Monday, February 18, 2008

Small is Still Beautiful

I recently finished reading Small is Still Beautiful by Joseph Pearce. This is based on Small is Beautiful: a Study of Economics as if People Mattered by E.F.Schumacher, originally published in 1973, and is quite a departure from his usual literary biographies. I found it an odd book as parts are taken verbatim from Schumacher's book (with the blessing of his daughter), parts are Pearce's own, and the rest is a mish-mash of the two. The mixture of the two voices isn't particularly successful and the result feels bitty. It also still seems out-dated in parts, despite Pearce's additions.

Despites its weaknesses, I found the book worth reading. Although I think some of the arguments are simplistic, it does show the absurdity of economic systems that depend for success on never-ending growth and over-consumerism. It makes the very important point that economics should not be solely about economic utility, but should also encompass philosophy - essentially, economics should take into account other aspects of human well-being besides simply material ones. The part I liked best was the last section, which did a good job of setting out the argument against industrial scale farming and demonstrated how public demand for organic food is helping to buck that trend. There was enough here to convince me that I should be going further down that road. It also reminded me that I have been intending for a while to do some reading on "Catholic economics" - relevant papal encyclicals, Belloc and Chesterton on distributism, and any more recent books on the subject I can get my hands on. Catholic Social Teaching and the Market Economy by Philip Booth and Catholicism, Protestantism and Catholicism by Amintore Fanfani both sound interesting.

1 comment:

Gen Ferrer said...

Hi Bookworm,

If you are interested in Pearce's book and Catholic economics, you might consider the Distributist argument based on Pope Leo XIII's Rerum Novarum and Pius XI's Quadragesimo Anno.