Book: Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered
Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered by E.F. Schumacher – book review
This is the book that broke me free of the "Capitalism benefits us all" mindframe. Most mainstream anti-capitalist materials come off (to me) as handwaving and fear-mongering by people who've made no attempt to study economics, or outright dismiss it. Not this book. Schumacher is concrete and specific and anchors everything to quotes from primary sources like Keynes (mostly analyzing what Keynes thought 100 years ago, and then seeing if this is true today)
Schumacher shows how foreign "intervention" in developing nations is a poverty-driving force, which surprised me. I always thought the USA was helping these nations by developing their technology, manufacturing, etc. But, for example, the colony isn't already dead so obviously they must have an existing local food chain, agriculture etc. There are local business ecosystem of farmers growing their own crops and trading them to clothes-makers. Clothes are hand made so they are relatively expensive. And then the USA comes in with economies of scale and says "here is a bunch of cheap Superbowl teeshirts that have the wrong team winning, some jeans that nobody bought, and also you can buy perfect genetically modified crops". Local businesses can't compete with economies of scale. Nobody buys the expensive local warty apple as compared with the cheap, unblemished, perfectly-shaped GMO apple. So agriculture goes out of business. Clothes makers go out of business. The local economy is interrupted. Now all these people who used to work on farms are unemployed, they have nothing of value to sell other than labor, so they move to cities looking for work in the new iPhone factory, and now there are ghettos. And the USA gets cheap labor, a way to dump goods that nobody else wanted, access to local minerals, total control over local government (just bribe a couple officials).
Then he points out that this phenomenon - mass migration of people from the country to cities - is happening domestically here in USA and is a sign that we are cannibalising our own people. Another way to word this is, economies of scale are a driving force of income inequality. He suggests the solution is "Buddhist Economics", a cultural shift where work is a human right, and locally sourced goods are used instead of economies of scale.