What is Barefoot Economics? How does it contribute to your daily carriage as a human being? Spawned from the Chilean Economist Manfred Max-Neef, Barefoot Economics has an objective to provide an evaluation tool to all of those that are involved in decision making within enterprises, in efforts to create a healthier workplace. I’m sure we all can relate to the corresponding topic, especially those who are currently working full-time within an office setting. This concept was introduced in a book entitled “From the Outside Looking in: Experiences in Barefoot Economics.” The book addresses, as well as criticizes, the pioneering efforts of orthodox development economics, as well as a new vision of development in which the poor must learn to circumvent the national economic system.
With an extraordinary influence on grassroots development projects, Neef guides us into a world where the poor are suffering, and do not necessarily care about the GDP within their own country. Rather, they want to know where their next meal is coming from. More of this issue was addressed in the Democracy Now Transcript.
"And we were looking at each other, and then suddenly I realized that I had nothing coherent to say to that man in those circumstances, that my whole language as an economist, you know, was absolutely useless. Should I tell him that he should be happy because the GDP had grown five percent or something? Everything was absurd."
The above excerpt highlights the difference in perception, as well as wealth of understanding, between the economist and the villager. The art of language was also highlighted which was interesting to read. Besides being a “method of human communication, either spoken or written, consisting of the use of words in a structured and conventional way”, language can also be felt, as if it’s a spiritual essence or presence among two human beings.
Given the conditions the villager was in, as opposed to the conditions the economist(Neef) was used to, it's pretty obvious that the language was different. There is no concern for the GDP rate growing at all. That villager doesn’t care about the GDP rates. All he wants to do is provide a stable living environment for his family.
"The point is, you know, that economists study and analyze poverty in their nice offices, have all the statistics, make all the models, and are convinced that they know everything that you can know about poverty. But they don’t understand poverty. And that’s the big problem."
There is a huge difference between knowing what poverty is, and understanding what poverty is. Understanding requires experience, which is something that economist may know nothing about. Of course they have to study poverty, hence the models and statistics they have to concoct on roughly a daily basis. However, they are concocting these models from a place with no understanding or experience of poverty. This is what separates a Manfred Max-Neef from a traditional development economist. Nobody is willing to tear one hundred dollar shoes off and truly live inside of the very subject that they are studying. This is a problem that has to be addressed as soon as possible.