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A. Wickens (UK)

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Small Is Beautiful: A Study of Economics as if People Mattered
Small Is Beautiful: A Study of Economics as if People Mattered
by E F Schumacher
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Excellent in places, but accompanied by naive metaphysics., 13 Dec. 2011
I had a hard time deciding what rating to give this book. At times it was both engaging and plausible, at others it was so infuriating I had to put it down and come back with lowered expectations. The book was made by sewing several essays together, and as such reads more like an anthology than a single treatise. Schumacher passes through a variety of subjects trying to make his point, and he reveals that he is very willing to make very strong assumptions in some areas to further his argument. He invokes God at least three times and has a list which appears to cite both evolution and relativism as corrupting influences on society. An entire chapter on "Education" is in actuality dedicated to stressing the importance of our (the West's) social and moral "classical-Christian inheritance". He ends up sounding generally anti-science, and especially dismissive of Physics and Mathematics. I got pretty angry at his flat assertion that nobody misses out on anything by not knowing the laws of thermodynamics. I wanted a book about economics, criticising economic thought from within and without, and I feel he went outside the scope of his understanding here.

My review may seem harsh, and overly focused on minor details, but the problem is that I have a background in philosophy and mathematics and not in economics. As such, I am not guaranteed to detect specious reasoning in writing about economics, so (from my perspective) the inclusion of his fumbling and quite dogmatic attempt at metaphysics has cast doubt over the whole enterprise. I enjoyed his thoughts on Development, Intermediate Technology and Scott Bader; taxation though equity ownership is an interesting idea; and of course his views on the environment were very prescient.

It probably deserves five stars "for its time", but for reading as a modern person, three seems fair. Some great food for thought with some dubious company.

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