Saturday, November 27, 2010

E. F. Schumacher

Today, a person has to be wealthy to enjoy this simple thing, this very great luxury (to have hands and brain productively engaged): he has to be able to afford space and good tools; he has to be lucky enough to find a good teacher and plenty of time to learn and practice. He has to be rich enough not to need a job; for the number of jobs that would be satisfactory in these respects is very small indeed.

                                                                   E. F. Schumacher

It took me thirty-plus years to get around to reading Small Is Beautiful, the book that made E. F. Schumacher famous. I figured it must be smarmy, new-age something-or-other, but an economist-engineer I interviewed told me Schumacher was tough.

Schumacher was a German economist, born in 1911, who rejected the Third Reich, and fled to England. He became the British Coal Board's chief economist, and went on to consult with developing economies and the Carter White House.

If you get only two things out of Small Is Beautiful, they should be that modern commerce's abundance is based on capital, not income, and that "the chance to work is the greatest of all needs, and even poorly paid and relatively unproductive work is better than idleness."

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