Last modified on 2 May 2015, at 16:01

E. F. Schumacher

Ernst Friedrich "Fritz" Schumacher (16 August 19114 September 1977) was an internationally influential economic thinker with a professional background as a statistician and economist in Britain. He served as Chief Economic Advisor to the UK National Coal Board for two decades.


Small is Beautiful: A Study of Economics As If People Mattered (1973)Edit

  • Perhaps we cannot raise the winds. But each of us can put up the sail, so that when the wind comes we can catch it.
  • Education can help us only if it produces “whole men”. The truly educated man is not a man who knows a bit of everything, not even the man who knows all the details of all subjects (if such a thing were possible): the “whole man” in fact, may have little detailed knowledge of facts and theories, he may treasure the Encyclopædia Britannica because “she knows and he needn’t”, but he will be truly in touch with the centre. He will not be in doubt about his basic convictions, about his view on the meaning and purpose of his life. He may not be able to explain these matters in words, but the conduct of his life will show a certain sureness of touch which stems from this inner clarity.
  • The cultivation and expansion of needs is the antithesis of wisdom. It is also the antithesis of freedom and peace. Every increase of needs tends to increase one’s dependence on outside forces over which one cannot have control, and therefore increases existential fear. Only by a reduction of needs can one promote a genuine reduction in those tensions which are the ultimate causes of strife and war.
    • p. 31.
  • Scientific and technological “solutions” which poison the environment or degrade the social structure and man himself are of no benefit, no matter how brilliantly conceived or how great their superficial attraction.
    • p. 31.
  • That soul-destroying, meaningless, mechanical, monotonous, moronic work is an insult to human nature which must necessarily and inevitable produce either escapism or aggression, and that no amount of “bread and circuses” can compensate for the damage done—these are facts which are neither denied nor acknowledged but are met with an unbreakable conspiracy of silence—because to deny them would be too obviously absurd and to acknowledge them would condemn the central preoccupation of modern society.
    • p. 35.
  • The disease having been caused by allowing cleverness to displace wisdom, no amount of clever research is likely to produce a cure.
    • p. 35.
  • It is doubly chimerical to build peace on economic foundations which, in turn, rest on the systematic cultivation of greed and envy, the very forces which drive men into conflict.
    • p. 36.

Buddhist EconomicsEdit

  • The 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” than 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 ownership and the consumption of goods is a means to an end, and Buddhist economics is the systematic study of how to attain given ends with the minimum means. Modern economics, on the other hand, considers consumption to be the sole end and purpose of all economic activity, taking the factors of production—labour and capital—as the means. The former, in short, tries to maximise human satisfactions by the optimal pattern of consumption, while the latter tries to maximise consumption by the optimal pattern of productive effort.

A Guide for the PerplexedEdit

  • From the point of view of the employer, it is in any case simply an item of cost, to be reduced to a minimum if it cannot be eliminated altogether, say, by automation. From the point of view of the workman, it is a 'disutility'; to work is to make a sacrifice of one's leisure and comfort, and wages are a kind of compensation for the sacrifice.
  • From a Buddhist point of view, this is standing the truth on its head by considering goods as more important than people and consumption as more important than creative activity. It means shifting the emphasis from the worker to the product of work, that is, from the human to the sub-human, surrender to the forces of evil.
  • The Buddhist view, “takes the function of work to be at least threefold”: “to give a man a chance to utilize and develop his faculties; to enable him to overcome his egocentredness by joining with other people in a common task; and to bring forth the goods and services needed for a becoming existence.”
  • To organize work in such a manner that it becomes meaningless, boring, stultifying, or nerve-racking for the worker would be little short of criminal; it would indicate a greater concern with goods than with people, an evil lack of compassion and a soul-destroying degree of attachment to the most primitive side of this worldly existence.
  • Anything that we can destroy, but are unable to make is, in a sense, sacred, and all our 'explanations' of it do not explain anything.


  • Small is beautiful
    • From title Small Is Beautiful: A Study of Economics As If People Mattered

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