quinta-feira, agosto 16, 2007


See just this Post & Comments / 0 Comments so far / Post a Comment /   Home
Up, Down, Thread Ahead: Total sales, in BILLIONS.
Also: two versions of Jonah and the whale, Pedras Portuguêsas.

Thanks to this article in O Eco: Fogo Amigo, Source I remembered E.F. Schumacher this afternoon. Not much of him on-line but I found this (one chapter from Small is Beautiful): Buddhist Economics, Source.

Fritz engaged a local man at the station by asking, "How are things?" "Fine," the local replied. "What is it you do?" asked Fritz. "Oh, I work on that farm over there," he said pointing. "I used to own that farm but I had no money to pay the hired hand, so I paid him in land. Eventually he owned all of my farm and now I work for him."

"That is a very sad story," replied Fritz." "Well, not so sad," replied the hired hand, "He has no money either and so he is paying me back in land."

     Wes Jackson, 1999.

Ernst Friedrich 'Fritz' SchumacherErnst Friedrich 'Fritz' SchumacherErnst Friedrich 'Fritz' SchumacherErnst Friedrich 'Fritz' SchumacherErnst Friedrich 'Fritz' SchumacherErnst Friedrich 'Fritz' Schumacher

"On a visit to Leningrad some years ago, I consulted a map to find out where I was, but I could not make it out. From where I stood, I could see several enormous churches, yet there was no trace of them on my map. When finally an interpreter came to help me, he said: "We don't show churches on our maps." Contradicting him, I pointed to one that was very clearly marked. "That is a museum," he said, "not what we call a 'living church.' It is only the 'living churches' we don't show."

It then occurred to me that this was not the first time I had been given a map which failed to show many things I could see right in front of my eyes. All through school and university I had been given maps of life and knowledge on which there was hardly a trace of many of the things that I most cared about and that seemed to me to be of the greatest possible importance to the conduct of my life. I remembered that for many years my perplexity had been complete; and no interpreter had come along to help me. It remained complete until I ceased to suspect the sanity of my perceptions and began, instead, to suspect the soundness of the maps."

     E.F. Schumacher, The Slenderest Knowledge, (no date ... suspicious).

Interesting fact: Werner Heisenberg was married to his sister.

Some quotes:
Eagles come in all shapes and sizes, but you will recognize them chiefly by their attitudes.

Infinite growth of material consumption in a finite world is an impossibility.

It might be said that it is the ideal of the employer to have production without employees and the ideal of the employee to have income without work.

Many people love in themselves what they hate in others.

Never let an inventor run a company. You can never get him to stop tinkering and bring something to market.

Our ordinary mind always tries to persuade us that we are nothing but acorns and that our greatest happiness will be to become bigger, fatter, shinier acorns; but that is of interest only to pigs. Our faith gives us knowledge of something better: that we can become oak trees.

The printing press is either the greatest blessing or the greatest curse of modern times; sometimes one forgets which it is.

The system of nature, of which man is a part, tends to be self-balancing, self-adjusting, self-cleansing. Not so with technology.


Small is Beautiful; Economics as if People Mattered by E. F. Schumacher

"Schumacher's work belongs to that subterranean tradition of organic and decentralist economics whose major spokesmen include Prince Kropotkin, Gustave Landauer, Tolstoy, William, Morris, Gandhi, Lewis Mumford, and most recently, Alex Comfort, Paul Goodman, and Murray Bookchin. It is the tradition we might call anarchism, if we mean by that much abused word a libertarian political economy that distinguishes itself from orthodox socialism and capitalism by insisting that the scale of organization must be treated as an independent and primary problem. The tradition, while closely affiliated with socialist values, nonetheless prefers mixed to 'pure' economics systems. It is therefore hospitable to many forms of free enterprise and private ownership, provided always that the size of private enterprise is not so large as to divorce ownership from personal involvement, which is, of course, now the rule in most of the world's administered capitalisms." --Theodore Roszak.

Quotes from Small is Beautiful:

"[A modern economist] is used to measuring the 'standard of living' by the amount of annual consumption, assuming all the time that a man who consumes more is 'better off' that a man who consumes less. A Buddhist economist would consider this approach excessively irrational: since consumption is merely a means to human well-being, the aim should be to obtain the maximum of well-being with the minimum of consumption. . . . The less toil there is, the more time and strength is left for artistic creativity. Modern economics, on the other hand, considers consumption to be the sole end and purpose of all economic activity."

"It is clear, therefore, that Buddhist economics must be very different from the economics of modern materialism, since the Buddhist sees the essence of civilisation not in a multiplication of wants but in the purification of human character. Character, at the same time, is formed primarily by a man's work. And work, properly conducted in conditions of human dignity and freedom, blesses those who do it and equally their products."

"The most striking about modern industry is that it requires so much and accomplishes so little. Modern industry seems to be inefficient to a degree that surpasses one's ordinary powers of imagination. Its inefficiency therefore remains unnoticed."

"Ever bigger machines, entailing ever bigger concentrations of economic power and exerting ever greater violence against the environment, do not represent progress: they are a denial of wisdom. Wisdom demands a new orientation of science and technology towards the organic, the gentle, the non-violent, the elegant and beautiful."

"[N]o system or machinery or economic doctrine or theory stands on its own feet: it is invariably built on a metaphysical foundation, that is to say, upon man's basic outlook on life, its meaning and its purpose. I have talked about the religion of economics, the idol worship of material possessions, of consumption and the so-called standard of living, and the fateful propensity that rejoices in the fact that 'what were luxuries to our fathers have become necessities for us.'

"Systems are never more no less than incarnations of man's most basic attitudes. ... General evidence of material progress would suggest that the modern private enterprise system is--or has been--the most perfect instrument for the pursuit of personal enrichment. The modern private enterprise system ingeniously employs the human urges of greed and envy as its motive power, but manages to overcome the most blatant deficiencies of laissez-faire by means of Keynesian economic management, a bit of redistributive taxation, and the 'countervailing power' of the trade unions.

"Can such a system conceivably deal with the problems we are now having to face? The answer is self-evident: greed and envy demand continuous and limitless economic growth of a material kind, without proper regard for conservation, and this type of growth cannot possibly fit into a finite environment. We must therefore study the essential nature of the private enterprise system and the possibilities of evolving an alternative system which might fit the new situation."

Table of Contents of Small is Beautiful
      The Problem of Production
      Peace and Permanence
      The Role of Economics
      Buddhist Economics
      A Question of Size
      The Greatest Resource--Education
      The Proper Use of Land
      Resources for Industry
      Nuclear Energy--Salvation or Damnation?
      Technology with a Human Face
      Social and Economic Problems Calling for
         the Development of Intermediate Technology
      Two Million Villages
      The Problem of Unemployment in India
      A Machine to Foretell the Future?
      Towards a Theory of Large-Scale Organisation
      New Patterns of Ownership

I am dead tired of this internet thing ... can't be bothered to format this as it deserves or as I am able or any of it - sorry. Fucking stupid pdf ...


New World News 17 September 1977, Caring, For Real

Dr E F Schumacher, economist and author of the world-famous book Small is Beautiful, died last week, shortly after addressing the MRA industrial conference in Caux. We print here extracts from this, his last, public expression of his philosophy.

A writer in The Times noted, “he combined scientific thinking at its most vigorous with religious commitment at its most compassionate”. Barbara Ward wrote in the same paper, “To very few people, it is given to begin to change, drastically and creatively, the direction of human thought. Dr Schumacher belongs to this intensely creative minority and his death is an incalculable loss to the whole international community”.

Let me say first of all how happy and grateful I am to be here on my first visit to Caux.

I had some difficulty in getting here by air. At London airport there was an announcement that the flight would be delayed. But we were invited to go to the restaurant and have a little meal. I went there and noted at the next table a family sitting down, father, mother and little boy, probably aged eight or nine. The waitress came, and the little boy said, “I want spaghetti”, but father was still studying the menu, and then ordered three Yorkshire pudding and pies. And you should have seen the little boy looking at his mother. His eyes nearly fell out and he said, “Mummy, she thinks I am real”.

The first thing when we think about what we call the Third World or the developing, or to put it more simply about the poor, the first thing we ought to realise, is that they are real. They are actually people, as real as you and me, except that they can do things which you and I can’t do.

They have a know-how that we don’t have. They are real, and we must not think of them as poor little souls, and luckily we come along and we are going to develop them.

No, they are survival artists and it is quite certain that if there should be a real resources crisis, a real ecological crisis, or this, that or the other crisis in the world, these people will survive. Whether you or I will survive is much more doubtful. India will survive, though whether Bombay will survive is more doubtful. That New York will survive is an impossibility. Probably the same applies for London or Tokyo. And an awful number of other big cities.

You cannot help a person if you yourself don’t understand how that person manages to exist at all.

Overseas development aid is a process where you collect money from the poor people
in the rich countries, to give to the rich people in the poor countries. Nobody intended this, but there was a blindness about this pattern of living which enables the poor to survive. And so we offered our goods, which of course only people already rich and powerful could take.

Then I went to southern India. I was a lucky person, because the right question occurred to my mind. Everything begins with a question, and the right question was, “What sort of technology would be appropriate for rural India?” Surely not the technology of Pittsburg, of Sheffield, or of Dortmund or of Tokyo.

Fate has given me the name of a shoemaker. If you want to be a good shoemaker, it is not good enough to make good shoes, and to know all about making good shoes. You also have to know a lot about feet. Because the aim of the shoe is to fit the foot. But most of us never thought about this.

All the same size

There used to be a story about a country that unduly indulged in central planning. They developed the finest boot the world has ever seen and they ordered 500 million pairs of this boot, all the same size. That is what we tend to do. Because we don’t really think of the poor being real. We think that we have the answer.

When I asked myself this question, ‘What would be the appropriate technology for rural India or rural Latin America or maybe the city slums? I came to a very simple provisional answer. That technology would indeed be really much more intelligent, efficient, scientific if you like, than the very low level technology employed. But it should be very, very much simpler, very much cheaper, very much easier to maintain, than the highly sophisticated technology of the modern West. In other words it would be an intermediate technology, somewhere in between.

Then I asked myself another question: ‘Why do they not use an intermediate technology? Why do they not use boots that fit their feet?’ And then I realised that intermediate technology was not to be found. I realised that in terms of available technology, either it was very, very low or it was very, very high, the middle had disappeared. I therefore came to the conclusion that there was a tendency in technology development which I called ‘the law of the disappearing middle’.

The middle way, the balance – this is also the democratic way where even the little people have a chance of a degree of independence and what the young call ‘doing one’s own thing’ – that is being destroyed. And therefore we have throughout the world this atmosphere of tension, even hatred.

Multi-national companies do their business. It is not them. But the whole of society is bumbling along led by engineers and scientists who then introduce another complication, and another speeding up. That is their job. But we as a society have not got enough philosophy or humanity to call a stop when a stop is indicated. Or a least to try and counterbalance it.

People matter

We all know that the human being has a marvellous fortitude in tolerating the suffering of others.

We have not got an appropriate technology from a human point of view. The subtitle of my book Small is Beautiful was ‘Economics as if people mattered’. We do not approach economics primarily from the point of view of people, we approach it from the point of view of the production of goods, if they become redundant, well we have to pay them redundancy pay. If they have no opportunity of using their skills, then we have to re-train them. If the work is so noisy that they loose their hearing, well then, we have to put something around their ears. They are means of production. And this is the kind of industry we are now carrying into the so-called developing countries.

We are doing it at a time when we in our heart of hearts know that this kind of industry has no future. Nature cannot stand it, and the human being cannot stand it. Already more than half of all the hospital beds in Britain and the United States are occupied by people who do not really have a physical ailment but who are mad. It has no future.

When we begin to suspect that we are not on the right road, then of course we get a lot of radicals, fanatics. And a fanatic is a person who, when he senses that he is doing the wrong thing, redoubles his efforts. We have plenty of those. I call them ‘the people of the forward stampede’. They have a slogan, emblazoned on their banner, ‘A break-through a day keeps the crisis away’. They are stampeding us into greater and greater violence. More and more mad-hat schemes.

But now there is another great groundswell of people whom I call ‘ the homecomers’, who say, ‘The purpose of our existence on this earth cannot be to destroy it. The purpose of our existence can’t be to work ourselves silly and to end up in a lunatic asylum. Let’s reconsider.’

I was on the other side of the iron curtain, where they explained to me at great length that their system was so much better than our system. Finally they said, ‘In any case the Western economies are like an express train hurtling at ever-increasing speed towards an abyss.’ Then there was a short pause, and they said, ‘But we shall overtake you.’ That is the automatism of progress.

Fateful polarisation

We set up an organisation which we called the Intermediate Technology Development Group Ltd. It is still very limited. Not to kill off the high technology, because we couldn’t do that anyhow, but to fill this gap, this middle that has disappeared. And perhaps thereby to overcome the fateful polarisation which technology has produced. Not everybody is better off; the rich become richer, and the poor become more desperate, and society disintegrates, something that you can observe on a world-scale, and you can observe it in all big countries.

You can keep things plastered over only with enormous welfare expenditure. Welfare will keep people afloat, but does not integrate them into society. In the United States, for example, you have many people who are third generation welfare recipients.

Even the great United States has come to the conclusion that with the present, easily available technology, we cannot solve the problem. So they have set up a national centre for appropriate technology not for the developing countries, but for the United States. They said we must rethink technology and try to make it appropriate to our actual problems and these problems are simply not more and more production. The actual problems are the re-integration of a sizeable proportion of the total population into the mainstream of society. Similar things are happening in all advanced countries. So now we are in the position of talking about appropriate or intermediate technology in a much more convincing way. When people in the Third World say to me, ‘If it is such a good thing, why don’t you do it?’ I say ‘We do do it.’

Modern technology has become increasingly violent. It is employing violent means. In agriculture we scatter around very violent chemicals, we call them pesticides and herbicides, which means killer substances. On this thin living film of the earth on which all life depends we are scattering millions of tons of killer substances. Whatever you may think, it is a violent technology.

Violent technology

There is a readiness to apply extremely violent processes to that sacred and unbelievably complex ecological system called nature. We don’t know what we are doing. Of course we have wonderful scientists, who give us the assurance that all is well. It is a mater of the bland leading the blind. It is not necessary to be violent. We already have in agriculture, in medicine, in energy, in any other subject you may care to think of, people who are very often called, or used to be called cranks. Who know how to produce enough food, how to keep healthy, without any violent methods. They also normally turn out to be particularly pleasant people.

Even the most wonderfully designed ocean steamer carries life-boats, not because some statistician has predicted that the steamer will run into an iceberg, but because icebergs have occasionally been seen. Isn’t it time that the modern world provided some lifeboat? Of course you don’t put all your research and development into the exploration of small, simple and non-violent technology. If a big business comes and says, ‘I will give this thinking a chance,’ they have never felt sorry. They suddenly realised that really the construction of the universe is far more benign than they ever thought. You don’t have to be so violent. We are now quite intelligent enough to create appropriate technologies, if we really think before we act, and think in these wider terms.

more fucking piece-of-shit pdf's (!!!)



An Interview With E. F. Schumacher

Question: Dr. Schumacher, you founded the Intermediate Technology Development Group in 1965 as an organization to mobilize knowledge about small-scale, locally built technologies which developing nations could use to pull themselves out of poverty. In the last three years the enthusiastic response to Small Is Beautiful is certainly an indication of the number of people around the world who are now searching with you for ways to humanize the face of technology and foster the growth of healthy, self-reliant communities. During the last ten years that you've been devoting more and more time and energy to these activities, how have your attitudes toward development changed?

E. F. S.: Well, in this kind of work it's impossible to remain static in any theory or approach to particular problems, since you are always working with people and the world continues to change. But you still really only have two choices when you're looking at development problems anywhere in the world. You can start from goods, or you can start from people. Everything depends on that point of departure.

Suppose I live in a Third World country, and I want to fight poverty, and to fight poverty I decide that I have to have more goods. Well, let's find out how I get more goods. Ah yes, I take my money and go to the West where they have machines of mass production, and I have transfer of technology. But because these machines are very big and complex, I am immediately conscious that to actually make them work well I have to have an elaborate infrastructure to support them.

I find that I have great management problems with such large production units, and to get good management I have to have institutions training managers. Mass production means concentrated employment of people, although the techniques are highly labor-saving. But I'm still deft having to pay wages and I may want computers to handle that chore, which involves a school for computer programmers. And so on and so forth. There is no flaw in this logic at all.

But then, good gracious me yes—goods, goods, goods, but not enough employment. I find that these units of mass production really only fit into a few big cities. These cities then become magnetic to the rural population and the peasants abandon the land. But of course very few of them find a job in such a highly technological production system. The others become slum dwellers, and so on and so forth. All this is perfectly logical, perfectly understandable.

Now let's start with the idea of people. And you say in order to fight poverty, instead of more goods, people must become more productive. As Gandhi said, "We do not need mass production but rather production by the masses." How can people become more productive? Well, by having better implements. And if you have millions of people, you want millions of small machines. But these machines are not the same machines as in the other logic. These machines are small-scale, highly simplified and easy to build, something better than what the people had but nothing very grand, machines which can draw out the best that is in people—their skills, their ingenuity and their enthusiasm. This is what development is all about; it means developing competence to meet one's needs.

Q.: Gandhi also made the distinction between a tool and a machine. He believed the spinning wheel was a tool which could become the foundation of self-contained village industries across India, whereas the power loom was a machine which destroyed livelihoods and drained the villages of creative talent.

E.F.S.: Yes, he did, and this is the terminology I want to see firmly established. The sewing machine is a tool. A person can say this tool belongs to me and I am working it. It's an extension of my arm or my eye, but I'm in charge and what I produce is my own work.

Q.: What exactly do you mean by infrastructure? Are you talking about that whole network of services like schools, hospitals, roads, pipelines and so on that we take for granted but which makes our way of life possible?

E.F.S.: Yes, and I think the best way to explain infrastructure as it relates to development is with a parable I told while I was in Burma.

There's a road and from the road there's a path and by the path there's a shed. In the shed is a hen that lays an egg. Well now, all that—the road, the path, the shed, the hen—is not what you want. You want that one egg. If you spend all your money on the road, the path and the shed and you're then broke and can't even have a hen to lay an egg, it's not very good business. You want to produce in such a way and at such a location that you don't have to spend all your money on those infrastructure requirements of roads, paths, sheds, et cetera, and can spend more money on getting hens to lay eggs. . . . And if you have small-scale operations you can almost immediately become productive with local materials and labor.

Q.: As I understand it, then, the ITDG focuses on developing these small-scale implements and tools rather than on heavily mechanized equipment.

E.F.S.: We are not actually against anything, we are only in favor of developing those tools that are now lacking. If tractors are the right answer, then we are in favor of tractors. We're only against tractors when it's automatically assumed they're always the right answer. In Britain we now have tractors with 24 gears. Is this really necessary?

So we look at all these things from several points of view. Can we make implements so small that ordinary people can afford them and handle them on small fields? Can we make them less complex so that the troubles of spare parts and repairs don't become overwhelming? And can we establish a methodology of evaluation to determine whether for this or that particular operation any mechanization is required at all?

Q.: You mean there are times when even simple implements don't really benefit a village?

E.F.S.: We normally insist that there should first be an assessment of the work load through the twelve months of the year, and where the work load is the highest mechanization can logically be considered. But we encourage people to look at all the factors involved. If mechanization really increases unemployment during the one or two months when it is used, is it worth it? Many of the traditional aid organizations have failed to adequately look at what may be involved with the introduction of even one new tool or method.

In one Third World community, for example, some Westerners introduced new and more productive ways of growing crops. The people were eager to learn, and soon were able to greatly increase their production. But the next year the Westerners came back to check on their progress only to discover that crop yields were once again back down to the old levels. And they said, "Ah well, these stupid people haven't been able to remember what we told them." And they went away.

Now our group happened to be in the country at the time on some other project and heard of this. We knew very well that something else must be going on here. These people were not stupid. They were in fact quite intelligent, but perhaps not very articulate. So what had happened?

The village had formerly been growing just enough to meet its own needs and had little left for any kind of trade. With the new methods it soon had an abundant surplus, and the people welcomed this. But how to get it to market? As it turned out, the women of the village had to carry the; produce in baskets on their heads and walk to the market, sometimes twenty miles in a day. And the men in the village quickly learned that this was a highly unsatisfactory state of affairs. . . . So the people decided that the new ways of growing crops just weren't worth the trouble they were causing. The people still wanted to grow a surplus, but they had no readily available tools for transporting it to market.

Q.: So you were able to introduce some sort of cart which could be manufactured locally?

E.F.S.: It wasn't that simple. Wooden oxcarts could indeed be built in the village, but wooden wheels just would not do the job. To import iron-clad wheels from outside the village would only further upset the balance of their tenuous economy. So again, what to do?

We put some of our researchers back in England to work on the problem and before long they had discovered a long-forgotten metalbending tool, which had once been used in France, I think. Now, not only could iron wheels be made locally, but the metal-bending tool itself as well.

Q.: Do you always try to design tools like this that people can build themselves, and then use to build other pieces of equipment?

E.F.S.: This is always the ideal. We now have, for instance, on our publication list dimensional drawings of 24 items of locally made agricultural equipment—oxcarts, harrows, cultivators, seeders and so on—which any village blacksmith or carpenter can easily build. Certainly parts of this equipment are sometimes sold to a country which can't yet make it for themselves. We don't grieve over this or take the view that total self-sufficiency is a necessary condition of all intermediate technology development.

Q.: Does the ITDG have a large staff back in England to coordinate all of this research and field work?

E.F.S.: We started the Group without any money and very soon realized that in the initial development of tools like the agricultural equipment, we couldn't and didn't want to build up our own workshops. So how could we get the work done? Only by infiltrating into existing workshops such as those of the National College of Agricultural Engineering. The students there want their degrees, the teachers want to do original research and we at the ITDG can produce very attractive subjects for them to work on. And this has really turned into a highly suitable arrangement.

This specialized work in such areas as agriculture, building, food, cooperatives, health, power and water is organized into what we call panels. Each panel is served by at least one fulltime Project Officer, whose main task is to find the facilities and the people to carry out the research, design and fabrication work. These project coordinators also arrange for separate funding of their projects.

The permanent staff at our headquarters in London helps coordinate these special panels and their projects and is generally responsible for overall administration of the ITDG. The Group has also formed four subsidiary companies to assist it in carrying out its work. Development Techniques Ltd. arranges actual production of specialized equipment for developing countries.

Inter-Technology Services Ltd. organizes the Group's overseas consulting work, and maintains a register of other consultants qualified in many branches of intermediate technology. Afro-Art (London) Ltd. provides a marketing outlet for mainly African craftsmen. And Intermediate Technology Publications Ltd. publishes our reports, technical brochures and, for nearly four years now, our quarterly magazine Appropriate
Technology Journal.

Q.: So the Appropriate Technology Journal provides the ITDG with a regular opportunity to keep people informed about the work it is doing?

E.F.S.: The Journal is designed to help fill a knowledge gap. That gap can be filled out of the results of our own work, but also out of the results of work that's already been done by others. There's no need to reinvent the wheel or do work that has been successfully accomplished in the Philippines or in India or for that matter in Canada or Switzerland. We are actually expecting each issue to have the great majority of articles referring to other people's work.

At this level of technology there has been very little international communication. Very often the only means of communication between two groups in a developing country is some foreigner who happens to visit. People ask me time and time again. "Could you take this problem to London?" And then I have to tell them, "Look, fifty miles down the road from you somebody has already found the solution."

So I think the time is ripe for a journal of this sort, for some effort to tie together this kind of information without in any way invalidating the independence or enthusiasm of all the many groups hard at work around the world.

Q.: In talking about the ITDG's work with universities, you've touched upon a successful method of solving problems which you call the "A-B-C combination" in your book. Would you talk about this approach a little more?

E.F.S.: All of us share the conviction that this development problem of the world is a very difficult one. We don't believe it can be solved merely by governmental administrators or businessmen or communicators (as we call the people of the word, the academics) acting by themselves. These three groups represent our "A, B & C" factors, and the talents and experience of each one are necessary to the solution of almost any problem. So how can we use our negotiating skill in bringing A, B & C together?

Government officials in Britain say, "Am I representing my ministry?" No, no, we tell them, you're not representing your ministry. "Is what we're discussing at this panel confidential?" No, it's not confidential. The businessman asks, "Am I committing my firm?" No, no, you're not committing your firm. We just want your knowledge of how to make things viable. You live under a hell of a discipline which the civil servant and the academic do not. You've got to have enough money to pay wages every Friday. And of course to the academic we say, yes, well come along if this problem interests you. You have the research facilities and the students and we want you with us.

When these three groups actually do meet, they discover, often to their surprise, that the very low opinion they previously had of each other is not justified, and that you have not only lazy civil servants, but very diligent ones. Not only grasping businessmen, but very generous ones. And not only ivory tower academics but quite practical ones.

Q: You know, this brings me to an attitude toward business which I have noticed growing stronger in this country, and you have no doubt observed it in Britain as well. This attitude amounts to a basic distrust of all business, a notion that business as such is totally evil. Some people seem to think that running a gentle and decentralized world would not require any kind of business knowledge at all.

E.F.S.: Yes, and I mean this attitude has been a shock to me, particularly here in the United States. But the bitterness of these people doesn't stay there. You change the subject slightly and they have the same opinion of government. And then you switch to the universities . . .

Q.: Or the media . . .

E.F.S.: Not to mention the media, and they have the same opinion really of A, B and C. Perhaps most virulent against B, but good Lord, the remarks that are made against the governmental machine, the bureaucrats, the this, that, and the other. And of course they often say that the government and the academic institutions are all in the pocket of business. . . . You know, I don't see how anybody can get any work done.
Of course you can drop out and do it all from your own resources and experience, but that really is a rejection of the positive achievements of mankind over the last two hundred years. To work it all out yourself from zero is so hard that only heroes can stand it.

Q.: Have you personally encountered this kind of criticism in your work with the ITDG?

E.F.S.: People imagine that if I do any work at all with a multinational company, I will somehow get tarred by this particular brush. First of all I never work with a company, I work with selected people I have found sympathetic. And I always approach this kind of contact on the assumption that I'm a darned sight cleverer than they are and also much freer to act. And quite invulnerable.

Q.: In your work as economic advisor to the British National Coal Board, were you ever criticized for dealing with a business whose very base was a non-renewable resource? Did people feel that you were tarring yourself with the coal brush?

E.F.S.: No, on the contrary, my main concern was to try and persuade people to make the distinction between renewable and non-renewable.

Q.: To learn to stretch the coal out as long as possible?

E.F.S.: Well, at least to understand what's what. There are people who don't even understand that once you have taken the coal out of the ground it's no longer there. You know, they say wheat or coal or oil or services, they're all the same. A hundred dollars worth of wheat equals a hundred dollars worth of coal equals a hundred dollars worth of nights in a hotel room. This is the tragedy.

You can increase your wheat production and, assuming that you don't ruin the soil and aren't dependent on oil, you can keep your production at that new level. But if you increase oil or coal production, you haven't achieved anything at all, except you have increased the rate of fetching things out of the larder. You have increased the rate of larder depletion.

But all through the Sixties nobody would hear of this kind of talk. The criticism I got being associated with the Coal Board was, "Why is the Coal Board dragging its feet in the process of shutting down mines? After all, in this day and age why send people down to fetch this dirty stuff out of the ground, when there is oil, forever and ever cheap oil. Government says it, all the newspaper economists say it and the old fogies at the Coal Board don't understand."

I don't know, I guess they assumed we couldn't even read, that we didn't realize that oil was cheaper than coal. This was a nationalized industry, mind you, so that we weren't even defending our own pockets, we were just administering a national asset. We pleaded with society, "Don't ruin it. Once you have shut down a deep pit it is for practical purposes lost forever, including the unworked coal."

Q.: You mean it's impossible to ever reopen these mines again?

E.F.S.: When a pit is abandoned the shaft fills with water, but this is no problem really since you can always pump the water out. But once you've gone out sideways from, let's say, 700 meters deep, every square yard is under a geological pressure of 700 tons per square yard. That pressure cannot be taken by any material, only by the type of construction of your underground roadway. Once they start breaking the whole caboodle will come down and the cavity is squashed out of existence. If you want to dig into it again, tons of stuff may come down on your head. I exaggerate a bit, but it's like tunneling in dry sand, you just can't.

Q.: So you spent most of your time in the Sixties as a consultant to the Coal Board, trying to convince the public and the government to slow down the switch to oil?

E.F.S.: Well, I wasn't a consultant, I was inside. I was the Coal Board's chief planner,
director of statistics and economic advisor. As central planner I had to work with chairmen who made the final decisions on what pits to shut down, how to make ends meet financially, and longer term planning for the coal industry. As director of statistics I had the whole machine of information-gathering to tend. I was in a very favorable position here to learn not only about coal, but also oil, nuclear energy and all the other competing fuels. And as economic advisor I was supposed to understand the whole economic society, particularly the fuel economic society, within which we live.

I did spend a lot of time then trying to convince government and public opinion. I said it very, very freely, "Watch it, we are having a lean time for ten years or so, but come the Seventies, we are going to run into a god-almighty oil crisis and then we shall weep if we haven't got the coal." And we did at least slow down the vandalism. . . . But you know the posted price of oil during that time was on the order of $1.80 a barrel. If it had been $2.10 a barrel hardly a pit would have been shut down except for exhaustion. Now it's $12.00 a barrel and we shut pits because of a thirty cent difference. We just couldn't convince society that the cheapness of oil was not a permanent feature ordained by God.

Q.: The fact that people did not listen to your predictions in the Fifties and Sixties must have been particularly frustrating for you, since you held such prominent positions at the Coal Board then.

E.F.S.: It was a puzzle to many people how a man who said such foolish things could from the Coal Board in 1970 still keep his job. I retired because there was nothing more to be done now that the situation had declared itself, and because I also had other things to do.

An Interview With E. F. Schumacher--II

QUESTION: After leaving the Coal Board you had more time for directing the work of the ITDG. But you also serve as the President of the Soil Association in Britain, and this must occupy some portion of your time as well. I'm aware that the Soil Association is very much like our own organic farming and gardening movement, but I wonder if you would talk more specifically about its work and how you got involved?

E.F.S.: In the Thirties Sir Albert Howard wrote An Agricultural Testament, a book which questioned modern agricultural technology and asserted that there is a more natural way of farming, utilizing compost and so on. The book was of course widely ridiculed, but it really hit a few of us who thought Howard was a most experienced and intelligent man. In the Forties some of these people led by Lady Eve Balfour set up the Soil Association. I was not one of the founders, since at that time I was economic advisor to the British military government in Germany.

Q.: This was after World War II, then.

E.F.S.: In 1947. They got a bit of land and established what they called the Haughley Experiment. The land was divided up into a number of fields which were farmed in three basic ways—wholly organically, wholly chemically without livestock, and with what they called the orthodox British system, namely some livestock but also chemical treatment of the land. They carried on this experimental work for twenty years, taking precise measurements of what happens to the soil, the economics of it, the yields, et cetera. Such an experiment is very expensive, and a private organization whose main income is private subscriptions and donations finds it very hard to carry on.

In 1970 they asked me whether I could come in as president, and I was very happy to take this on as a purely voluntary activity. But I came in at the moment when it was impossible to maintain the Haughley Experiment, and my own assessment was that it had served its purpose.

Q.: Meaning that the experiments had accumulated enough data about organic methods?

E.F.S.: Yes, but the very word experiment had been misleading. You can get conclusive results from experiments only in a laboratory, where your methodology is perfectly clean and controlled. But when you're actually growing crops and raising cattle, which depend on the skill of management and all sorts of fortuitous factors like the weather, you cannot establish anything compellingly. You can only demonstrate possibilities.

So I therefore came to this conclusion and persuaded the Association that we couldn't keep the farms. The question was then: Do we go into voluntary liquidation, having done our job, or is there more to be accomplished? Well, we found there was much more to be done. There was first of all an increasing awareness in society that we need alternative farming systems, if only because chemicalized farming is so dependent on oil, and because these methods diminish the humus content and break down the structure of the soil. So task number one for the Soil Association became training. We've established training courses which are actually being carried on now by established academic institutions.

Q.: You mean orthodox universities in Britain are now teaching organic farming methods to their students?

E.F.S.: Again, it's a cooperative venture. There are three academic institutions who are very forthcoming and give us their facilities to use, and there are some highly trained individuals in those places who are actively on our side And this is all arranged for the purpose of training people how to farm organically, having already established that it can be done.

Q.: Just administering this training program for the large numbers of people in Britain who must want to learn organic methods would alone seem a full-time job for the Soil Association.

E.F.S.: Yes, but it is only part of our work. The organic farmers in Britain are producing a better product, but as long as they sell their produce through the ordinary channels of trade, they don't get the honest premium they deserve. So, as our second task, we have organized a marketing company for organic produce. This required the creation and registration of a symbol that we award to organic farmers. Of course we couldn't register such a symbol until we could convince the authorities that we could monitor the quality of the produce, and with the help of a German scientist, a Dr. Rusch, we developed a soil test to insure that organic methods are being used.

And for a third task, we have set up an organic farmers' cooperative, so that the farmers can gain a bit more strength in terms of credit and purchasing power and a few other things. . . . All of these activities are of course accompanied by the production of a certain amount of literature and propaganda, as well as running conferences from time to time. And yes, this work does indeed absorb more than a good part of my psychic energy.

Q.: In Small Is Beautiful and in articles in Resurgence, you have talked about the Mansholt Plan for European agriculture, which I interpreted as a barefaced attempt to totally wipe out family farms in Europe and substitute agribusiness methods. Have you ever had an opportunity to discuss with Dr. Mansholt himself what these plans would mean for Europe?

E.F.S.: In February of 1974 there was a great meeting in Switzerland called the European Management Forum and one of the speakers was Mansholt. After his talk there was a so-called discussion, but the audience was so large that you had to write your question on a slip of paper, which was then handed up to the platform. My question was, "Isn't what you have said today in total contradiction to the Mansholt Plan?" I had no expectation that this would be one of the bits of paper he answered since there were more questions than could be dealt with. But Mansholt picked it up and he read it out and he said, "The answer is yes, I have changed my mind. At that time I didn't know what I know today and I wouldn't do it again." His response was really first-class, although I personally think he might make it clear to more people. But the agricultural policy is under review anyhow. . . .

Q.: Because of the oil situation?

E.F.S.: Yes, and with the British being in, the whole machine is creaking now, so these plans for European farming are no longer as dangerous as they were. But the idea in its original form was simply a townies idea. One of Mansholt's expressions was, "In this day and age, people expect to work a five day week and the five day cow has not yet been invented. Therefore we must amalgamate farms into bigger and bigger units, must get four or five million people off the land and into the towns, and then if we put science into it we might even get control over the climate and have an absolutely organized production line and to hell with nature." . . . I'm putting it very crudely, but this was the basic concept.

Q.: In looking at the problems of community development in Third World countries and here in the industrialized countries as well, we find ourselves talking a lot about overcoming poverty. I'm struck by the fact that what most of us in the West call poverty must seem like a great abundance to people in many developing nations.

E.F.S.: Purely quantitative measures of poverty don't often tell us very much. During the Great Depression I saw unemployed workers in England whose whole gait showed that they were broken men. Yet their actual cash unemployment insurance was more than the income of a Spanish peasant who greeted you with open arms, whose eyes shone with manliness, and who asked you to come into his hovel and share everything with him.
Actually, I have found over the years that even the word poverty itself is not really accurate in describing the conditions I am talking about. There needs to be another word, and that word is misery. Misery is the absolute bottom level, where you don't have enough to even begin to keep body and soul together. Next comes the level we might call poverty, where people can reach the fullness of humanity but in a modest and frugal way and with nothing really to spare. Then comes a level of what I might call sufficiency, where you do have things to spare. This kind of life was the normal condition of Western Europe for many centuries. And finally comes a level of surfeit, which is limitless.

I would say that the bottom layer of misery and the top layer of surfeit are both very unhealthy. But between sufficiency and poverty, I don't really argue which is better. I'm not interested in helping people who are in poverty in this sense. If they want to live better, I mean it's their affair, they're not drowning.

Q.: So what you're really saying is that the ITDG is mainly interested in helping people who want to pull themselves out of misery, not poverty.

E.F.S.: That's right. In these cases, it is an absolute duty to go and help, and help without stint.

Q.: You've said that when you first started your efforts with intermediate technology some Third World people called you an imperialist and fascist. Have you often run up against the criticism that any kind of help you give a poor person is really only a form of patronization?

E.F.S.: I have, but it was from a different point of view. Some Third World people thought our intermediate technology was a device of the rich to keep them in their place. These are misunderstandings you can't guard against, and they clear up when people realize that to try for the moon is no good.

I have recently heard another, more serious charge that the slightest thing you do for people, even in the spirit of helping them help themselves, will then only lead to further population explosion, pollution and depletion of natural resources. This kind of criticism I do not accept because it is pure negativism.

Q.: Population control has certainly become one of the world's most touchy subjects in the last few years. At a recent U.N. Conference on population I recall that the Third World countries accused the rich countries of making plans to control the growth of populations in their countries. I've noticed that you don't really talk much about population control in your writing and I wonder if you would explain why?

E.F.S.: There are a number of subjects which serve as escape hatches if you really don't want to work. Population, land reform, the political system, corruption and no doubt you'll think of one or two others, are all problems where the very people who ask the question already know subconsciously that they can't do anything about it. And so they love talking about it. They point fingers and say unless you solve this or that problem then all your work will be useless. . . . I can't solve the problem of political systems in Latin America. And if I went there trying to solve it, I guess my stay would be either unduly shortened or unduly prolonged. And then I couldn't work at all.

I distinguish between queen bees and worker bees. In our intermediate technology work, we're not queen bees, we're worker bees. We don't sit in some ivory tower trying to decide which is the number one and which is the number two problem. We get to work on the work that we can do.

Q.: But certainly it seems obvious that unchecked growth of the world's population will have a devastating impact on our future.

E.F.S.: Looking at this question of population purely academically, the first thing I would have to say is that talking about world population is already somewhat feebleminded, because in terms of population the world is not a unified system. It's not like the level of a lake that rises when you pour more water into it.

The United States is certainly—at least to a European—one of the great open spaces in the world. You could put the entire world population into the United States and the density of people would then be roughly that of England now. The problems of Bangladesh are virtually insoluble because here you have these many tens of millions of people living on a flood plain where nobody ought to be living, and this is what happens when population increases beyond the real resources. Nothing much can happen in Zambia until there is a somewhat higher density of population. Certain populations need to grow, others have to watch their step very carefully. It's everywhere different and we should clarify those differences before we attempt to talk sensibly about population problems.

Q.: In your writing you often talk about changes in our basic values and about "moral reconstruction" as a key in education. I'm certainly not asking you for a written-out program, but what are some of your thoughts about how a new moral climate could be established?

E.F.S.: You're now referring to this little book of mine, Small Is Beautiful. In that book some of the chapters are queen bee chapters, some of them are worker bee chapters and in some no doubt it's intermingled. Of course one can sit back—and this is not an entirely illegitimate activity—and analyze the dilemmas facing us.

I could say that Western civilization is a great deviation from the universal tradition of mankind into a gross form of materialism and that in the last analysis all our problems are due to this deviation. We are like Dante who wrote at the beginning of the great Divine Comedy, "In the middle of my life, I suddenly came to myself. I woke up and found myself in a thick, dark forest. I had lost my way." This can happen to a whole civilization and I think we are now waking up like Dante in a darkness and finding ourselves surrounded by problems on which we work ever more frantically but find we can't solve. And until we have a change in our hearts these problems will remain insoluble.

Insights and changes of the kind we are needing can come in two ways. Insight can come just from sheer insight and conscious thought, or it can come as a result of suffering. It is no accident that, if my general view of China is correct, the fundamental changes in their society have come about only after a long history of the most appalling civil wars and disasters, people perishing and going through fire as it were. That kind of suffering has produced people with a very clear insight into what is really necessary.

Q.: Our highly industrialized society is already clearly in the beginning stage of tremendous changes in its basic concepts and values and all its notions of growth and progress. I come down along with you squarely on the side of conscious thought as the best way to find a new focus and direction. But I also observe that our society still seems determined to suffer a great deal in its own way before its people learn what is really necessary.

E.F.S.: Everything, you see, finally comes down to some interpretation of why we are here on earth at all. And this is the great break that's happened. We live in a civilization where such questions are really not asked. It's below our proper dignity to even discuss them. But these are very vital questions, because if we are here for no purpose at all, as the theory of mindless evolution suggests, or if we are only an accidental collection of atoms, as Bertrand Russell used to say, then the whole thing is utterly meaningless. Man becomes a cosmic, tragic accident. There's nothing beyond death and we have no particular task here on earth because after all who should have given us a task. And the very word task is itself meaningless unless we're held to account, and of course who should hold us to account. This whole attitude produces the logic that I am primarily a consumer, a consumer of agreeable things, convenience, anything that can save any bother, or any pain and labor.

Now there's a different fundamental metaphysics, to put it very simply, that life is a school. Certain things have been laid into us, and we are given, tradition says, this position of the human being to complete ourselves. This process is, as the Buddhists say, "hard to obtain." One then becomes relatively uninterested, still tempted, but uninterested in all the little conveniences that are quite agreeable to consume. I mean I roughed it in India and other places and when I came back into a conveniently arranged hotel room I of course breathed a sigh of relief. But I didn't mistake that hotel room as an implementation of my life's task.

When the time has come to die, you die and there's nothing wrong with that because you're shedding this educational cross of your body and are much freer then to do with your mind or soul or spirit what is your ultimate destiny. Except that if you have allowed your mind or spirit to deteriorate during that short period of visible life, you are then in very poor condition. The greater freedom doesn't do you any good, just as excessive freedom for an unstable people doesn't do them any good. They will just find ways of utterly ruining themselves. . . . I don't know whether we should go into such things of philosophy. But it has a lot to do with all our quite definite mundane problems.

Q.: No, this is good, this is exactly what I wanted to get into talking about. There are so many people today who are making a break with the old values of industrial society and yet who are still searching for what you have called a sense of their own center, a sort of inner clarity about who they are and where they are going.

E.F.S.: This is certainly true. On a more worldly level, I would assert that the logical mind is an instrument, a tool like a knife or a sewing machine. Behind that instrument is another level of person that decides how to use it. We call this judgment or the choice made by our will, although some people of course deny that we have any will. Now the extraordinary thing is that if you do find the inner center, or you can call it the higher center, then your judgment becomes much better and your mind functions much more clearly. You can see through so many things and say, "Ah well, this approach to the problem can only add to the confusion, it can't solve anything." You can then withdraw from that particular wild goose chase. But if you decide to try something different from what the main stream of the tide is doing, and you go into it merely with your logical mind, you may really find yourself circling without a rudder. . . . You know, people want to get back closer to nature. Well, it's not very easy to make a living out of nature, and you can see it from all the many poor peasants in the world who are already born into a lot of experience with nature that we townies just don't have. So if you think farming is merely a technical problem, and I say this as the propagator of intermediate technology, you will get very easily discouraged.

Q.: So you think this may account for many of the problems and failures of people who have tried to go back to the land?

E.F.S.: I think it may explain the sad countenance of many people who are trying to do the right thing. A person said to me a few days ago, and he was a nice person, "I have some land and, I'm one of the lucky ones, I have some money. And with that money I want to set up on this land something relatively self-sufficient and ecologically sound."
Now I felt it incumbent upon myself to say, "Well, you know, it's not so jolly easy. But if you have some money behind you, you can afford mistakes that would ordinarily ruin you. So do it by all means, but go around and get the best advice you can. Read John and Sally Seymour's book and you'll see it's not roses all the way. But you will also find it's exhilarating and splendid, and productive of tremendous joy and cheerfulness and the things you miss are as nothing to the things you gain." And then he told me, "Yes, but you know I can't get rid of this feeling that not everybody has land, and not everybody has money behind them, so that I would be doing something on the basis of an accidental privilege."

That person felt guilty, and so many other people are carrying burdens which prevent them from doing cheerful productive work. People may want to work to build a new and sounder life in the country instead of hanging around New York City as office workers. But then they begin to feel guilty and think that they have no right to leave the city because there are so many other New Yorkers who can't get out.

Q.: So you're saying in order to do any really useful work, people must rid themselves of all this extra baggage.

E.F.S.: This baggage has to be thrown away and people must realize that their first task is to become part of the cure and not remain a part of the disease. And when they are themselves healthy and cheerful and upstanding, then they will have a better chance of helping the unfortunate find their own solutions.

I once pulled a man out of the sea, quite a long distance from shore. Only two people went out to try and rescue him, another man and myself. This other fellow I immediately found was not much of a swimmer and when we reached the drowning man, he lost his nerve and started shouting for help. And I told him to get the hell out of there and first look after himself. I didn't know yet if I could do anything with the one drowning man, but good Lord, I couldn't have two on my hands.

So I would say the first thing is that you must not yourself be a drowning man. You must not be part of the problem, you must be part of the answer. . . . No, you must not be part of the problem, period. Whether you can be part of the answer depends on a certain element of surplus bouyancy, which then expresses itself in cheerfulness.

Commentary - The Two Ways

CROWDED out of the concluding portion of the interview with E. F. Schumacher was this reply to a question about the achievements of present-day China:

E.F.S.: The Chinese estimate that it takes about thirty peasant work-years to keep one young person at a Chinese university for one year. This young person's natural tendency after five years of schooling and graduation may be to go into a fashionable district of Shanghai, where many like him are already gathered, and there form a sort of mutual admiration society. But the "brutality" of the system is such that the student is told no, you won't do that. After you've consumed one hundred and fifty peasant workyears, the peasants ought to get something back from you. You will therefore go, not to Shanghai, but into a remote village where no educated person has been all these years and see how you can help.

And then the graduate finds in many cases, so I hear, that what he's learned during his five years in college is of no use to the peasant. He then comes back to his school and says, for goodness sakes, if we have to pay back the peasants, then we had better learn something at the universities that is of use to them. So there is this feedback and the curriculum can change very quickly indeed.

Q.: It would be great if we could transfer that Chinese sense of community participation to the United States or Britain, but without the kind of coercion which the Chinese are able to use.

E.F.S.: What I've said about China is secondhand. My colleagues have been there, I've read a lot of literature, but I haven't experienced it on my own skin. And I'm like the rest of us, a person who doesn't like to be commandeered. But why do we have educational institutions? So new impulses can happen. It does make sense, after all, that if you have been educated by society, then society should get something back. This can happen in one of two ways. It can happen by compulsion or it can happen by a kind of moral climate having been established where it's understood that you accept this responsibility.

Encounter at the Edge of the New Paradigm - A Dialogue with E.F. Schumacher by Fritjof Capra.
The Slenderest Knowledge by E.F. Schumacher, Source.

Saving the least for last; the 'official' site is probably The E. F. Schumacher Society, as usual it looks like hangers-on & coat-tail riders, a complete index of his personal library there but no on-line version of Small Is Beautiful, doh!

Tags: , .