Libby's Reviews > Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered

Small Is Beautiful by Ernst F. Schumacher
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's review
Jan 26, 11

really liked it
bookshelves: global-values
Read in January, 2011

p. 22 "There is wisdom in smallness if only on account of the smallness and patchiness of human knowledge, which relies on experiment far more than on understanding. The greatest danger invariably arises from the ruthless application, on a vast scale, or partial knowledge."

p. 38 "the modern economist has been brought up to consider "labour" or work as little more than a necessary evil. From the point of view of the employer, it is in any case simply an item of cost, to be reduced to a minimum if it cannot be eliminated altogether, say, by automation. From the point of view of the workman, it is a "disutility"; to work is to make a sacrifice of one's leisure and comfort, and wages are a kind of compensation for the sacrifice. Hence the ideal from the point of view of the employer is to have output without employees, and the idea from the point of view of the employee is to have income without employment... The Buddhist point of view takes the function of work to be at least threefold: to give a man a chance to utilise and develop his faculties; to enable him to overcome his ego-centredness by joining with other people in a common task; and to bring forth the goods and services needed for a becoming existence."

"The established processes of foreign aid and development planning appear to be unable to overcome this tendency [of poor getting poorer and rich richer]. In fact they often seem to promote it, for it is always easier to help those who can help themselves than to help the helpless."

P.144 " for a poor man the chance to work is the greatest of all needs, and even poorly paid and relatively unproductive work is better than idleness. "Coverage must come before perfection," to use the words of Mr. Gabriel Ardant."

P.158 "which particular people? Where are they? Why do they need help? If they cannot get on without help, what, precisely, is the help they need? How do we communicate with them?"

P.166 "So we get back to our two million villages and have to see how we can make relevant knowledge available to them. To do so, we must first possess this knowledge ourselves. Before we can talk about giving aid, we must have something to give... The beginning of wisdom is the admission of one's own lack of knowledge. As long as we think we know, when in fact we do not, we shall continue to go to the poor and demonstrate to them all the marvellous things they could do if they were already rich."

P.172 "If people do not want to better themselves, they are best left alone- this should be the first principle of aid. Insiders may take a different view, and they also carry different responsibilities. For the aid-giver, there are always enough people who do wish to better themselves, but they do not know how to do it."

P.173 "Leo Tolstoy referred to it when he wrote: "I sit on a man's back, choking him, and making him carry me, and yet assure myself and others that I am very sorry for him and wish to ease his lot by any means possible, except getting off his back."

P.222 quoting Tawney
"For it is not private ownership, but private ownership divorced from work, which is corrupting to the principle of industry; and the idea of some socialists that private property in land or capital is necessarily mischievous is a piece of scholastic pedantry as absurd as that of those conservatives who would invest all property with some kind of mysterious sanctity.' Private enterprise carried on with property of the first category is automatically small-scale, personal and local. It carries no wider social responsibilities. Its responsibilities to the consumer can be safeguarded by the consumer himself. Social legislation and trade union vigilance can protect the employee. No great private fortunes can be gained from small-scale enterprises, yet its social utility is enormous."

P.225 tawney again, from The Acquisitive Society "'precisely in proportion as it is important to preserve the property which a man has in the results of his labour, is it important to abolish that which he has in the results of the labor of someone else.' ... In a large-scale enterprise, private ownership is a fiction for the purpose of enabling functionless owners to live parasitically on the labor of others. It is not only unjust but also an irrational element which distorts all relationships within the enterprise."

Nationalised industries may have nationalised competitor industries!

P.240 "There appear to be three major choices for a society in which economic affairs necessarily absorb major attention - the choice between private ownership of the means of production, various types of public or collectivised ownership; the choice between a market economy and various arrangements of "planning": and the choice between "freedom" and "totalitarianism." Needless to say, with regard to each of these three pairs of opposites there will always in reality be some degree of mixture."

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