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Version: 2.0
(October 6, 2006)

E. F. Schumacher

7/4/2006
"Man is small, and, therefore, small is beautiful."

-E.F. Schumacher

E. F. Schumacher was born in Bonn, Germany on August 16, 1911. After studying at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, he immigrated to England and there drew the attention of prominent economist John Maynard Keynes with his essay "Multilateral Clearing". In 1946 he returned to Germany as a member of the British Control Commission. There, his ideas on "what was appropriate . . . in terms of scale and ownership began to take form. As he studied the restructuring of Germany's economy, the strategic role of energy, soon to become a linchpin of his thinking, became apparent to him. He became equally convinced of the necessity for currency reform as a means of preventing the concentration of wealth among the few what the expense of the many. . .(1)" Schumacher went on to serve on the U.K. Coal Board and as a columnist for the London Times.

Schumacher wrote many books and essays exploring the humanist nature of epistemology, science, and economics. His primary interest was in the alignment of economic priorities, especially with advocating placing a higher value on human life than on product or materialism. An economy, he believed, must be measured in human terms because it must serve human needs. In his essay "Buddhist Economics", Schumacher wrote that "To organise work in such a manner that it would become 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 the worldly existence (2)."

The economic changes proposed by Schumacher have deeply influenced or at least articulated the philosophy of the sustainable agriculture movement. His position that the human and environmental elements in an economy are valid (if not the primary) concerns falls directly in line with the central goals of sustainable agriculture. Sustainable agriculture aims to provide for all, optimally improving the status quo (as Schumacher suggested) by supplying people with what society should guarantee as inherently their's - a fulfilling livelihood, safe and nutritious food, a cohesive community, and vibrant land.

(1) Todd, Nancy Jack. "E. F. Schumacher, an Appreciation." People, Land, and Community: The Collected E. F. Schumacher Society Lectures. 1997. E. F. Schumacher Society. 1 July 2006.

(2) Schumacher, E. F. "Buddhist Economics." An Economics of Peace Great Barrington: The E. F. Schumacher Society, 2001. 3.