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Somehow small is still beautiful


Joseph Pearce took E.F. Schumacher's ideas from Small is Beautiful (see 2-22-08 post)and updated them, proving that his "New Age Economics" weren't crackpot ideas at all, but workable and necessary.
Pearce covers all of Schumacher's themes: Giantism, economics and metaphysics, localism, ecological concerns, and human-sized technology. For instance, with the mantra of neo-classical economics and it's obsession with growth (G.O.D.) Pearce writes: "Economic 'realism' dictates that the world economy must expand or die. Yet economic 'realism' is on a collision course with ecological reality. In the real world, as opposed to the utopian dreams of consumerism, expand or die translates simply as expand and die" (38-9). For the "autistic" economists he summarizes Schumacher's thoughts: "In the first place, economics needs a metaphysical critique of itself, an examination of its intrinsic purpose. Secondly, there is a need on the part of economics to recognize that the physical factors of life are essentially qualitative as well as quantitative. Finally, economics needs to study man in his wholeness and not consider him only as 'economic man,' since homo oeconomicus is an abstraction devoid of essential humanity" (62).
Pearce covers the tooth and claw battle of the British beer industry as the Giant Brewers try to rub out the little independent brewers through economic and political pressure. Small beer is holding its own.
You could skip Schumacher and read this because Pearce does a good job of rehashing much of "Fritz's" thoughts, but you might, like me, understand even more and be impressed and saddened by the successes and failures since 1973 if you read Schumacher's book first.
Look, I used to think economics was nearly as boring as watching golf, but Schumacher and Pearce make you care about this topic not only because of the capable and passionate (though never shrill) writing, but because this wisdom is so necessary for us now.

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