Economics, which Lord Keynes had hoped would settle down as a modest occupation similar to dentistry, suddenly becomes the most important subject of all.
There is no such thing as the viability of states or of nations, there is only a problem of viability of people: people, actual persons like you and me, are viable when they can stand on their own feet and earn their keep. You do not make non-viable people viable by putting large numbers of them into one huge community, and you do not make viable people non-viable by splitting a large community into a number of smaller, more intimate, more coherent and more manageable groups.
The economic calculus, as applied by present-day economics, forces the industrialist to eliminate the human factor because machines do not make mistakes, which people do. Hence the enormous effort at automation and the drive for ever-larger units. This means that those who have nothing to sell but their labor remain in the weakest possible bargaining position.
The conventional wisdom of what is now taught as economics bypasses the poor, the very people for whom development is really needed. The economics of giantism and automation is a leftover of nineteenth-century conditions and nineteenth-century thinking and it is totally incapable of solving any of the real problems of today. An entirely new system of thought is needed, a system based on attention to people, and not primarily attention to goods—(the goods will look after themselves!). It could be summed up in the phrase, "production by the masses, rather than mass production."
What is the meaning of democracy, freedom, human dignity, standard of living, self-realization, fulfillment? Is it a matter of goods, or of people? Of course it is a matter of people. But people can be themselves only in small comprehensible groups.
Chapter 6: The Great Resource - Education
Revitalizing local economies means rethinking education - examining the connection between ever greater specialization and increasing dependence on an ever larger economic arena. Today, modern education is training children around the world for the centralized global economy. Essentially the same curriculum is taught in every environment, no matter what the cultural tradition or local resources.
Promoting regional and local adaptation in the schools would be an essential part of the revitalization of local economies. Training in locally-adapted agriculture, architecture, artisan production, and appropriate technologies suited to the specifics of climate and local resources would further a real decentralization of production for basic needs. Rather than educating the young for ever greater specialization in a competitive, ‘jobless growth’ economy, children would be equipped for diverse economic systems that depended primarily, but not exclusively, on local resources. This, of course, would not mean that information about the rest of the world would be excluded. On the contrary, knowledge about other cultures and cultural exchange programs would be an important part of the educational process.
- Helena Norberg-Hodge in Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered: 25 Years Later...with Commentaries
All history – as well as all current experience – points to the fact that it is man, not nature, who provides the primary resource: that the key factor of all economic development comes out of the mind of man.
At present, there can be little doubt that the whole of mankind is in mortal danger, not because we are short of scientific and technological know-how, but because we tend to use it destructively, without wisdom. More education can help us only if produces more wisdom.
On the basis of experience and conscious thought small ideas may easily be dislodged, but when it comes to bigger, more universal, or more subtle ideas it may not be so easy to change them. Indeed, it is often difficult to become aware of them, as they are the instruments and not the results of our thinking—just as you can see what is outside you, but cannot easily see that with which you see, the eye itself.
The way in which we experience and interpret the world obviously depends very much indeed on the kind of ideas that fill our minds.
The essence of education…is the transmission of values, but values do not help us to pick our way through life unless they have become our own, a part, so to say, of our mental make-up. This means that they are more than mere formulae or dogmatic assertions: that we think and feel with them, that they are the very instruments through which we look at, interpret, and experience the world.
When people ask for education…I think what they are really looking for is ideas that would make the world, and their own lives, intelligible to them. When a thing is intelligible you have a sense of participation; when a thing is unintelligible you have a sense of estrangement.
What is at fault is no specialization, but the lack of depth with which the subjects are usually presented, and the absence of metaphysical awareness.
We have become confused to what our convictions really are. The great ideas of the nineteenth century may fill our minds in one way or another, but our hearts do not believe in them all the same. Mind and heart are at war with one another, not, as is commonly asserted, reason and faith. Our reason has become so beclouded by an extraordinary, blind, and unreasonable faith in a set of fantastic and life-destroying ideas inherited from the nineteenth century. It is the foremost task of our reason to recover a truer faith than that.