I've run across several references to Small Is Beautiful recently, including this one several days ago on a peak oil website. The author of the piece picked out several propositions from Schumacher's economic ideas, two of which are below:
- First, primary goods (those produced by or extracted from nature--vegetables, coal, lumber, etc) "must come first in any economic analysis because they supply the preconditions for production of secondary goods" (everything else, made from those goods). There are many ways to build a house, for example, but only a tree can produce wood.
- Second, energy "is the gateway resource that allows all other resources to be extracted". Cheap energy allows us to many other things cheaply; the harder it is to obtain energy (think deepwater oil wells), the less resources we have for everything else. This is why we like the 20-to-1 return on energy used to run an anaerobic digester, and we like being in the energy business.