Small is Beautiful – Chapter 2

Economics as if People Mattered, E.F. Schumacher


The dominant modern belief is that the soundest foundation of peace would be universal prosperity.

Keynes: when everyone is rich, we will “once more value ends above means and prefer the good to the useful.”

Keynes: road to heaven is paved with bad intentions

An attitude to life which seeks fulfillment in the single-minded pursuit of wealth – in short, materialism – does not fit into this world, because it contains within itself no limiting principle, while the environment in which it is placed is strictly limited.

After a while even the Gross National Product refuses to rise any further, not because of scientific or technological failure, but because of a creeping paralysis of non-cooperation, as expressed in various types of escapism on the part, not only of the oppressed and exploited, but even of the highly privileged groups.

…greed and envy destroy intelligence, happiness, serenity, and 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.

Gandhi: Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not for every man’s greed.

“What were luxuries for our fathers have become necessities for us.”

The cultivation and expansion of needs is the antithesis of wisdom. It is also the antithesis of freedom and peace. Every increase of needs tends to increase one’s dependence on outside forces over which one cannot have control, and therefore increases existential fears. Only by a reduction of needs can one promote a genuine reduction in those tensions which are the ultimate causes of strife and war.

We need method and equipment which are:

  • cheap enough so they are accessible to virtually everyone;
  • suitable for small-scale applications; and
  • compatible with man’s need for creativity

Although even small communities are sometimes guilty of causing serious erosion, generally as a result of ignorance, this is trifling in comparison with the devastation caused by gigantic groups motivated by greed, envy, and the lust for power. It is, moreover, obvious that men organised in small units will take better care of their bit of land or other natural resources than anonymous companies or megalomanic governments which pretend to themselves that the whole universe is their legitimate quarry.

Irreplaceable capital, treated as income

– fossil fuel

– tolerance margins of nature

– human substance

One thought on “Small is Beautiful – Chapter 2

  1. These are excellent quotes and so very true. I wish that I could comment on each of these quotes and add to them from my perspective but there are too many. However, “…greed and envy destroy intelligence, happiness, serenity, and the peacefulness of man.” This is taken directly from Zen Buddhism and it is one of its core tenents. Look at it for a moment and ask yourself, “What do I want to do in my life, live a life of unconscious greed by working hard, by clamoring up the corporate ladder, or to live an intelligent life filled with happiness and peace?” For me the latter is the way I chose to live.

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