Small is beautiful
The consumer economy is destroying our planet. We can childishly pretend like we will never feel the effects, or we can take responsibility for the situation and realise that this is an opportunity for an evolution. The book ‘Small is Beautiful’ by E.F. Schumacher is a deep inspiration behind some of the ideas I am sharing. The sub heading ‘A study of Economics as if People Matter’ hits the nail on the head.
What most people don’t realise about Economics (and I’m saying this after doing a Bsc in the subject) is that All economic models are based on assumptions that don’t hold true in real life. There are many of them, these assumptions, one of them being the assumption of the ‘rational man’. This Homo Economicus theory, a foundation of economic theory, assumes that it is ‘rational’ to always want more of a good rather than less of it. So it is rational to never be satisfied with what we have and always strive for more.
Similarly the measure of success that we allocate to our economy is one of ‘disposable income’, Ie the more money that you have to spend on consumables is the measure of how successful your life is. The above two concepts are two partners in crime that turn an economy into a destructive force.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. It is not business or work which is the root of the problem, but the concepts on top of which we have laid the levels of our modus operandi.
In Small is Beautiful, Schumacher makes a beautiful comparison between our consumer economy and a Buddhist economy. He notices how one small idea or philosophical change in the consciousness of an economy, can change it’s manifestation completely.
So as I was saying, in our economy we largely measure our success by how many goods we can buy. The calculation of the harm this success places on the environment or the community at large is completely ignored. In a Buddhist economy however, the measure of success is resource based. ie How can I produce what I need with the least possible resources and damage to society.
This viewpoint is based on a profound level of respect for the planet where we live and the finite resources that it produces. It is based on a very wholesome notion that we can be happy by simply getting our needs and not needing to always strive for more. And most heart warmingly it is an economic model which has space for all.
I believe that the theory of the ‘Rational Man’ needs to be seriously questioned in this day and age. I believe we really need to ask ourselves what makes us happy? Is it really an infinite amount of money and products, or will just spending more time with our loved ones give us the fulfilment that we are desperately seeking.
I feel that once individuals start to question the dogmatic beliefs that are at the foundation of our economy, education and communication, we will move to an economy where small is beautiful.
Where we won’t need to rape the planet to get our needs met, where people can do what they love to do and get their needs met and where our children are not brought up into a rat race that results in ADHD, depression,diabetes, anxiety and more.
I believe that our work can be beautiful and sustainable and rewarding and healing and fulfilling and contributing and serving
I believe that business can heal the planet