small is beautiful, part 1

I have started to read E.F. Schumacher’s “small is beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered”. It is a challenging read on many levels, including the fact that he writes as an economist using the language of the economist. I switched over to the 25th anniversary edition and have been benefiting from the additional commentary of many contributors.

One of the contributors made a statement early in the book (Chapter 2, page 12) that I believe captures the problem:

“Increasingly, it seems that change will come about after we have exhausted every other theory of greed and gain, and the winds of change are no longer metaphorical, but force five hurricanes destroying whole regions. That the world should become so immune to its own losses seemed inconceivable 25 years ago.”

— Paul Hawken


The idea of taking and expanding with no limits has dire consequences, not only upon our natural resources (which, being limited, are rapidly consumed) but upon our global psyche as well – there is no sense of “do we really need this?” or “how will my actions affect others?”


I am reminded of Lin Warfel’s sentiments July 18, 2014 (NG article), which I wrote about the same day:

“Our general position is to limit the use of farmland for housing and development, and so there is resistance to the expansion of the footprint of the city,” Warfel said. “We look longingly at Portland, Oregon, and what they’ve done there, drawing a circle around the city and saying: We’re going to live inside this ring.”


In terms of the growth of our cities and districts, I do not claim to know what size is optimal. But I do know that unrestricted and unfettered growth, like cancer, is ugly.


But here is the real key; we have to care about and for others (Lisa Delpit, Robert Putnam). Our current path is going to lead us to a place where the things we take for granted will no longer be readily accessible – not in our generation, and probably not in our lifetime, but it is inevitable. We can do better than that. People do matter, and we need a mindset that realizes the priority of human relationships. And I believe the schools is where that is going to happen, sooner or later, the easy way or the hard way.


It just economics. Elementary, dear Watson.




One Response to “small is beautiful, part 1”

  1. Pattsi Says:

    Why not have conversations with the folks in Portland about the growth boundary that was established by referendum and then moved via a second referendum.

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