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    Boulding, Kenneth Ewart


In the imagination of those who are sensitive to the realities of our era, the earth has become a spaceship, and this, perhaps, is the most important single fact of our day. For millennia, the earth in men’s minds was flat and illimitable. Today, as a result of exploration, speed, and the explosion of scientific knowledge, earth has become a tiny sphere, closed, limited, crowded, and hurtling through space to unknown destinations. This change in man’s image of his home affects his behaviour in many ways, and is likely to affect it much more in the future.

Kenneth Ewart Boulding (1910-1993) American economist, educator, poet, philosopher
“Earth as a Spaceship,” Lecture, Washington State University (10 May 1965)
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Added on 11-Nov-13 | Last updated 11-Nov-13
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Even personal tastes are learned, in the matrix of a culture or a subculture in which we grow up, by very much the same kind of process by which we learn our common values. Purely personal tastes, indeed, can only survive in a culture which tolerates them, that is, which has a common value that private tastes of certain kinds should be allowed.

Kenneth Ewart Boulding (1910-1993) American economist, educator, poet, philosopher
“Economics As A Moral Science,” American Economic Review (Mar 1969)
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Added on 18-Nov-13 | Last updated 18-Nov-13
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We cannot walk before we toddle,
Though we may toddle far too long,
If we embrace a lovely Model
That is consistent, clear, and wrong.

Kenneth Ewart Boulding (1910-1993) American economist, educator, poet, philosopher
“Experts,” Notes from Woods Hole [unpublished] (1976)
 
Added on 6-Jan-14 | Last updated 6-Jan-14
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We face the dilemma … that if everyone gets his desserts, some may be driven from the table: and if everyone comes to the table, some may not get their desserts. In practice, this seems to be resolved by the establishment of a social minimum as reflected for instance, in the poor law, in social security and various welfare services. The principle of dessert come into play above this social minimum. That is to say, society lays a modest table at which all can sup and a high table at which the deserving can feast.

Kenneth Ewart Boulding (1910-1993) American economist, educator, poet, philosopher
“Social Justice in Social Dynamics” (1962)
 
Added on 4-Nov-13 | Last updated 4-Nov-13
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Nothing fails like success because we don’t learn from it. We learn only from failure.

Kenneth Ewart Boulding (1910-1993) American economist, educator, poet, philosopher
“The diminishing returns of science,” New Scientist (25 Mar 1971)


Restated in Ecodynamics: A New Theory Of Societal Evolution (1978) as: "Nothing fails like success, because we do not learn anything from it. We only learn from failure, but we do not always learn the right things from failure."
 
Added on 17-Oct-05 | Last updated 13-Aug-13
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Don’t go to great trouble to optimize something that never should be done at all. Aim to enhance total systems properties, such as creativity, stability, diversity, resilience, and sustainability — whether they are easily measured or not.

Kenneth Ewart Boulding (1910-1993) American economist, educator, poet, philosopher
(Attributed)
 
Added on 27-Jan-14 | Last updated 27-Jan-14
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I have been gradually coming under the conviction, disturbing for a professional theorist, that there is no such thing as economics – there is only social science applied to economic problems.

Kenneth Ewart Boulding (1910-1993) American economist, educator, poet, philosopher
A Reconstruction of Economics, Introduction (1950)
 
Added on 14-Oct-13 | Last updated 14-Oct-13
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Dialectics in many different forms has a surprisingly good press. Most people believe that struggle is very important and that it is important to be on the right side in a conflict. … Part of the difficulty is that the human race has an enormous and by no means unreasonable passion for the dramatic, and conflict is much more dramatic than production. … The awful truth about the universe — that it is not only rather a muddle, but also pretty dull — is wholly unacceptable to the human imagination. Nevertheless, it is the dull, nondialectical processes that hold the world together, that move it forward, and that provide the setting within which the dialectical processes take place. Evolution is the theatre, dialectics the play. It is a tragic error to mistake the play for the theatre, however, because that all too easily ends in the theatre burning down … Unless there is a reasonably widespread appreciation of the proper role of dialectical processes, these tend to get out of hand and become extremely destructive … doing more harm than good.

Kenneth Ewart Boulding (1910-1993) American economist, educator, poet, philosopher
Ecodynamics: A New Theory Of Societal Evolution (1978)
 
Added on 23-Dec-13 | Last updated 23-Dec-13
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The complaint is frequently heard that people want “facts”, not “theories”. The complaint may be justified in protest against theories which have no basis in fact, but usually it arises from a misunderstanding of the true relationships of facts and theories. Theories without facts may be barren, but facts without theories are meaningless. It is only “theory” — i.e., a body of principles — which enables us to approach the bewildering complexity and chaos of fact, select the facts significant for our purposes, and interpret the significance.

Kenneth Ewart Boulding (1910-1993) American economist, educator, poet, philosopher
Economic Analysis (1941)
 
Added on 8-Oct-13 | Last updated 8-Oct-13
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The organization of science into disciplines sets up a series of ghettos with remarkable distances of artificial social space between them.

Kenneth Ewart Boulding (1910-1993) American economist, educator, poet, philosopher
Image and Environment, Introduction (1973)
 
Added on 25-Nov-13 | Last updated 25-Nov-13
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Private property is a means, and neither its abolition nor its unrestricted right should be an end in itself.

Kenneth Ewart Boulding (1910-1993) American economist, educator, poet, philosopher
Principles of of Economic Policy (1958)
 
Added on 28-Oct-13 | Last updated 28-Oct-13
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Economic problems have no sharp edges. They shade off imperceptibly into politics, sociology, and ethics. Indeed, it is hardly an exaggeration to say that the ultimate answer to every economic problem lies in some other field.

Kenneth Ewart Boulding (1910-1993) American economist, educator, poet, philosopher
The Economics of Peace (1945)
 
Added on 1-Oct-13 | Last updated 1-Oct-13
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What I have been talking about is knowledge. Knowledge, perhaps, is not a good word for this. Perhaps one would rather say my image of the world. Knowledge has an implication of validity, of truth. What I am talking about is what I believe to be true; my subjective knowledge. It is this Image that largely governs my behavior. In about an hour I shall rise, leave my office, go to a car, drive down to my home, play with the children, have supper, perhaps read a book, go to bed. I can predict this behavior with a fair degree to accuracy because of the knowledge which I have: the knowledge that I have a home not far away, to which I am accustomed to go. The prediction, of course, may not be fulfilled. There may be an earthquake, I may have an accident with the car on the way home, I may get home to find that my family has been suddenly called away. A hundred and one things may happen. As each event occurs, however, it alters my knowledge structure or my image. And as it alters my image, I behave accordingly. The first proposition of this work, therefore, is that behavior depends on the image.

Kenneth Ewart Boulding (1910-1993) American economist, educator, poet, philosopher
The Image: Knowledge in Life and Society, ch. 1 (1956)
 
Added on 21-Oct-13 | Last updated 21-Oct-13
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We should always bear in mind that numbers represent a simplification of reality.

Kenneth Ewart Boulding (1910-1993) American economist, educator, poet, philosopher
Three Faces of Power (1989)
 
Added on 13-Jan-14 | Last updated 13-Jan-14
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The world moves into the future as a result of decisions, not as a result of plans. Plans are significant only insofar as they affect decisions.

Kenneth Ewart Boulding (1910-1993) American economist, educator, poet, philosopher
Toward a General Social Science, ch. 1 (1974)
 
Added on 9-Dec-13 | Last updated 9-Dec-13
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Anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist.

Kenneth Ewart Boulding (1910-1993) American economist, educator, poet, philosopher
Hearings on the Energy Reorganization Act (HR 11510), US House of Representatives (1973)
 
Added on 2-Dec-13 | Last updated 2-Dec-13
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The only religion that still demands human sacrifice is nationalism.

Kenneth Ewart Boulding (1910-1993) American economist, educator, poet, philosopher
Lecture, University of Michigan (28 Jan 1969)
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Quoted in Stephen Nelson, "Nature/Nurture Revisited I: A Review of the Biological Bases of Conflict," Journal of Conflict Resolution (Jun 1974).
 
Added on 20-Jan-14 | Last updated 20-Jan-14
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The World is a very complex system. It is easy to have too simple a view of it, and it is easy to do harm and to make things worse under the impulse to do good and make things better.

Kenneth Ewart Boulding (1910-1993) American economist, educator, poet, philosopher
Speech, 7th Friends Association for Higher Education Conference, Malone College (1986)
 
Added on 30-Dec-13 | Last updated 30-Dec-13
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The World is a very complex system. It is easy to have too simple a view of it, and it is easy to do harm and to make things worse under the impulse to do good and make things better.

Kenneth Ewart Boulding (1910-1993) American economist, educator, poet, philosopher
Speech, Friends Association for Higher Education Conference, Malone College (1986)
 
Added on 3-Feb-14 | Last updated 3-Feb-14
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