Facing Social Revolution: The Personal Journey of a Quaker Economist

By Jack Powelson; Jim Corbett et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 20
What Can One Person Do?

After Kenya, I was in a box. I had spent years studying economic planning, only to conclude that planning made it easier for the rich to extort from the poor. Both personal observations and studies of history had undermined my faith that élitist governments, whether socialist or not, would help the poor. But many years earlier, when I received my doctorate, I had decided to use my skills to help humankind. Now those skills seemed useless. What to do?

I thought back on Art Mosher, when he was Director of the Agricultural Development Council. Art didn't tell farmers what seed they should use. Visiting a third-world village, he would pick out the farmer producing the best seed locally; he would buy some and hire others to plant it. Then he would leave town. The rest - he knew - they could figure out for themselves. Later on, he would send a post card. "Why did you send that?" the farmers would ask when next they saw him; "you know we can't read.""How can I help you improve your crops if you can't read?" Art would counter, again leaving the rest to them.

I thought of George Butler. In 1973, George was the sole American in a project in Western Province, Kenya, called Partnership for Productivity. PfP was the brainchild of David Scull of Langley Hill Meeting in Virginia, to which Robin and I used to belong. David, who had a small business of his own, wanted to make modern management practices available to tiny businesses in the Third World. He had hired George as field specialist.

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