[FutureBuddha (52)] BUDDHANOMICS (PART II)

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  • Jundo
    Treeleaf Founder and Priest
    • Apr 2006
    • 39237

    [FutureBuddha (52)] BUDDHANOMICS (PART II)



    “Buddhist economics” is a sub-field of the “dismal science” of economics, populated, as one would rightly assume, by economists who generally (not all) happen to be Buddhists too. Looking closely at the psychology of human desire and emotions that direct economic activity, while examining questions regarding what is harmful and beneficial in human choices and the direction of the wider society in our production and consumption of goods and services, Buddhist economists typically seek to find a truly beneficial middle way that preserves the best aspects of our modern economic systems, while asking what can make our lives even better. Sometimes, say the Buddhist economists, in order to do so, we even may need to return and relearn various values and lessons from the past that have been forgotten, although leaving behind the ignorance and oppression of the past. We can also learn lessons from the mountains, trees, and all of nature, while plotting a direction for humankind’s future.

    The Buddhist economic focus is on more cooperative and harmonious group living, and a checking of the excesses of selfishness and acquisition. The government of Bhutan, for example, has initiated the concept of "gross national happiness” (GNH), emphasizing individual well-being and satisfaction, to counter or supplement our current tendency to focus too much on “gross domestic product” (GDP). Material development is not enough; it may even make us poorer spiritually although richer materially, and can become a kind of self-feeding cancer whereby production expands primarily for production’s sake. We cannot stop selling even when markets are satiated, and thus must continually carve out new markets. We make consumers feel hooked on artificial needs, and exaggerated lack, in order to stimulate sales and incessantly expand markets.

    Figures like E. F. Schumacher, the Sri Lankan economist Neville Karunatilake, and Clair Brown, among others, although not homogeneous in their approaches, are voices within this corner of economics theory. They tend to speak of a wider definition of prosperity beyond material goods alone (although never forgetting our basic material needs), combined with sustainability and concern for the environment. In the shared views of such theorists, measures of economic performance must include concerns for basic fairness and equity, sustainability, and the providing of opportunities and activities to nurture a truly meaningful life: all while delivering the best food, housing, education, and health care that we can.

    A person’s true wealth depends more on inner spiritual wealth than outer material wealth. Nonetheless, we cannot discount the necessity for there to be a healthy degree of material wealth and external well-being to allow most of us to attain spiritual wealth and inner peace. Yes, some spiritual seekers do well in a life of abject poverty and denial, but I believe that most of us require moderation rather than impoverishment. Buddhist economics seeks to recognize the importance of both the material and the spiritual in proper balance for happiness. Desire allows us to do great things, as well as the small things that we must do in our day-to-day. While excess desire is an addiction and a poison, we still need to work for ourselves and for our family to put food on the table and clothes on our backs.

    We also need to choose the right things; Do we have our priorities backwards, building too many bombs and not enough beds in hospitals, cutting down trees without preserving trees sufficiently to clean the air and protect the land, rushing around in our fast cars and planes, but forgetting what is present right here in front of us? Ethics, and the protection of the lowest and most vulnerable among us from injustices, must also not be forgotten in our push to achieve. There is more to life than financial profit and individual gain, and we should instead seek to minimize suffering (both economic suffering and Buddhist concepts of psychological suffering) among the world’s citizenry.

    The way to satisfy desires is not to produce more and more for production’s sake, stuffing more into our bellies, but to simplify and learn happiness and contentment with less. Can people come to appreciate what they presently have and the treasures that money can’t buy, and to distinguish what are true necessities from mere luxuries? Can we question what we are consuming or demanding that may ultimately be harming us? Certainly, our wanting and manufacturing less would be generally better for the environment. Pursuing medical research is better for our well-being than building more high-fat fast food chains. It is not only the harmful effects on our bodies of excess calories compared to fitness, but the simple missed opportunities for investment in what people really need to live a good life. We produce excess plastic that fills our trash bins with throw-away items, clogs the oceans as waste, then fight wars over resources so that we can access the oil to produce ever more plastic!

    Rather than overemphasizing disparities and conflicts between economic winners and losers, employers vs. employees, owners vs. tenants, rich against poor, the powerful and the weak, first world and third world, or man vs. nature, Buddhists economists tend to see all (even nature) as joint stakeholders in the entire economic system. All such groups are interconnected, and have needs that must be balanced, none of which should be neglected. What is more, on this abundant planet, it is possible for society to thrive with the resources available, especially when combined with the technologies for their efficient use we are coming to invent, if we are wise in dividing the pie.

    But how can we accomplish this?

    It sounds like just another idealistic vision, as unrealizable as so many utopian pipe dreams of the past. However, things will be very different soon, unlike any time of the past, as tools for achieving change come out of the lab.

    Many dreamers of the past, from Plato to Augustine to Thomas More to Karl Marx (I would even include the Buddha on this list) proposed very stimulating but unrealizable visions of idyllic societies in which all beings would live well, in peace and harmoniously, making good choices. It is said that even the structure of the typical Zen Buddhist monastery, so much resembling a kibbutz, with all residents working to the best of their abilities while sharing equally in group property and basic resources, represents a utopian model that Dogen and others would have liked to see spread to the wider world. The problem is that most human beings cannot live up to such extreme ideals and high expectations. Communes and other experimental systems collapse inevitably, because people will not act for the greater good to the same degree that they will fend for their own pleasures and rewards, or that of their own family and tribe. Capitalism has proven to be a much more powerful and resilient system for this very reason, for it channels human selfishness while unleashing great human creativity.

    Thus, what we need to do is not radically change capitalism, but rather, change what its consumers and other market players demand as their own freely chosen pleasures and rewards within the system.

    The central problem for the dreamers, preachers, philosophers and revolutionaries of the past who proposed changes to human nature was that they all lacked any means to fundamentally change human nature, and thus to change what people would wish for subjectively as their desired personal pleasures and rewards. Even the Buddha and generations of Buddhist teachers have failed (mostly) in their attempts to bring the lessons and lifestyle of enlightenment and satisfaction to the vast majority of people through their recommendations and practices, thus coming to promise as a consolation some eventual relief in next lives down the road.

    In the near future, however, we will finally have a way to change things for the masses in this life.

    ... more on that way, next time ...

    ~ ~ ~

    "Gross National Happiness" (GNH) in Bhutan has been no panacea, and will be a difficult fit for the industrialized world ...

    ... not without changing human nature:


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    Last edited by Jundo; 08-30-2023, 04:11 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE
  • WorkerB
    Member
    • Jan 2023
    • 177

    #2
    Interesting, thank you!

    Patiently looking forward to next installment,
    b.


    st

    Comment

    • Jundo
      Treeleaf Founder and Priest
      • Apr 2006
      • 39237

      #3
      Originally posted by WorkerB
      Interesting, thank you!

      Patiently looking forward to next installment,
      b.


      st
      Be warned that my proposed solutions may be a bit radical, based on my judgements regarding (1) how extreme and life threatening are the world problems caused by our present ways which threaten millions of people, if not humanity, with war, ecological disaster, violent crime etc. etc., and (2) my belief that certain technologies and medical advances are coming anyway, are right around the corner, and will be used for good and bad whether we like them or not, no matter how much we protest ... and, if so, should be used in ways to solve these problems.

      Stay tuned.

      Gassho, J

      stlah
      ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

      Comment

      • WorkerB
        Member
        • Jan 2023
        • 177

        #4
        Radical? Bring it. Yesterday’s logic brought us to today’s circumstances. It’s time for a sea change. To your point, we have the ways and means with technological advances upon us.


        Gassho,
        b.

        st
        Last edited by WorkerB; 08-31-2023, 02:04 AM. Reason: Completed thought

        Comment

        • Tokan
          Treeleaf Unsui
          • Oct 2016
          • 1230

          #5
          Hopefully, one day, true harmony will exist on earth, and all will have their basic needs met.

          Gassho, Tokan

          satlah
          平道 島看 Heidou Tokan (Balanced Way Island Nurse)
          I enjoy learning from everyone, I simply hope to be a friend along the way

          Comment

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