3 Books to Get You Thinking about a New, Alternative Economy.

Small is Beautiful, Banker to the Poor and Re Discovering Values.

Ever since the 2008 global financial crisis and (in my observations) the poor response to this and our failure to recover from it, I have given more and more thought to what ideas and solutions might make a significant impact.

Then about two and a half years ago I came to the conclusion (more of a revelation than a conclusion for me), that what is really needed is the building and planting of a new, alternative economy — a new grid so to speak; that the existing economic models with their political and institutional foundations and deep rooted ideology, are largely unreformable. That the only way to bring real change is to establish such a new grid, parallel to that which we have.

I have been on a journey ever since, going deeper and deeper into this and asking myself the question: What should such a new, alternative economy be like?

I would like to share three books with you, which have given me great insights, stimulated my thinking and inspired me to push on in my quest; and to share a few quotes from each book which will hopefully get you to read them as well!

Small is Beautiful. A study of economics as if people mattered.

By E.F. Schumacher. 1973.

“Among material resources, the greatest, unquestionably, is the land. Study how a society uses its land, and you can come to pretty reliable conclusions as to what its future will be.”

“Development does not start with goods; it starts with people and their education, organisation and discipline.”

“The poor can be helped to help themselves, but only by making available to them a technology that recognises the economic boundaries and limitations of poverty — an intermediate technology.”

“Once a large organisation has come into being, it normally goes through alternating phases of centralising and decentralising, like swings in a pendulum … Maybe what we really need is not either-or but the-one-and-the-other-at-the-same-time.”

“Therefore, the task is to look at the organisation’s activities one by one and set up as many quasi-firms as may seem possible and reasonable.”

Banker to the Poor. Micro-lending and the battle against world poverty.

By Muhammad Yunus. 1999.

“I firmly believe that all human beings have an innate skill. I call it the survival skill. The fact that the poor are alive is clear proof of their ability. They do not need us to teach them how to survive; they already know how to do this.’’

“So rather than waste our time teaching them new skills, we try to make maximum use of their existing skills. Giving the poor access to credit allows them to immediately put into practice the skills they already know — to weave, husk rice paddy, raise cows, peddle a ricksaw.”

“Whenever I am asked if Grameen can work in other countries, I respond emphatically that it can work wherever there is poverty, including the wealthy countries. The poor throughout the world are worthy of credit.”

“There is little doubt that the free market, as now organized, does not provide solutions to all social ills. It provides neither economic opportunities nor access to health and education for the poor or the elderly. Even so, I believe that government, as we know it, should pull out of most things except for law enforcement, the justice system, national defence and foreign policy, and let the private sector, a “Grameenized private sector”, a social-consciousness-driven private sector, take over its other functions.”

Re Discovering Values. A moral compass for the new economy.

By Jim Wallis. 2010.

“We turn all of life, love, knowledge and relationships into commodities and let the market give them a price to see if they thrive or go bankrupt.”

“And while wealth does not seem to trickle down from the top of this economy to the bottom, it does seem that bad behaviour and bad values do trickle down, and all of us have some serious self-reflection to do.”

“People need jobs, but people also need good work”.

“We need to start talking more about the meaning of our work and not just the money we get from it.”

“A new message is emerging: That service to your neighbor and the common good is more rewarding and fulfilling than the endless pursuit of individual gain.”

What books do you suggest which promote the new, alternative economy we so desperately need?