Economies of Value Orders

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See also: Neotraditional Economics


Janos Mate:

"NEO-TRADITIONAL ECONOMICS could indeed be a describing phrase for the special field I have chosen. However, the term I use is ECONOMIES OF VALUE ORDERS. That indicates my opinion that the impact of value orders on the quality of co-operation among (business) people is decisive the world over.

I try to avoid the term NEO-TRADITIONAL ECONOMICS, for the ECONOMIES OF VALUE ORDERS is not about some “ideal” way of organizing economy. Instead, it is based – as far as I am concerned – on the comparison of such decisive impacts. The very theory of ECONOMIES OF VALUE ORDERS focuses on the role of (spiritual, moral etc.) values, and makes it obvious that the present course of world economy has had its impetus from a disharmony among the main estates; some elements of society quickly and willingly abandoned the traditional ethics, while the rest of the society gave it up gradually and painfully. As soon as the values of traditional ethics virtually disappear from a country, her society shall exhibit ever growing social unrests and economic unbalances. That gives way to the rise of those countries in which the pull-down of those values is not yet been (fully) brought about.

Therefore, the ECONOMIES OF VALUE ORDERS is not a bit of applied economics. Rather, it is some basic information on how to interpret the daily and yearly development of world politics and economy. I feel sure that some Buddhist values could help western theoreticians realize what substantial changes should be adopted. That is why I am in favor of our work, even though I realize the difficulties. The first and the second conference on Buddhist Economics have provided some good ground to build on.

With the problem so highlighted, the next step would be to unfold the theory."


Dr. Janos Mate:



There was hardly any time when man looked at his future with complete disinterest. Past can be remembered pleasantly or reluctantly, present can be experienced splendid or awful, and future cannot be thought of without some intentions to influence it. Any such intension stems from some interpretation of causality; one’s understanding of how the past and the present effects depend upon causes. That is projected on to the would-be future.

Modern man is taught to believe that there have been two main groups of those who alleged to foresee the future. One group includes prophets and / or fortune-tellers. “They talk about the so called ‘transcendent’. That is, at best, pure day-dreaming in the disguise of contemplating the divine”. The other group is that of the scientists, “who keep the wheels of the ever developing science turning, and so make it all the more perfect”. Space age man prefers the second group to the first one, “for it uses objective scientific methods to predict the future”.

Modern traditionalism, as far as I understand it, rejects that. It declines not on science but on the assessment of the scope of science. Its devotees point out: the so called ‘day-dreamers’ had started sounding the alarm long before the crisis of world economy broke out in 2008. On the other hand it took economists quite some days even to admit that it had broken loose. It is so because the former not only look but also see (Mk4.11). So at least they see more than the scientist. Scientists can only do their work within some framework given by some or other conception of the transcendent. Therefore, traditionalists hold that it is them and not the scientists who have better chances to foresee the future, and that those who deny the influence of the transcendent shall find themselves, sooner or later, in the power of those who do not.

The limits of science are given by some or other conception of the transcendent. For example: political science is concerned with the theory and practice of politics and the analysis of political systems and behavior. However, its methods and results are mainly accepted by democrats. Monarchists, who insist upon kings’ ruling out of God’s will, find them false. Another example: industrialized countries generally accept that the elderly be provided every affordable means to live in physical and mental comfort. To come up to such expectations our modern society applies some rules carefully worked out by lawyers and economists. However, no university of economics, no faculty of law knows the origin of such expectations ― those are from beyond. Economists and lawyers work in service of the transcendent.

That highlights the real meaning of the old words: “Philosophy (science) is ancillary to theology.”


That is a static view; a bit more complicated is the dynamic one. To make its general description easier to understand, let us use here a profane parallel. Voyagers may take long swims in pools on the top deck of their great liners. One thinks one can move in a straight line by swimming along the edge of the pool. However, ocean currents are sure to carry the liner off its course. Because of that, the vessel is likely to be moving zigzag. So is the swimmer, unless he uses some base of comparison outside his pool. Likewise: those scholars who know but the pool of science are sure to lose direction (on the long run anyway). They can only make corrections if they realize how scientific discovery is influenced by some or other conception of the transcendent. That is how scientists can really decide what there is wrong in the present course of social, economic etc. development. That is why different traditions warn us: metaphysically blind leaders may cause irreparable harm. On top of the “liner” the “swimming-pool” of sciences is drifting on the ocean of the transcendent.

All that can be made out from both the ancient scripts and the works of a number of modern western scholars as well. In his essay OF MAN AND GALAXIES, Fred Hoyle writes: “Our environment is chiefly conditioned by the things we believe. Morocco and California are bits of the Earth in very similar latitudes, both on the west coasts of continents with similar climates, and probably with rather similar natural resources. Yet their present development is wholly different… because of the different thoughts that exist in the minds of their inhabitants… The most important factor in our environment is the state of our minds.”

German-British economist Schumacher says: „Man relates himself to his environment through religious thinking… Most [of our western] economists and technicians suffer from metaphysical blindness.” (A KICSI SZÉP [SMALL IS BEAUTIFUL], pp. 12; 54) In his A NYUGAT ALKONYA [THE TWILIGHT OF THE WEST], German philosopher Spengler says almost the same: „The individual soul adjusts itself to the principles of the religion accepted by most members of the community” (op. cit. vol. I., pp. 219.). Weber confirms that in a series of his books: PROTESTANT ETHICS AND THE SPIRIT OF CAPITALISM; and SOCIOLOGY OF RELIGIONS; and RELIGIONS AND ETHICS IN ECONOMY; and THE HISTORY OF ECONOMY. In order to highlight the question let us see a living example.

Schumacher quoted Stuart and Keynes (op. cit. pp. 22; 40-44.). He pointed out that Stuart had depicted political economy as a fragment of a social science, while – a hundred years later – Keynes had removed its moral (transcendent) base by suggesting that “welfare could only be achieved by making ourselves believe that good is evil and evil is good, for evil, contrary to good, is useful”. That came as an announcement of a new fait, the ‘belief in economics’, which abolished moral outside self interest. In other words: the scientific approach named ‘mainstream economics’ is influenced by a ‘new religion’ to which most westerners have converted (even though most of them tick themselves to be Christians). That makes them lose direction. Schumacher helps traditionalists to highlight that one can only make corrections by realizing how scientific paradigms are subjected to some conception of the transcendent.


All sacred scripts know of divine powers; they deduce them from Primordial Unity. Hinduism talks of Brahman, the Absolute (who/which never changes). Taoism talks of Tao that creates things through emanation (THE TAO TEH KING 5.2) BRIHADARANAKA UPANISHAD I. 2 names it: ‘Hunger’. In Judaism God the Transcendent is named AYIN. The totality of what is and is not named AYIN SOF. Modern scientists talk of the “Ancestor Drop”, explosion of which is named “Big Bang”. In the period of ‘emanation’ or ‘explosion’ the twin ideas (dharmas) get disunited, and then the solo ones come together and make sets of attributes. Those sets (so Cabbalists point out) create and form and make (material) things. For example: this apple in front of me includes in the category of quince-apple, for its shape resembles that of a pear, its color is deep yellow, its taste is acidic, etc. It would be unwise to try to count those sets; an apple and a plum shall never make “two”. One can only count the very manifestations of one and the same set. (For example: a basketful of apples consist several manifestations of the same set of attributes.) Manifestations, however, can not be as good as their original set. No man can be as perfect as Adam Kadmon. The farther the manifestations are from the Primordial Unity, the less perfect they will be.

In spite of manifestations being imperfect, their ancestor set may not disown any of them. No community may excommunicate anyone as long as (s)he is of its attributes. No nation may disown a person who has been born to her. For example: according to the law of Israel, no Jew may be kept away from the country if he decides to go and live there. This ‘we are of the same set’ mentality is typical of the traditional society, leaders of which are held responsible for the survival of the people. Says Hungarian Sinologist Ferenc Tőkei: “No political leader was allowed to assume power… unless he was ready to perform his duty. Despots – both in Persia and in India – were fully aware of being ‘primary responsible’ for dams and culverts that provided inundation in time.” (AZ ÁZSIAI TERMELÉSI MÓD KÉRDÉSÉHEZ [ON THE ASIATIC MODE OF PRODUCTION] pp. 37.)

This kind of solidarity is reciprocal: in this world of (semi)traditionalism man must not quit the social group or nation he has been born into. One of the most famous Hungarian poets, Mihály Vörösmarty writes this in his poem A SUMMONS: “Loyal and true for aye remain / Hungarian, to this thy home! / … / No other land than this expands / For thee, beneath the sky; / The fates may bring thee bane or bliss / Here must thou live and die!” (Translated by W. N. Loew [of the New York Bar]) That is so because, in the traditional approach, persons are products of the community. Ruth Benedict writes this in PATTERNS OF CULTURE: „No man looks at the world with pristine eyes. He sees it edited by a definite set of customs and ways of thinking and institutions… The life history of the individual is first and foremost an accommodation to the patterns and standards traditionally handed down in his community. From the moment of his birth the customs, into which he is born, shape his experience and behavior. By the time he can talk, he is the little creature of his culture, and by the time he is grown… its habits are his habits, its beliefs his beliefs, its impossibilities his impossibilities. Every child that is born into his group will share them with him [unlike a one who was] born… on the opposite side of the globe.”

Babies are born; old persons pass away, but that does not modify the very set of attributes typical of that group. That is the meaning of the word ‘community’. What its members share in common may not be modified by individuals. For example: in the tradition of the Eastern Churches, the icon is a representation or a picture of a sacred Christian personage, itself regarded as sacred. It is generally accepted that such sacredness helps the community remain united. The icon may be copied, but there is a very strict rule that it must be a “carbon-copy”: every brushstroke must resemble the original one. Another example to this ‘no modifications’ mentality: peoples of (semi)traditional societies are sharply against any voting on modifying – for example – the inherited jurisdiction.


When they describe how one can get reunited with God (get to the Kingdom of Heaven; reach Nirvana), religions suggest that people should walk back on the path (Tao) to the origin of all things. That means to re-create the Primordial Unity. Whatever there is the subject, the first step is to find the common set of attributes. The moment it is found, the manifestations are worth of consideration no more. (You drop a particular product the moment you possess the casting mould.) Hungarian Academician Péter Popper named it: ‘deductive approach’ (Figure 1a). As soon as you re-unite two (or more) into one, you have found a set of attributes. That moment – so traditionalists hold – you have made one step back on the path to the origin of things.

And vice versa:

the more the manifestations of the same set there are, the less they refer to the Primordial Unity. Popper says that (in the East) ONE means: Brahman; TWO means: Brahman–Atman; THREE means manifestation of Atman (cf. AZ ÖNMAGÁBA TÉRŐ ÖSVÉNY [THE PATH THAT RETURNS TO ITSELF] pp. 248.).


Community and collective are not synonyms. “Common” means: one given teaching is accepted by all; it is characteristic of, for example, a village in a Buddhist country or a kibbutz in Israel. In short: it is characteristic of the community. However, the idea of ‘we are of the same set’ cannot work when a mixed bunch of settlers arrive in an uninhabited region. They form a collective, not a community. The Latin word ‘collect’ means “get together some already existing things”. The group of settlers is a mixed bunch; it consists of individuals who have, in their minds, fragments of some or other teachings. Those could hardly fit together, so the members of a collective form a social commixture which has no common inherited teaching. Its members shall have to compromise on a convention―such as the constitution of a new country of mixed population.

In fact: a commixture is not an alloy. Such an apparent group of people shall keep, at heart, their set of values. That makes them turn away from other members of the same group; so results individualism. Individualist is a person who has lost or traded his community for a collective. The basic ideas individualist scholars use to describe their world view can hardly be traced back to the Primordial Unity. The Ancestor Drop gets forgotten. They start from the opposite of unity for the sake of inductive approach of “cosmic dust has condensed by gravitation”. That is: they consider small interstellar grains as constituting elements. They tend to believe that the incidental and the contingent have resulted in all formations. Thus a great many of tiny things are supposed to be capable of building a few huge ones. Further to that: the simple is believed to be able to construct the complicated, and life is imagined to have stemmed from the dead material.

Representatives of the inductive approach cannot be convinced that the more we have in numbers the less we have in value. (Successive equal increments in the quantity of a good yield smaller and smaller increases; this is recognized only by the law of diminishing marginal utility).

People who accept the inductive approach tend to believe that the more they have in number the closer they are to the perfect. They cannot be convinced of the opposite. For example: they reject the idea that majorities (on the long run) tend to be subdued by minorities. They reject the suggestion that the larger a monoculture is, the larger the disequilibrium of nature will be. The more cars and airplanes we have, the more the environment shall be damaged. The more we grow in terms of population the more we shall upset the balance of nature. That is why they disregard Schumacher’ book (SMALL IS BEAUTIFUL) and the slogans of Zero Population Growth and Zero Economic Growth (given by the members of the Club of Rome one generation ago).

That must be the reason – traditionalists say – why the problem of pollution have started in inductionalists countries, inhabitants of which incline to accept that they are a race apart, not integrated into nature, and any damage to nature is supposed to leave their group untouched. People who accept the inductionalist approach tend to accept that man is outside God. They project this idea onto nature and regard it an outside power to fight with.

That atomized world view is not without consequences on the field of social sciences. The inductive approach of sociology confuses communities with collectives (it uses them as synonyms). Their politicians agree that their societies are made up of independent individuals who have the right to leave the collective they were born into. They also encourage their citizens to follow their individual interest. “Individuals – so to say – should frequently change their leaders to guard freedom.” That is downright the opposite of the attitude of the deductionalist, who is conditioned to accept that whatever is done for the community counts as their own step towards Heaven.


Once again it must be stressed that real traditionalists, if I understand them properly, decline not on science but on the assessment of the scope of science. They say that the reason sciences fail sometimes to predict the future is that the paradigms they use are subjected to some or other conception of the transcendent. Therefore, the suggested new paradigm must be a better understanding of the impact of such conceptions. In this respect the main dividing line there is between the deductionalist and the inductionalist approach. Deductionalists deduce all things and formats from what already exists as common, while inductionalists induce from the cosmic dust, and they hold that – via chance events – the small is capable of building the huge, the simple can construct the complicated, and life can stem from the dead material.

Sciences – mainly but not exclusively the social sciences – arrive at conclusions according to their paradigm and the value orders behind them. However, that is not the only reason fur us to study the transcendentally based value orders. Whether we like it or not, the value orders – hidden in the decuctionalist and the inductionalist approach – do effect on what kind of principles of co-operation people are ready to accept.


I myself, an economist, have been showing, for fifteen years now, an interest in the economy of value orders. It took not much time for me to find it a must to dig deeper into the question of why and how scientific paradigms are subjected to some or other conceptions of the transcendent. I find it substantial to all those who endeavor to say something on the global trends of economy and society. Against my better judgment I composed the above the four pages, hoping to whip up interest towards the subject.

In my book A TRANSZCENDENS ETIKA ÉS A GLOBALIZMUS SZELLEME I. [THE TRANSCENDENT ETHICS AND THE SPIRIT OF GLOBALISM I.] it took some 200 000 characters to describe the meanings of the most important ones of those principles which the majority of contemporary economists, lawyers and sociologists hardly heard of. I used another 200 000 characters to give some idea of what can be seen in the light of those principles over the past millenniums. The latest events I talk about in volume I. happened in the 19th century. As far as I can see, volume II shall have the same extent as volume I. That is why I feel convinced that the question of economics of value orders is not something that can be put in a nutshell successfully. Not in the West, anyway.