Thursday, May 30, 2013

Could "Small is Beautiful" have topped 1930s bestseller lists ?

He is a brilliant young economist, regarded as one of the best of his generation--- educated at Berlin and Bonn and at the London School of Economics, given a Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford and Columbia University, where he is hired as a lecturer.

He also has real world experience as an international investment banker.

No wonder then that this wunderkind's  PhD, "Small is Beautiful", is quickly published in 1938 upon his graduation at age 27, and soon climbs the bestseller lists and is translated into many languages and is regarded as a timeless classic and an epoch-making book.

Because most historians credit it for ending the then real possibility of a world-wide European War.

But alas, it is not to be : E F Schumacher had to wait 30 years and his retirement to begin writing the essays that made his 1973 publication the Bible of our Green Age.

His book or any book* like it, simply won't have become a bestseller in the 1930s.

(* Scott Nearing's "Must We Starve?" written from a back-to-the-land farm in northern New England in 1932, might be an example of a similar book, published in the 1930s that was largely un-read in the 1930s.)

The ordinary middle class members of the world of the 1930s  (the grandparents and parents of the people who did eventually buy it) were simply opposed to the main ideas of "Small Is Beautiful".

Simply knew - in their heart of hearts - that while Schumacher's ideas were well intentioned, they were also quite simply, naturally wrong --- proven wrong by Nature.

Science had proved it so : sorry, end of story.

The origins of WWII come down, in the end, to the fact that the general public's belief in the "Progress is inevitably Bigger and Better" meta-ideology was just as strong as that of Stalin and FDR and Hitler.

Only the public's achingly slow post-war assessment of the sad lessons of WWII (when that meta-ideology was given its wings to fly) led them to the position where they could come to see the value of "Small Is Beautiful" .....

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