man. It could well be that rich people treasure peace more highly than poor people. but only if they feel utterly secure — and this is a contradiction in terms. Their wealth depends on making inordinately large demands on limited world resources and thus puts them on an unavoidable collision course — not primarily with the poor (who are weak and defenceless) but with other rich people.

    Schumacher’s “modern sense” of prosperity seems to be utterly bleak, and I don’t think it’s a useful one. I would agree if he had written “I suggest that the foundations of peace cannot be laid by universal greed” – true that. But universal prosperity on the small, social human scale that the whole book is about, how can peace and permanence be founded on anything else?

    I think one of the most important conclusions of the book is right there in Chapter 1. Particularly important for us in the context of our governments new-found knack for setting “goals” for 2040 etc…

    To talk about the future is useful only if it leads to action now. And what can we do now, while we are still in the position of ‘never having had it so good’?

    That is also a major theme in another good book, Here on Earth: An Argument for Hope by Tim Flannery, but more of that later perhaps.

    • Carolyn_nth 5.1

      I think many of the themes of the book are of its time (early 1970s). That was a time when the peace movement was in full swing in the western world.

      It was a time when the main religious underpinning of western societies was being questioned (ie. Christianity). So many people were looking to eastern religions like Buddhism as an alternative.

      And many looked, like Schumacher, at other values of our society that had religion-like qualities. Schumacher puts economics in that box.

      it was also the end of the hippy era when consumer society was being questioned by many: ie there was a rejection of acquiring material goods just because it was the thing to do – I guess because many people had disposable incomes to spend on consumer extras. So that notion of prosperity was being questioned.

      The result was a search for more lasting, humane, and social values. So Schumaker puts an emphasis on the quality of life and society, rather than “quantity” as measured in monetary/economic terms.

      Action now is always important. But the actions people took back then didn’t stop the rise of neoliberalism, and consumerism on steroids.

      Environmental concerns have gained more traction, though.

      I didn’t read the book back in the 1970s, but had it quoted to me by a guy canvassing for the Values Party. He talked about the need to not start with “economics” but with other values to do with the kind of society we wanted. That struck a chord with me. in my naive youth with limited political knowledge, I was frustrated that politics as covered in the mainstream news, was all about money and “Economics”. That was a total turn-off to me. However, the anti-materialistic hippy-values, which focused on a more humane and caring society, was more meaningful to me.

      • r0b 5.1.1

        But the actions people took back then didn’t stop the rise of neoliberalism, and consumerism on steroids.

        Sadly not.

        Environmental concerns have gained more traction, though.

        I fear that by the time it gains enough traction to dictate the terms (which is what is needed) it will be far too late.

    • Carolyn_nth 5.2

      I guess acting NOW, requires acting in ways that will have a positive impact into the future. It’s easy to act within our own lives – the idea being that this would encourage others to follow. That was the hippy mantra. But neoliberalism swept that away.

      So there needs to be a way to act NOW, which will bring large sections of society on board, and which will dismantle the power of those working for profit, and financial gain for a minority.

    • Olwyn 5.3

      Schumacher’s “modern sense” of prosperity seems to be utterly bleak, and I don’t think it’s a useful one.

      There are a number of claims in the book that accord with what he has to say about the modern sense of prosperity. Right from that start he distinguishes between “capital” and “income” on the environmental front, and thinks, with good reason, that the modern sense of prosperity depends on non-replaceable capital expenditure. In line with this, the modern sense of prosperity depends on growth, while his argument favours organising things with permanence in mind. The religious bits that you are not in tune with, to me point to the idea that a healthy society seeks answers to wider and deeper questions that “how do we get more, and bigger, and better stuff?”

      This last one is very important. The book was written right on the cusp of the “return to the shareholder” attaining the top spot in the hierarchy of values. We could have taken another direction, and we will very likely have to in the future, only from a more depleted position. And I do not see how you can give primacy to the “return to the shareholder”, or profit, without at the same time giving primacy to greed and envy. This is not to give profit no importance at all, but to point to the danger of giving it ultimate importance.

      To act now is to do what you can to limit the excesses of the present system, and to start building both the conceptual space and the possibility of an alternative. That, after all, is how the neolibs got there, though they had the banking system on their side.

  6. greywarshark 6

    Gosh this is a monster. I am sorry that I couldn’t do better.

    I am in the middle of a contest over the spirit of a cooperative which is very wearying. I am in one division, reaching back to the distilled experiences of the past and that wisdom as expressed by Schumacher. It is very wearying trying to understand, and get beyond the opposition and I have not been able to get my complete Schumacher reading done.

    The other division is carried forward by the zeitgeist of the present, with prescriptions of pcness, consensus, and talking about the land and being green, and presenting outcomes positively with complete certainty that brooks no input. The message in presented in on-line newsletters, systems are all, the computer is paramount. Words and images and ideas flow around, but people are directed to the system, with the electronic program, with the announced plan and dissent is handled using modern organisational theories. Is it authoritarian or is it fascism? Left to ourselves do we dumb down democracy? At base it isn’t people-centred, caring and respecting people for whatever good person they try to be.

    I see it as a small microcosm of what we face today, and a continuance of the irrational drive that Schumacher attempted to pause to make time for reflection and study of his and others findings and warnings. This time we haven’t an horrific world war behind us and bright hopes to live to a higher level of competence at handling world disagreements, prejudices and inevitable resource deficits of essential things like fuel and degradation of the land and sea. To think of the effect of damaging essential things like arable land, and the animals and biology of the planet that we are part of and which we can never master, but which with understanding and restraint would continue to be used to nurture us forever with different ways of living.

    Schumacher survived WW2 but it was in his mind as he wrote. Chris Trotter’s father survived WW2 and it was in his son’s mind in an article published in the Press on 1st April 2014! He wrote about the three decades following World War II – a period sometimes referred to as The Age of Consensus – the maintenance of social peace and prosperity remained the No 1 political objective of both the centre-Left and the centre-Right.

    People were listened to then. Protesters had a hearing, but as people’s prosperity advanced the “socially levelling effects of consensus politics could not, however, endure beyond the point where they began to undermine the power and persuasiveness of capitalism itself.” So Reagan and Thatcher amongst other citizen bashing, were “reducing the responsiveness of the State”.

    Now capitalism must be unfettered, protest tends to be dismissed, and can spur harsher laws because citizens must be kept in their place. Trotter continues:
    “The neoliberal revolution…was thus predicated on the assumption that if the minority who mattered in capitalist society were to go on mattering, then the majority was going to have to learn to be disappointed….
    The 300,000 workers who protested against the National Government’s Employment Contracts Bill during the first fortnight of April 1991, far from constituting proof of the bill’s inequity merely confirmed for the Right the urgent necessity of its passage.

    Small is Beautiful is still an enduring and telling slogan. We must gather together and do what we can to assist ourselves, trying to influence political change and a future. But we need to do more to work with each other, trade with each other in every widening communities spreading to whole towns or regions, support our communities to have our own economic base and jobs and a place for everyone to work and help within it. We cannot just beg to the government or the wealthy for alms to heal our sick, help with our needs. We can’t let government turn citizens into profit centres for people who are doing our government’s work for them. Demand things to be done by government for the people, but ensure that we have a working local government, working for us, and supporting our resilience. (Note, interesting article on Christchurch local economy recently. I haven’t got The Press link at hand.)

    Those embracing neo liberality which is an oxymoron really, have been brought up in a way that has denied them an understanding of what being human in human society means. They group together in all the comfort they want, and enable their representatives to make pronouncements and targets for the People of the Lesser Being. Watch out for them warily- they want us to have a life, but only on their terms and while we are of advantage to them. Those who want a different ethos, we must be kind to each other, but be practical in how we direct that kindness, at the same time we must have our guidelines for living, and though small have sufficient personal power to achieve the small and beautiful life.

    • Carolyn_nth 6.1

      Grey: I am in the middle of a contest over the spirit of a cooperative which is very wearying. I am in one division, reaching back to the distilled experiences of the past and that wisdom as expressed by Schumacher. It is very wearying trying to understand, and get beyond the opposition and I have not been able to get my complete Schumacher reading done.

      So, are you saying that, in practice, working within a cooperative can require some understanding of how best to make it work? And that you were hoping Schumacher could provide a way to understand how to make a cooperative work well?

      Maybe in future it’d be a good idea, to select a book, but also select an important chapter in it for time-challenged people to focus on?

      • greywarshark 6.1.1

        Carolyn-nth
        No I wasn’t looking to Schumacher to show me the way, but it happened. He has so much to say about then, and coming to my mind, from a still relevant point of view.

        And as for time, we have to snatch at it as we can to inform ourselves, to gain insight from history, to remind ourselves, to prepare ourselves for the battle for humaneness ahead against the cold, smug, wealthy, and reflect, otherwise we will be caught up in and all suffer from Roger Douglas’ chronic disease:

        Nowhere else in the world was it decided to impose the neo-liberal theory of the Washington consensus with such ideological vigour and with such speed. There was a deliberate attempt to impose change at such a fast rate that opponents would be unable to rally effective resistance and to embed policies so that they were irreversible. Roger Douglas himself described the process as a “blitzkrieg”.

        From essay by Stephen Keys with a bibliography longer than my arm – so plenty to choose from.
        https://unframednz.wordpress.com/2012/06/19/an-essay-revisiting-rogernomics-in-an-age-of-globalisation/

        • greywarshark 6.1.1.1

          And carolyn-nth
          To get different perspectives and keep NZ thinking to the fore, we had talked about reading Marilyn Waring’s Counting for Nothing next. This was talking about the value of volunteers and how unpaid work can be recognised as inputting to the wellbeing of the country, and supports the monetised economy.
          I think it is very relevant at the preent in NZ.

          Is that a good one to go forward with, for another month?

          As you say it could be helpful to cite one chapter, and then people could read that, and then anything else that they found time for and find personally valid while the book is in the spotlight to add to the discussion.

          • Carolyn_nth 6.1.1.1.1

            Marilyn Waring’s work is very important. I think she may have some leftish principles, but probably some rightish ones as well. But, I think her work on unpaid work is pretty important.

  7. Tony Veitch (not the partner-bashing 3rd rate broadcaster 7

    I’m sorry that this is going to be a long post! And, I hope, is more on the practical application of ‘Small is Beautiful’ ideas to NZ. Here goes:

    Regional development.

    First premise – the market doesn’t know best. The government must shape the economy in the best interests of all the people of this country, not just the rich.

    ‘Small is Beautiful’ instances the case of Italy – a developed north and under-developed south, and the social consequences of that. Also how the rather depressed north of England voted for Brexit, against the wishes of the more affluent London and the south.

    New Zealand has allowed unrestricted growth of the Auckland area – with obvious social and transport consequences. The ideal for the ‘market’ would be four million NZers living within easy transport distance (say 100kms) of the main market, and the others spread over the rest of the country where necessary. But the ‘market’ ideal does not coincide with the desires of most NZers.

    It is imperative that the brakes be applied to the Auckland area. There are many ways this could be done.

    Decentralisation of government departments and ministries – from Wellington and Auckland into the smaller towns – to provide employment and stimulus to rural centres.

    New immigrants could be ‘tagged’ for settlement in the provinces as a condition of entry to this country.

    Government interest free development loans for small businesses in small centres – with conditions – such as use of sustainable energy sources.

    A move away from raw product exports to value added exports. For instance, we should not be exporting dried milk powder when we could be sending overseas cheese and yoghurt and other value added dairy products.

    The Fonterra business model is all wrong – so Muldoonish (think big), More on this later.

    There should be marketing umbrella organisations – for instance for dairy products, wine, timber – who would oversee the placing of NZ products in world markets – but not be the manufacturers of those products.

    State Owned Organisations [SOEs] should be returned in their entirety to state ownership and charged with social goals, not profit. They could, in the case of the energy companies, encourage solar energy by offering proper prices for feeding into the national grid.

    Universal Basic Income [UBI]

    There should be a UBI to give everyone in this country the dignity of living above the poverty line.

    In fact, a quick look at the Wikipedia entry suggests that a UBI is easily manageable – in terms of paying for it.

    • Welfare substitution: Basic income would substitute to a wide range of existing social welfare programmes, tax rebates, state subsidies and work activation spendings. All those budgets (including administrative costs) would be reallocated to finance basic income
    • Auto-financing of basic income: although basic income is paid to everyone universally, most people whose earnings are above the median income are in fact net contributors to the basic income scheme, mainly through an income tax. In practice this means that the net cost of basic income is much lower than the raw cost calculated as a sum of monthly payments to the whole population.
    • More fiscal redistribution: in addition to reforming and optimizing the existing tax systems, additional taxations can be implemented to fully finance a basic income scheme. Some proposals frequently mention to this effect the need for a tax on capital, carbon tax, financial transaction tax etc. which do not currently exist in most jurisdictions.
    • Money creation: In addition to tax reforms, the power of central banks to create money could be used as one funding channel for basic income.
    Wikipedia

    Implicit in the above is a fair taxation system with no loopholes. Frankly, the rich have had it too good for too long – and the ‘trickle down’ myth has finally been discredited.

    If the rich paid their fair share of taxation, and such malignant state departments as WINZ were abolished (saving hundreds of millions), a UBI is probably easily affordable.

    Implicit also in the above is regaining control of our banking system. The four big Australian banks have to be reigned in and made to serve NZ interests, not those (primarily) of their overseas owners! All government accounts should automatically go through Kiwibank, and Kiwibank should, like SOEs, be given social goals as a main objective.

    I especially like the Dr. Richard Wolff idea of worker co-operatives. All businesses which employ say, more than ten workers, should be turned into co-operatives, with workers being part of management, part of the decision making process, and sharing in the returns.

    Large financial organisations within the government’s ability to do so, such as Fonterra, should be broken up within the country and their overseas marketing assigned to specialist marketing boards.

    As a part of regional development, the government should encourage small businesses which will help us (perhaps) weather (!) climate change better – for instance, converting petrol and diesel cars to electric motors. I have a small 1300cc vehicle and would jump at the chance to change it into an electric one if it could be done cheaply enough.

    Transport problems.

    Near where I live in Christchurch is a new motorway development, the Northern Corridor. Work has begun and will be completed in 2020!

    To my mind, this is a completely counter-productive and expensive exercise.

    After the 2011 earthquakes, the opportunity existed to rethink completely the transport needs of the city. Many people moved away from east ChCh to the north, Rangiora, and the west, Halswell and Rolleston. However, corporate interests determined the construction of large parking buildings in the CBD. But the roads into ChCh are jammed at rush hours already. Building another ‘corridor’ into the city will not solve the problem. All that will achieve is, as the Green Party said, getting you to the next traffic jam a little bit faster!

    How much better it would have been to run frequent free rail services from Rangiora through to Rolleston and Lyttleton. How much better to have greatly expanded the bus services, and made them free. How much better to have slapped a tax on the use of cars within the four avenues. To have done everything, in fact, to encourage public transport and discourage private transport.

    I heard Leanne Dalziel, at a climate change protest, say that the provision of electric charging stations would be a priority for the city, and some have appeared – but they should have been fast-tracked.

    After the earthquake the old (and unused as a station) railway station on Moorhouse Avenue was demolished. Presumably the land has been sold to mates of Gerry Brownlee. But what better place for a inner city bus and rail terminus than the present railway station in Addington and the new bus centre on Colombo Street.

    Imagine, those of you who know ChCh, the entire city inside the four avenues being free of cars other than service vehicles. Unfortunately, that opportunity has slipped by.

    But, in view of CC, there is little justification in building more motorways!

    The Fonterra business model is all wrong. It is a remnant of the ‘think big’ days of Muldoon. The insanity of transporting bulk milk by tanker hundreds of kilometres to huge processing plants where it is converted into powder, then sold overseas into a ‘saturated’ market – well, it just does not make a lot of sense! To become viable farms must be bigger, herds must be larger, milking shed must be super efficient and also costly, and the only entities benefitting at the end of the day is the banks who loaned the money to the farmers.

    The downstream of all the above we are becoming only too aware of – degraded waterways and methane pollution.

    We need to think small and to think value added. As a food producer, the world will eventually be beating a path to our door – as it already is with our free water.

    • Carolyn_nth 7.1

      I like a lot of your prescriptions.

      However, I think you miss the points that Schumacher makes in his chapter on Socialism.

      Basically he dislikes both private enterprises or state run systems, if they both just do their version of organisation to pursue economic profits, without considering the aim of a better run society.

      Ultimately Schumacher rejects a totally provatised system as it’s all about profit.

      however, for a nationalised system, in the final paragraph of the chapter he says:

      Socialists should insist on using the nationalised industries not simply to out capitalise the capitalists… but to evolve a more democratic and dignified system of industrial administration, a more humane employment of machinery, and a more intelligent utilisation of the fruits of human ingenuity and effort.

      So for him how it’s done is as important of the system used.

      I can see how some interpreted Schumacher and the Values Party who used his book as a manifesto, saw the book as pointing to being neither left nor right.

      In the course of the chapter Schumacher seems to be saying neither full privatisation nor full nationalisation is the answer. He says it’s not about economics so much as the quality of life. But on the final page, he rejects a capitalist system of private enterprise, because it debases the quality of life.

      So, tony, I think the aims of a better quality of life are behind many of your proposed policies, but you haven’t always made explicit what that better society is.

      • Tony Veitch (not the partner-bashing 3rd rate broadcaster 7.1.1

        Yes, Carolyn, perhaps I could have expressed myself better – but I did mention that SOE should have social aims – and forget the dividend to the government.

        Schumacher could see a society, I think, of bustling small businesses with active engagement by all workers, who also shared in the ‘profits.’ But such a society may/will not be sustainable in the long term. In fact, climate change is the elephant in the china shop, to mangle a metaphor.

        I have a book called “Prosperity without Growth – Economics for a Finite Planet” by Tim Jackson – which is available as a .pdf download – which I intend to begin reading soon. Perhaps this book will provide some answers.

        But I still incline towards socialism, but not socialism that tries to out capitalism capitalism!

        • greywarshark 7.1.1.1

          Tony Veitch plus
          You have done a long thoughtful comment and I think that to get more input into the topic than is turning up today, I would like to quote bits of it in Open Mike in the next few days, run an idea up the flagpole and see who salutes if you know what I mean.

          One of the disappointments that can crop up with the free running movement of the blog from day to day is that some longer joined-up-ideas don’t get well aired and critiqued. Perhaps a part of it can become the basis for a post and get more thoroughly explored. What are your thoughts?

          • Tony Veitch (not the partner-bashing 3rd rate broadcaster 7.1.1.1.1

            Feel free to do what you like with my ramblings.

            There are many aspects of Schumacher’s writings that could do with further investigation in relation to what could be worked in this country.

            One thing is patently obvious – we simply cannot continue down the path towards a National Party ‘brighter future!!’ We have to think outside the box and be prepared to experiment – with the proviso that the important people are those who are doing the work, not the money-lenders!

  8. greywarshark 8

    Tony Veitch with disclaimer!
    Schumacher could see a society, I think, of bustling small businesses with active engagement by all workers, who also shared in the ‘profits.’ But such a society may/will not be sustainable in the long term. In fact, climate change is the elephant in the china shop, to mangle a metaphor.

    I think you have a good point there, that the unknown future is likely to dump big problems on unknown locations to people whose small businesses will be washed away and their crops. Which is already happening around the world. A proper working, thinking government, with a thoughtful and serious leader that may not be quick with a merry quip and win laughs by jumping into his swimming pool in his suit or whatever.

    Kick starting or encouraging small business perhaps those supporting a family may be necessary to give people earning potential. Health and safety regulations need to be practical and necessary not some prescriptive prohibitor dreamed up by an agency or contractor that is actually a paid lackey to big business.

    What Christchurch has been mulling over:
    http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/opinion/90552350/Editorial-Could-a-Christchurch-Dollar-take-off
    and
    http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/90493334/christchurch-city-council-committee-keen-to-introduce-citys-own-dollar
    (Guess who has brought this idea into the light.)

    We need to basket-weave our local societies (using the term once thrown around disparagingly about hippies etc.) and appreciate each other’s work and skills and pay realistic prices that pay a living wage to that local. Lots of small businesses buzzing around doing work locally, spending locally must be good, with the ripple effect of the multiplier. A region may need to have a bit of priming now and then with some infrastructure work, and with a return to the region of some of the GST paid there, so giving an even upward trend of tax returned as there is more economic activity.

    Has anyone got a good source of how local currencies work without causing inflation.
    Does Tim Jackson reference it at all Tony Veitch?

    I envisage a local Council having a local economy arm, perhaps contracted out to secondary school economic students who would keep track of use of Localtens which would be issued as free money each month to be spent and accepted in participating stores, which would tick and sign as receipt on a grid on one side, and then try to spend them again, and then return them end of month so local stats could be collated – how many times spent, most likely places, and all participating stores get listed in the Council newsletter (if they didn’t return they wouldn’t get mentioned.) The stores would decide what they were going to sell for that Localten or perhaps accept it as part. It would be an interesting exercise to underline what the conomy is, which we take for granted, and good for practical instead of just theory for the students. It would probably cause a burst in small transactions, as people tried to use them before they were outdated. Children could learn about spending and choice, and parents would be able to get the odd bargain that otherwise they would have to pass by.

  9. greywarshark 9

    Weka thanks for your work in setting this up. Much appreciated.

  10. mikesh 10

    Yes, I found the final section, on ownership, the most interesting. Schumacher sees ownership being transferred, as the company grows, not to the state but to a trust which would be required, in terms of its trust deed, to use any profits for socially useful purposes. An alternative, also suggested by Schumacher, but drawing I think on the writings of Tawney, would be be for the government to take 50% ownership in the company in return for freedom from tax.

    Also interesting, in his epilogue, was a brief account of the “four cardinal virtues”. I’m not sure what he was getting at there, but the concept dates back to Plato, or perhaps even earlier, and was adopted into Christianity in the middle ages. But Christianity has never really pushed the concept.

  11. greywarshark 11

    Thanks Olwyn r0b weka who originally advised and helped to start, and Carolyn-nth and Tony Veitch plus. More were going to read and discuss but it was going to be a month and ended up being three weeks because of my delay in getting started. So feel free anyone to keep adding, feedback is welcomed on the points you consider offer us ways to go now, or which are past their use-by date. But think again. Are they, or have we come to the end of the road, or been going around in circles, a maze?

    Also what do you think of Marilyn Warings book Counting for Nothing for the next? It isn’t a feminist tract for those who are sensitive to such. It’s good thinking social policy economist stuff.

    • weka 11.1

      I’m thinking we should maybe run the book club over a weekend. Put it up Friday night and then have the whole weekend to discuss. Not that anything is stopping the discussion today from continuing, but it does look like it might be better to spread it out a bit.

      • greywarshark 11.1.1

        weka
        Yes it was a pilot ready to tweak. I agree with you. Looking at the relatively small number of comments over all posts i felt that everyone was at the beach, in the garden, doing house repairs whatever. Yes run it over a weekend – start Friday, perfect.

        • weka 11.1.1.1

          It’s the time of year too I think. In the winter there will be more people around on the weekend. At the moment, TS commenting is slow in the evenings and weekends (i.e. when people aren’t at work 😉 ). I think readership is up overall though.

  12. Tony Veitch (not the partner-bashing 3rd rate broadcaster 12

    Thank you, weka and greywarshark – I am a lazy reader – more content to settle on an historical novel or an Edgar Wallace than an economics book – so the exercise has been worthwhile for my brain cells!!

    When you name the next book, I shall endeavour to obtain a copy and read it.

    • weka 12.1

      I havne’t even finished the first book 😉

      I’m impressed with the calibre of the conversation here.

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