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John Atkinson Hobson

English social scientist and economist John Atkinson Hobson (1858 -1940) became best known for his writings on Imperialism through his early contribution to the field of economic principles known as the Theory of Under-Consumption. This theory scathingly criticizes the notion that free markets can solve economic problems automatically (in contrast to Say’s Law—Supply creates its own Demand--and the emphasis from Classical Economics on thrift, for which production constitutes the source of demand). Unfortunately, Under-Consumption discredited and excluded Hobson from the professional community of economists. Today, we might simply consider under-consumption as not how much one CAN eat but rather how much one SHOULD eat. Nonetheless, other works of Hobson critiqued the Classical Theory of Rent through anticipation of our modern theory of Marginal Productivity for the distribution of agricultural and industrial goods.

Mahatma Gandhi

The Indian activist, writer, and attorney Mohandas Karamchand (aka Mahatma) Gandhi (1869 -1948) commenced his public life as a lawyer who favored anti-colonial Nationalism. As a political ethicist, he employed nonviolent resistance to lead the successful campaign for the independence of his homeland from British rule. Through his work, Gandhi inspired decades of movements for civil rights and freedom throughout the world.

During his early years, three books influenced this young lawyer practicing in (British) South Africa: “Ethical Religion” (1889) by William Salter, “On the Duty of Civil Disobedience” (1849) by Henry David Thoreau, and “The Kingdom of God Is Within You” (1894) by Leo Tolstoy. However, the works of John Ruskin were of particular significance, inspiring Gandhi to live an austere life on a commune, first on the Phoenix Farm in Natal and then on the Tolstoy Farm near Johannesburg, South Africa.

During the 1920s, the insistence of Indian monk, activist, and publication manager Swami Anand, along with other closely allied co-workers, encouraged Gandhi to explain the background of his public campaigns. In response, Gandhi wrote his autobiography, which was serialized in the magazine Navajivan in 166 installments from 25 November 1925 to 3 February 1929. The collection was published as “Satya Na Prayogo” (“Experiments with Truth”), subtitled “Atmakatha” (“The Story of a Soul”). The English translation, “The Story of My Experiments with Truth,” was published by The Public Affairs Press of Washington, D.C., in 1948. In 1998, a committee of global spiritual and religious authorities led by Philip Zaleski, editor of HarperSanFrancisco’s annual collection of the best spiritual writings, designated “The Story of My Experiments with Truth” as one of the “100 Best Spiritual Books of the 20th Century.”

Richard Henry Tawney

English economic historian, social critic, Ethical Socialist, and Christian Socialist Richard Henry Tawney (1880 -1962) became an important proponent of adult education. Observers recognized him for making a significant impact in all of these interrelated roles. In his book “Historians I Have Known” (Gerald Duckworth & Co., London, 1995), English historian Alfred Leslie Rowse insists that “Tawney exercised the widest influence of any historian of his time, politically, socially and, above all, educationally.”

Tawney held that Christian Socialism, which blends the beliefs of Christianity and Socialism, represents both a religious and a political philosophy. Given the basis of the Bible and the teachings of Jesus, Tawney endorsed left-wing politics and Socialist Economics. Along with his influence and that of others, Christian Socialism and Social Justice emerged as major movements in the United Kingdom during the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.

Two books written by Tawney stand out as his most influential social criticism—“The Acquisitive Society” (Harcourt, Brace and Howe,1920) and his seminal work “Equality” (Allen & Unwin, 1931). In the first title, he criticizes the selfish individualism of modern society that encourages acquisition, thereby corrupting everyone through the promotion of economic self-interest. Tawney asserts that this self-interest leads to aimless production in response to greed and insatiable acquisitiveness. By extension, he attests that Nationalism leads to the perversion of Imperialism accompanied by a necessarily failed balance of strategic power, which results in unnecessary wars. Following these thoughts in his latter book, Tawney argues for an Egalitarian Society. He promotes equality of opportunity, which enables us to succeed according to our abilities. Both of his books reflect the Christian moral values held by Tawney. These exercised profound influence in both Britain and abroad while anticipating the concept of the Welfare State. Since that time, opposition from Christian Churches toward the new idolatry of wealth has surfaced intermittently from time to time. However, most observers believe that no individual critics have arisen with the combination of political wisdom, historical insight, and moral force than that of Tawney.

E.F. Schumacher

Rounding up our exploration of Humanistic Economics, we explore the thoughts of Schumacher. Born in Germany, Ernst Friedrich “Fritz” Schumacher (1911- 1977) became an internationally influential economic thinker through his professional background as a statistician and economist in Great Britain. During his career, Schumacher also served as Chief Economic Advisor to the UK National Coal Board for two decades. In his best-known book “Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered” (Blond & Briggs, 1973), Schumacher expands on his essay “Small Is Beautiful” in the periodical The Radical Humanist (August, 1973) in which he reminds us, “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius—and a lot of courage—to move in the opposite direction.”

Schumacher served as an adviser to the India Planning Commission as well as to the governments of Zambia and Burma, experiences that led to his interest in Buddhism. In his work “An Economics of Permanence/Buddhist Economics,” published by the Institute for the Study of Nonviolence in 1975, Schumacher explains, “The modern economist … is used to measuring the ‘standard of living’ by the amount of annual consumption, assuming all the time that a man who consumes more is ‘better off’ than a man who consumes less. A Buddhist economist would consider this approach excessively irrational: since consumption is merely a means to human well-being, the aim should be to obtain the maximum of well-being with the minimum of consumption.” He continues, “The ownership and the consumption of goods is a means to an end, and Buddhist economics is the systematic study of how to attain given ends with the minimum means. Modern economics, on the other hand, considers consumption to be the sole end and purpose of all economic activity, taking the factors of production—labor and capital—as the means. The former, in short, tries to maximize human satisfactions by the optimal pattern of consumption, while the latter tries to maximize consumption by the optimal pattern of productive effort.”

A Guide for the Perplexed

Over a period of eleven years, Schumacher used the pages of the pioneering British environmental magazine Resurgence in order to develop his ideas on a wide variety of subjects (what a novel idea!). Twenty-one of these articles were published as “A Guide for the Perplexed” (Harper Perennial Modern Thought, 1995). The great majority of articles by Schumacher remain unpublished. However, here we present some of his high points “A Guide” for reflection.

• “From the point of view of the employer, it [labor] is in any case simply an item of cost, to be reduced to a minimum if it cannot be eliminated altogether, say, by automation. From the point of view of the workman, it is a ‘disutility’; to work is to make a sacrifice of one’s leisure and comfort, and wages are a kind of compensation for the sacrifice.”

• “From a Buddhist point of view, this is standing the truth on its head by considering goods as more important than people and consumption as more important than creative activity. It means shifting the emphasis from the worker to the product of work, that is, from the human to the sub-human, surrender to the forces of evil.”

• “The Buddhist view ‘takes the function of work to be at least threefold’: “to give a man a chance to utilize and develop his faculties; to enable him to overcome his ego-centeredness by joining with other people in a common task; and to bring forth the goods and services needed for a becoming existence.”

• “To organize work in such a manner that it becomes 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 this worldly existence.”

The Schumacher Center for a New Economics Library in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, holds his personal collection of books and archives.

The Wrap

In a future segment of this series, we will demonstrate the process for developing quantitative sections of Forensic-Economic reports accompanied by personal reflection, thought, and commentary. Often, these qualities mirror the writings from some of the thinkers that we have reviewed, which have contributed to the small but meaningful subfield of Humanistic Economics. Namaste.
Dr. John F. Sase teaches Economics at Wayne State University and has practiced Forensic and Investigative Economics for twenty years. He earned a combined M.A. in Economics and an MBA at the University of Detroit, followed by a Ph.D. in Economics from Wayne State University. He is a graduate of the University of Detroit Jesuit High School (

Gerard J. Senick is a freelance writer, editor, and musician. He earned his degree in English at the University of Detroit and was a supervisory editor at Gale Research Company (now Cengage) for over twenty years. Currently, he edits books for publication (

Julie G. Sase is a copyeditor, parent coach, and empath. She earned her degree in English at Marygrove College and her graduate certificate in Parent Coaching from Seattle Pacific University. Ms. Sase coaches clients, writes articles, and edits copy (