At the height of the Oil Crisis, a powerful voice for the decentralization of economics emerged from England. E.F. Schumacher was a protege of Keynes and the Chief Economic Advisor to the National Coal Board. However, Schumacher broke from his training and experience to strongly advocate for powerfully decentralist economics.
His book, Small is Beautiful, eloquently discussed the absuridity of overly centralized economics. He asked the powerful question: for what reason does our economic system exist? Isn't the purpose of any social system to serve the people in the society? Why don't we try to build a system that attempts to bring human happiness with the least amount of waste or consumption? Instead, our system tries to convince us that we have to achieve hapiness through the consumption, it is consumption itself that brings hapiness.
Of course, when we sit back and think about it, we know that hapiness, true, profound hapiness, cannot come from a product, but instead through our interactions with other human beings. Yet the system works to alienate us from others; by making us lonely, we consume more. It is an insane cycle that leads to incredible waste, sweatshops, soul-less communities and McMansions and lonely children.
Schumacher instead calls on us to turn to our local communities, to build a more sensible economic system. Ethics, the desire to ease suffering, should be the foundation of any economic system, not efficiency or profit. Today, the Schumacher Society attempts to make real the ideals of his writing, especially focusing on microcredit, community land trusts and local currencies.
For us in York State, we can learn much from Schumacher and his disciples. As we attempt to build stronger communities, we must inevitably turn away from traditional, centralizing, top-down economics. Schumacher and theorists like him can begin to point the way to new patterns of thought that break the mold.
Posted by Jesse