D) Buddhist Economics

The keynote of Buddhist economics is simplicity and non-violence. ... For the modern economist this is very difficult to understand. He is used to measuring the "standard of living" by the amount of annual consumption, assuming all the time that a man who consumes more is "better off" than a man who consumes less. A Buddhist economist would consider this approach excessively irrational: since consumption is merely a means to human well-being, the aim should be to obtain the maximum of well being with the minimum of consumption.

E.F. Schumacher, Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered, 1973.

The economic system described by E.F. Schumacher revolves around the quality of life of everyday people. Work is meant to be meaningful and creative, not a source of stress and distaste. Machines are used to improve a person's work, but not to replace it, or make it boring. Recreation is found more in the spending of time with friends and in nature, rather than in the consumption of resources. The economy is measured by the health and creativity of its members as much as by the amount of things it produces and consumes.

In a Buddhist economy the goals of simplicity and non-violence work together. In an effort to reduce the violence against the earth of extracting fossil fuels, and in the interest of avoiding international conflict over scarce reserves of oil and gas, the Buddhist economist, says Schumacher, would support using more local and ecologically sensitive sources of energy such as solar, wind and hydroelectric. Such an economy doesn't necessarily use what is cheapest on the market, but what serves its aims of simplicity and non-violence best.

Schumacher points out that in such countries there are very few labor saving machines such as kitchen appliances and yet levels of stress are much lower than in a place such as the United States. The idea in such an economy is to produce and consume only as much as is necessary and leave the rest of your time for artistic creativity and self improvement.


Discussion Questions:

What does it mean for a Buddhist economy to be successful?

What kinds of transportation do you think are most used in a Buddhist economy?

What do you think the assumption about human nature is in a Buddhist economy?

Describe how the members of a Buddhist economy might view nuclear power.