Books of 2010: Small is Beautiful

I finally finished a book that has been on my list for a year and on my desk for three months: “Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered,” by E.F. Schumacher, published in 1973.  In my sixth book of 2010 (I think--I’m starting to lose track), many good points were made, all to be ruined in by the last section. 

In the middle of the book, Schumacher talks about “metaphysical” issues, that is, morality and its foundation. He talks about the despair that modern man has fallen into because of a lack of “meaning.” He lists six ideas that have come from modern scientists and philosophers (evolution, survival of the fittest, the idea that higher art, etc. is nothing more than economics, Freudian psychology, relativism, and positivism), which he sums up as “morality is bunk.”  What is interesting is that all of these ideas were put forth by men who had a “mind well stocked with moral ideas” (had a good moral foundation), but after these ideas became mainstream “…all we got was bad metaphysics and appalling ethics.”  People replaced the good moral foundation of those men with the ideas of those men.  You may notice that this does not seem to have much to do with economics, and I agree.  However, this is some of the good stuff that made me think.

It was the last part of the book that ticked me off.  Schumacher tries to put forth socialism as a preferred method of organizing economics.  It went from good, thoughtful insights about modern society to a plug for socialism.  Threw me for a loop.  I disagree with nearly all of his justifications.  Mostly, he talks about how a free market turns into a tax loophole battle between the government and the wealthy that makes everyone else worse off.  He doesn’t seem to realize that that it isn’t just a free market that hurts the little people.  IT IS EVERY SOCIAL AND POLITCAL SYSTEM!  Though he mentions that he is a Christian in the book, he doesn’t seem to realize that this is a fallen world.  No system is going to work.  The only thing we can do is limit the amount of damage done by “the system.”  Socialism, which tries to regulate everything, is exactly opposite! 

Okay—sorry… off the soapbox.

So, in short, “Small is Beautiful” is an interesting read that covers such diverse topics as morality, economics, ecology and economy.  Some of the opinions in the book have been proven wrong by time, but some of them are still pressing issues.  Use your best judgment, and make wise choices.

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