Buddhist Approach to Economic Transformation

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* Book: Ethical Principles and Economic Transformation. A Buddhist Approach. edited by Laszlo Zsolnai. Springer, 2011

Abstract

“The book presents new contributions of Buddhist economics to pressing socio-economic problems. Buddhism points out that emphasizing individuality and promoting the greatest fulfillment of the desires of the individual conjointly lead to destruction. The book promotes the basic value-choices of Buddhism, namely happiness, peace and permanence. Happiness research convincingly shows that not material wealth but the richness of personal relationships determines happiness. Not things, but people make people happy. Western economics tries to provide people with happiness by supplying enormous quantities of things and today’s dominating business models are based on and cultivates narrow self-centeredness.But what people need are caring relationships and generosity. Buddhist economics makes these values accessible by direct provision. Peace can be achieved in nonviolent ways. Wanting less can substantially contribute to this endeavor and make it happen more easily. Permanence, or ecological sustainability, requires a drastic cutback in the present level of consumption and production globally. This reduction should not be an inconvenient exercise of self-sacrifice. In the noble ethos of reducing suffering it can be a positive development path for humanity.”


Contents

Preface

Introduction, Laszlo Zsolnai: Why Buddhist Economics?

Part 1: Buddhist Ethics Applied to Economics

  1. Julie A. Nelson: The Relational Economy
  2. Peter Daniels: Buddhism and Sustainable Consumption
  3. Julia Essen: Economic Sufficiency and Santi Asoke
  4. Joel C. Magnuson: Pathways to a Mindful Economy


Part 2: Achieving Happiness and Peace

  1. Colin Ash: Do Our Economic Choices Make Us Happy?
  2. Sander Tideman: Gross National Happiness
  3. Bronwen Rees and Tamas Agocs: The Application of Buddhist Theory and Practice in Modern Organisations
  4. Laurens van den Muyzenberg: Leadership the Buddhist Way


Conclusion

Laszlo Zsolnai: The Contributions of Buddhist Economics


Excerpts

Preface

Laszlo Zsolnai:

This book presents new insights of Buddhist ethics applied to economics and business. Buddhism suggests an approach to economic life, which is radically different from what mainstream Western economics offers. Buddhism promotes want negation and selfless service of others for achieving happiness, peace and permanence. These ideas might seem irrational or at least naïve for the Western mind which is preoccupied by cultivating desires and the instrumental use of the world. However, the deep ecological and financial crisis of our era renders alternative solutions worthy for consideration.

The economic crisis of 2008-2010 produced financial losses of billions of USD in the form of poisoned debts, the decline of stock prices and the value depreciation of properties. Formerly fast growing economies such as Ireland, Spain, Singapore and Taiwan experienced 5-10 % decline in their GDP. The fundamental cause of the crisis is the ignorance and avarice of investors fueled by irresponsible financial institutions. The prospect of future economic growth supposed to be the guarantor of the indebtedness of households, companies and economies. Today we experience a considerable downscaling of our economic activities.

The present scale of economic activities of humankind is ecologically unsustainable. The so-called ecological footprint calculations clearly show this. The ecological footprint of a person is equal with the land and water that is required to support his or her activities indefinitely using prevailing technology. The sustainable ecological footprint – also called "earthshare" – is the average amount of ecologically productive land and sea available globally per capita. According to the latest available data the ecological footprint of humankind exceeds the ecological capacity of the Earth by 200-250 %. It means that we would need 2-2.5 Earths for continuing our present lifestyle. The ecological footprints of the most industrialized countries are shocking. These countries are ecologically overshot by 250-600 %.


Ecological economists argue that the material throughput of the economy should be drastically reduced in the industrialized countries and also globally. We need to undertake an "economic diet" by introducing more frugal production and consumption patterns. Frugality, that is, reduced material activities, is crucial for our survival.

The Global Warming Survival Guide created by the American weekly magazine, Time suggests the following: "There is an older path to reducing our impact on the planet that will feel familiar to Evangelical Christians and Buddhists alike. Live simply. Meditate. Consume less. Think more. Get to know your neighbors. Borrow when you need to and lend when asked. E. F. Schumacher praised that philosophy this way in Small Is Beautiful: Amazingly small means leading to extraordinarily satisfying results." (April 9, 2007)

Today happiness is a top priority in economic, psychological and sociological research. In the last several decades the GDP doubled or tripled in Western countries but the general level of happiness – the subjective well-being of people – remained the same. Happiness research disclosed evidences, which show that the major determinant of happiness is not the abundance of material goods but the quality of human relationships and a spiritual approach to material welfare. Buddhist countries perform surprisingly well in this respect.

There is a growing interest in Bhutan, this small Buddhist kingdom in the Himalayas, where the King of Bhutan introduced the adoption of an alternative index of social progress, the so-called Gross National Happiness (GNH). This measure covers not only the material output of the country but also the performance of education, the development of culture, the preservation of nature and the extension of religious freedom. Experts attribute to the adoption of GNH that while Bhutan's economy developed, the forestation of the country and well-being of people also increased.

Thai Buddhist monk and philosopher, P. A. Payutto once said that one should not be a Buddhist or an economist to be interested in Buddhist economics. Buddhist ethical principles and their applications in economic life offer a way of being and acting, which can help people to live a more ecological and happier life while contributing to the reduction of human and non-human suffering in the world."


Conclusion

See: Laszlo Zsolnai: The Contributions of Buddhist Economics

More Information

  1. Neotraditional Economics