Buddhist economics

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The writing process for my Bikenomics zine (it’s due out in two weeks!) keeps getting derailed by fascinating research avenues. Like this one: a 1955 paper on “Buddhist Economics” by economist E.F. Schumacher. It’s a simple argument for valuing humanity and dignity over goods and capital.

The Buddhist point of view takes the function of work to be at least threefold: to give man a chance to utilise and develop his faculties; to enable him to overcome his ego-centredness by joining with other people in a common task; and to bring forth the goods and services needed for a becoming existence. Again, the consequences that flow from this view are endless. To organise work in such a manner that it becomes meaningless, boring, stultifying, or nerve-racking for the worker would be little short of criminal; it would indicate a greater concern with goods than with people, an evil lack of compassion and a soul-destroying degree of attachment to the most primitive side of this worldly existence. Equally, to strive for leisure as an alternative to work would be considered a complete misunderstanding of one of the basic truths of human existence, namely that work and leisure are complementary parts of the same living process and cannot be separated without destroying the joy of work and the bliss of leisure.

Schumacher also talked about the importance of choosing with care between renewable and non-renewable energy and materials, rather than just going with the cheapest option.

He was embraced, of course, by counterculture movements in the 1970s, particularly on publication of his book on the same themes, Small is Beautiful: Economics as If People Mattered.