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Beckmann’s Economics as if Some People Mattered, or, Small is Not Beautiful

The late, great Dr. Petr Beckmann was editor of the great journal Access to Energy, founder of the dissident physics journal Galilean Electrodynamics (brochures and further Beckmann info here; further dissident physics links), author of The Health Hazards of NOT Going Nuclear (Amazon; PDF version) and the pamphlets The Non-Problem of Nuclear Waste and Why “Soft” Technology Will Not Be America’s Energy Salvation. (See also my post Access to Energy (archived comments), and this post.)

I just came across another favorite piece of his and have scanned it in: Economics as if Some People Mattered (review of Small is Beautiful by E.F. Schumacher), first published in Reason (October 1978), and reprinted in Free Minds & Free Markets: Twenty-Five Years of Reason (1993). Those (including some libertarians and fellow travelers) who also have a thing for “smallness” and bucolic pastoralism should give this a read.

Some excerpts:

Small is Beautiful is the title of a book by E.F. Schumacher. It is also a slogan describing a state of mind in which people clamor for the rural idyll that (they think) comes with primitive energy sources, small-scale production, and small communities. Yet much–perhaps most–of their clamor is not really for what they consider small and beautiful; it is for the destruction of what they consider big and ugly.

… The free market does not, of course, eradicate human greed, but it directs it into channels that the consumer the maximum benefit, for it is he who benefits from the competition of”profit-greedy” businessmen. The idea that the free market is highly popular among businessmen is one that is widespread, but not among sound economists. It was not very popular in 1776, when Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations was published, and it has not become terribly popular with all of them since–which is not surprising, for the free market benefits the consumer but disciplines the businessman.

If the free market is so popular with business, what are all those business lobbies doing in Washington? The shipping lobby wants favors for U.S. ships; the airlines yell rape and robbery when deregulation from the governmental CAB cartel threatens; the farmers’ lobby clamors for more subsidies. What all these lobbies are after is not a freer market but a bigger nipple on the federal sow.

And also Lew Rockwell’s Rockwell’s Anti-Environmentalist Manifesto, George Reisman’s The Toxicity of Environmentalism and Environmentalism Refuted, and Robert James Bidinotto’s Environmentalism or Individualism?, and other piece mentioned in my post Environmentalists Are a Cancer on the Earth.

[Mises blog cross-post]

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