Buddhist Economics


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Everything is Connected:

The economic models and theories that prevailed through the 20th century are rapidly falling apart. Economists scramble to offer explanations and solutions. However, much of what has gone wrong was anticipated years ago by E. F. Schumacher (1911-1977), an Oxford economist and protégé of John Maynard Keynes who proposed a theory of “Buddhist Economics” following his interest and studies in Asian philosophies.

Schumacher was among the first to argue that economic production was too wasteful of the environment and non-renewable resources. But even more than that, he saw decades ago that ever-increasing production and consumption — the foundation of the modern economy — is unsustainable.

Never see what has been done; only see what remains to be done.

Schumacher wrote that western economics measures “standard of living” by “consumption” and assumes a person who consumes more is better off than one who consumes less. He also discusses the fact that employers consider their workers to be an “expense” to be reduced as much as possible.  He questioned the theory that some amount of unemployment might be better “for the economy.”

What we think, we become.

Schumacher argued that an economy should exist to serve the needs of people. But in a “materialist” economy, people exist to serve the economy.  Notably, he argued that labor should be about more than production because a person’s work has psychological and spiritual value that must be respected.

Instead we consider 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 subhuman.”  We have outsourced our soul.

Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.

Today, many enterprises – some entire industries – are failing and they cannot understand why.  Over time, they have crossed that philosophical line and now serve advertisers, not their customers.

Traditional media and journalism are an example; they scare people, feed on their anxieties, promote insecurities, and stoke desire.  Demographers trespass into people’s homes, collect statistics, run numbers, and design messages that steal the things people love about their self and sell it back for the price of the product.

We end up with no end of entertaining consumer products that soon end up in landfills, but we fail to provide for some basic human needs, like health care for everyone.

A jug fills drop by drop:

Top News in Business Week Print Edition v. Growth Rate for print media:

•    Pending Home Sales Rise for Third Straight Month
•    GM: A View from the Back Seat
•    U.S. Corporations Size Up Their Carbon Footprints
•    Move Over, Amazon? Google Aims to Sell e-Books

Top News in Business Week Exchange – Reader Chosen Topics vs. Growth rate.

•    Social Networking

•    Global Economy
•    US Economy
•    Green Energy

The Editor selected topics in the top chart are aligned with corporations, consumption, and large bailout efforts.  Meanwhile, the reader selected topics in the second category screams: “Hey, where are we and where are we going?”

It would seem that mainstream media should be asking the same question.

(ed note: special thanks Barbara O’Brian at about.com)

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