Monday, September 23, 2019

Economics as if People Mattered

“What is the meaning of democracy, freedom, human dignity, standard of living, self-realization, fulfillment? Is it a matter of goods, or of people? Of course it is a matter of people. But people can be themselves only in small comprehensible groups. Therefore we must learn to think in terms of an articulated structure that can cope with a multiplicity of small scale units. If economic thinking cannot grasp this it is useless. If it cannot get beyond its vast abstractions, the national income, the rate of growth, capital/output ratio, input-output analysis, labour mobility, capital accumulation; if it cannot get beyond all this and make contact with the human realities of poverty, frustration, alienation, despair, breakdown, crime, escapism, stress, congestion, ugliness, and spiritual death, then let us scrap economics and start afresh.

“Are there not indeed enough ‘signs of the times’ to indicate that a new start is needed?”

-- E.F. Schumacher, Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered (1973)
I read this book ages ago, but picked it up recently for a second go at it. It's a bit dated in that some of the defining issues of that age were pollution and nuclear weapons and overpopulation (all still problems, just submersed in lieu of larger problems), but its underlying philosophy is still relevant, and even more relevant.

Here are a few more quotes from Small is Beautiful.

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