In a recent article Barbara O’Brien writes that as 20th century economic models are falling apart the problem was anticipated by E. F. Schumacher, author of a new economic theory, “Buddhist Economics”.
Schumacher argued that, “…that ever-increasing production and consumption — the foundation of the modern economy — is unsustainable.” The drive to increase the bottom-line basically ignored how the growth occurred or how society benefited.
Quoting from O’Brien’s article:
“While in Burma he wrote a paper called “Economics in a Buddhist Country” in which he argued that economics does not stand on its own feet, but instead ‘is derived from a view of the meaning and purpose of life — whether the economist himself knows this or not.’ In this paper, he wrote that a Buddhist approach to economics would be based on two principles:
* The ideal is sufficiency, not surfeit. ‘Economic ‘progress’ is good only to the point of sufficiency, beyond that, it is evil, destructive, uneconomic.’
* A Buddhist economy distinguishes between renewable and non-renewable resources. A civilization built on renewable resources is superior to one built on non-renewable resources.”
He argued against ever-increasing consumption, instead promoting the notion that meeting human needs is sufficient. What is sufficient? Therein lies the problem.
As the ongoing economic crisis has clearly shown us, too much of a good thing can lead to disaster. Hopefully, we learned a valuable lesson.
Schumacher’s theories were published in 1973 in, “Small is Beautiful: Economics As If People Mattered.” Many of his essays and other writings are available online.
While his ideas were largely scoffed at back then, today they appear to be ahead of their time.