How Would Buddha Organize Our Cutthroat Modern Economy?

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In this Monday, Jan. 28, 2013 photo, a Buddha statue is silhouetted by the sun on the hill of Phmon Baseth, outskirt of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

In this Monday, Jan. 28, 2013 photo, a Buddha statue is silhouetted by the sun on the hill of Phmon Baseth, outskirt of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Clair Brown, a professor emeritus at UC Berkeley, taught economics for over 30 years. She often found that the students in her sprawling introductory classes had a hard time reconciling the dominant neoclassical model that she taught with the real world that they experienced from day to day.

They wanted to know why there was so much emphasis on economic growth in the abstract, and so little discussion of issues like inequality and environmental degradation. Over the years, Brown herself had put a lot of thought into the same questions.

Brown is also a practicing Buddhist. And this year, she decided to offer a course in “Buddhist economics.” BillMoyers.com asked her to explain how Buddha would organize an economy. Below is a transcript of our discussion that’s been lightly edited for clarity.

Joshua Holland: One of the materials you offer in your course is a book called Buddhist Economics: A Middle Way for the Market Place. It’s by Prayudh Payutto, a Thai practitioner, and he writes:

Economics is one science which most clearly integrates the concrete and the abstract. It is the realm in which abstract human values interact most palpably with the material world. If economists were to stop evading the issues of moral values, they would be in a better position to influence the world in a fundamental way.

What would incorporating moral values into the realm of economics look like in practice?

Clair Brown: I see Buddhist economics as having three legs. One is the capabilities and freedom approach of Amartya Sen, for which he won the Nobel Prize. And he’s a wonderfully deep thinker, in that he explains very carefully what’s wrong with the mainstream neoclassical model. He says that you absolutely have to be able to compare rich people and poor people and their wellbeing, and you absolutely have to care about inequality. He comes from India and his contribution is in development economics, so he says, “What do people get from the economy and from economic growth?” What they want is a better life. He developed an economic model that looks at how well people can live their lives, and that includes very basic things, like their health, their education, their integration into society. We care a lot about the distribution of income within a society. So he developed a model, for which he won the Nobel Prize, which has had an enormous impact.

I see it as the cornerstone of how Buddha would teach economics to undergraduates, but we need to add two things. One is that Amartya Sen didn’t really spend a whole lot of time on sustainability, and there’s been a lot more work done on how we can incorporate sustainability into economics, and that’s called ecological economics. And that’s very important. Then we add one more thing — which is really important to Buddhists — that you relieve suffering. We make that the third leg.

Holland: A big part of Sen’s philosophy of welfare economics was coming up with different ways to measure economic well-being. What measures would Buddhist economics employ?

Brown: There have been a couple of approaches that have taken off from Sen’s work. Bhutan used one of them — it is a Buddhist country — creating the Bhutan Gross National Happiness Index. So they focused on how happy their people were.

They went out and surveyed every single person in Bhutan and figured out what capabilities they had, what they didn’t have, and how good they felt about their lives. And then they came back and they said, “Okay, we now know that actually we have a lot of people who are suffering and need better lives.” Those were especially people in rural areas who were very, very poor. And they said, “So we’re going to now focus all of our economic growth on helping the people who are suffering the most and have the roughest lives. They need more education, they need more healthcare.”

And in the cities, they found that people actually were getting education and healthcare. Some needed more, but the people in the cities that were unhappy were unhappy because they didn’t think their communities had enough infrastructure and support to function well. They wanted more balance in their lives between work and family and community. And so Bhutan said, “Okay, then we’re going to use our economic growth to work on that. We don’t think of economic growth as valuable, except to the extent that it can make people happier and relieve suffering.”

And one of their criteria also was sustainability, and they said, “Actually, we need to work more on the sustainability part. We haven’t incorporated that part enough in our model.”

Another way of thinking about measuring economic growth is ecological economics, which looks at the entire output of the economy in terms of its impact on the environment. But not just in one time period. This approach brings the potential negative impact on the environment for future generations back into your growth rate today, so that you have a total growth rate that incorporates what’s happening today — the positive and negative— and what’s happening over time. And that really does help us understand how much we are really benefiting right now from our economy’s growth.

Holland: If, for example, I overfish my fisheries, ecological economics factors in how that’s going to damage my children’s economic outcomes. Is that right?

Brown: That’s right. And if you increase global warming because of your carbon emissions, you put that into the equation.

Holland: I can imagine readers thinking, “This sounds like central planning.” Is that misunderstanding the kind of organization that Buddha would recommend?

Brown: Well, Bhutan certainly has a very strong government. But they actually need to be. They really need to help the rural poor. What would Buddha say about that? He would start out by saying, you know, we’re all one. So anything that happens to one of us happens to all of us. That’s really central.

Then the next thing Buddha would say is that everything is impermanent. No matter what’s going on at any given time, it’s not permanent, so basically we should think about everyone’s well-being. And in the Payutto book you mentioned, he’s very strong on government. He comes back time and time again—a little bit too much for my liking—to talk about the role of government in his vision of Buddhist economics. So I think Buddhist economics definitely has a role for government, but it also challenges the individual to understand how they can live their life in a more meaningful way and a way that creates value for them and the people around them.

Holland: Social democracy differs from socialism in that it sees the market as the most efficient means of distribution, but then it also embraces a strong social safety net and publicly financed ladders of upward mobility.  What about the efficiency part of that equation? Is that missing in the Buddhist economic philosophy?

Brown: Well, I think if you take Amartya Sen as your basic model, he would agree with everything you said about the role of government and the role of markets. Sen has a wonderful chapter in his book, Development as Freedom, that talks about why we need markets and what markets do. And then he quickly adds, but of course, you have to have the government take care of those externalities that are causing environmental problems. You need governments to absolutely ensure a really strong safety net. Not to mention, you need governments to provide healthcare, education and all the things that we need to provide jointly.

Holland: But does it fit into a modern, industrialized economy like ours? What would Buddha say about workplace conditions and labor relations? Would a Buddhist economy require a corporate model that’s different from the hierarchical one in which most of us in the United States work?

Brown: I think that the main thing that you need to embrace is “right livelihood,” which is one of the cornerstones of Buddhist economics. That’s basically how you make a living and how you produce goods and services. And the number one rule there is that you harm no one. Now, that’s a pretty big order. That means that you have really strong enforcement of labor standards, not only at home, but abroad because of imports, and you would not allow companies or workers to harm each other or to be harmed. And so right livelihood is a very powerful mandate in Buddhist economics. And as some of my students said, “Wow, it sounds like it’d be impossible to do this. We just do so much harm all the time in our economy.” And it is a challenge. It’s a really big challenge, but that’s one of the things we need to think about: When am I harming others, and what can I do differently?

Holland: Americans earn more, on average, than people in most European countries, but we also work about 30 percent more hours per year than they do. And we deal with more stress. What would Buddhist economists say about the balance between work and the rest of life?

Brown: One of the reasons I got interested in Buddhist economics and wanted to teach this course — and I also wrote a book, called American Standards of Living — is that I was just appalled by the materialism in our culture, and how, with economic growth and people getting better and better off, we didn’t cut back on work, as people had predicted. We didn’t make life more balanced, we didn’t take time to be creative and spend time with our friends and build our communities. Instead, we just kept working harder and harder. And today, the materialistic culture, which is reinforced by the mainstream economic model, says, “Hey, you want to feel better?

Make more money and go shopping”— it’s like you can never be satiated with this model. And it seems like that reflects American life. We want more and more, we consume more and more, and the other things in life that should be important to us—our families, our communities—are suffering from that. And of course, I think we’re suffering too from all the stress.

So Buddhist economics would definitely say, “Hey, let’s step back, let’s focus on our wellbeing, and how we care for the environment and each other.”

Joshua Holland is a senior digital producer for BillMoyers.com. He’s the author of The Fifteen Biggest Lies About the Economy (and Everything Else the Right Doesn’t Want You to Know about Taxes, Jobs and Corporate America) (Wiley: 2010), and host of Politics and Reality Radio. Follow him on Twitter or drop him an email at hollandj [at] moyersmedia [dot] com.
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  • Anonymous

    Looking back on US history, we find that we have had periodic failures of our economic system because we have not properly harnessed capitalism to limit the growth of inequality. We need taxes and usage fees to finance the public commons — fire protection, police, defense, roads, sewers, water, power, cable, healthcare and the social safety net. Beyond that, the use of taxes to limit inequality is at best a blunt instrument. It would be far better to regulate each business so that they keep a reasonable balance between their profit and payroll.

    Today we have payrolls as a percentage of GDP at a record low and profits as a percentage of GDP at a record high. This is not sustainable as there is dwindling wage-based demand for goods and services. The government already has a W2 and earnings history for every public company. It would be relatively straightforward to set a cap on the profit to US payroll ratio for a company based on that history. Then any company who exceeded their cap would be fined 100% of the excess. Once a company reached their cap then payrolls and profits would be constrained to grow proportionately.

    This would have several advantages:

    The proper distribution of gross margin would be made by the company rather than the political whims of a one-size-fits-all federal tax and redistribute policy.

    The executive committee of the company would decide how best to add payroll to the company to achieve greatest impact

    Employees know that most of any additional gross margin they generate will flow back to their paychecks.

    The federal government would spend less for support programs like food stamps and low income housing for the working poor while collecting more taxes as a result of increased payroll

    Most importantly, we would avoid future financial collapses and the wars that often follow. This would allow the government to reduce their defense spending.

  • Sasha Patino

    We need to move from the profit-centered corporate business model, based
    on unnecessary and wasteful ‘competition’ to people-centered
    cooperative enterprise model, based on shared usage and collaboration
    between all stakeholders.

    Milton Friedman was wrong. If the sole
    purpose of a business is the pursuit of profit or shareholder wealth
    (or more often, paying tax-deductible interest to creditors with
    investors and workers left holding the empty bag when the business cycle
    implodes), they are a predator on society, not a productive member of
    it. The greatest “harm [to] the foun­dations of a free society” are
    multinational corporations that bend the rule of law to serve only their
    own profit, not organizations that seek to be socially responsible and
    strive for sustainable development, but not ‘sustainable growth’. A
    distinction with a very crucial difference.

    The Commonwealth
    model proposed by E F Schmacher in Small is Beautiful should be
    encouraged, along with other great recommendations from that text, which
    was also heavily influenced by Buddhist economics. Along with mindful
    production that respects all members, we also need mindful consumption.

    The
    role of government also needs to evolve from the false duality of
    either pro-capitalist or pro-socialist, to an agency that can provide
    assistance through facilitation and mediation, consensus-building,
    logistical and technical support that empowers its constituents to
    attain their own development. In other words, be more of a ‘sensei’ or
    guide, than either a nanny or a patriarch.

    Namaste!

  • http://wonderwheels.blogspot.com/ Gregory Wonderwheel

    One of the points of greatest importance of this article is in the fundamental question of why economics is taught as if the morality and ethics of human relations is not relevant to economics? That very bias is the inherent bias of economics when it is taught from the perspective of the 1%, for whom ethics is an obstacle to their insatiable desire for wealth and political power, and not from the perspective of the vast majority.

    But after perusing the article a little more I have to say that it does not live up to its promise. If we want to look for a “Buddhist economics” we have to look at the historical facts of how the Buddhist sangha (community) developed and functioned over time through different cultural conditions and circumstances.

    Of first importance is that the article does not have the word “property” in it. There can be no “Buddhist economics” without addressing the very definition of private property. The Buddhist mendicant sangha of “home leavers” was not allowed to own private property other than the barest minimum for survival and they were not allowed to carry money. The Buddhist lay sangha of home dwellers lived under civil law and had only a few restrictions and obligations, the chief two were to feed and clothe the mendicant bikkshus (male home leavers) and bikkshunis (female home leavers) and to refrain from unwholesome occupations and livelihood.
    .
    A Buddhist economics would have to attempt the merger of these two wings of the sangha into a coherent and sustainable whole. So the sustainability aspect is definitely required. But from both the sustainability aspect and the requirement of a lifestyle and livelihood that is not the epitome of poison of greed or hatred, there would have to be a maximum wage to complement a living minimum wage. Likewise, there would have to be a limit on the number of houses a person could own so that each family would be able to own its own home if they so wanted.

    The sangha of mendicants was both democratic and communistic in many ways, while the Buddha played the role of benevolent ruler of the order. Outside of the mendicant order, the Buddha and his lay followers did not attempt to disrupt the local forms of social organization. If there was a king, the local lay Buddhists accepted that social order. If there was a republic, the local lay Buddhists accepted that form of social contract. However, a Buddhist economics would have take on the role of designing or at least influencing the social order and therefore would need to be based on forms of economic democracy, so that the communities would have the ultimate say over their economic destinies and not the wealthy. I don’t see this level of analysis in this interview.

  • Lauren Sonnenberg

    “Right livelihood” and its main rule of doing no harm to others in the process of making your living is a beautiful one. It’s a very Libertarian, free market notion. Indeed, this rule is not heeded in our current corporatocratic environment, which is not looking out for the good of the whole. Whereas many would agree that Buddhist principles are worthy of being upheld and lived out in our lives, it appears that a socialist, welfare state has never, ever been able to do so effectively. As a psychotherapist, the empowerment of individuals is a key element in creating a thriving whole. When people are empowered to earn their own livings and free to do with those monies what they deem appropriate, without excessive taxation and corporate regulations restricting truly free trade, the whole starts operating smoothly, unfettered, and therefore abundantly. Individuals and private charitable organizations are more efficient and able to provide greater charity than government agencies. (We did note in the last year that government regulations were restricting food handouts to the poor, did we not?) For the above reasons, I believe Rothbardian economics and a Libertarian environment would be much more aligned with Buddhist principles than would the proposed socialist/communist, welfare-dependency-producing structure. Health is not achieved through government healthcare systems, and poverty is not overcome by welfare handouts either. Rather, a status quo is maintained by those systems, and people are not then provided the proper environment for self-growth and change. The empowerment of our citizens by “kicking them out of the welfare nest”, nurturing individuals’ abilities to grow their businesses, in a truly free market, without excessive regulation and the inherent economic burden, and the freeing up of their monies to purchase their own healthcare in a highly competitive, free market, healthcare environment, is the most compassionate approach to develop a thriving society. The alternative is an environment of overgrown “babies and slaves”, both helpless. Helpless individuals do not an empowered, thriving whole, make. That is why our current socialist, corporatocratic system, driven by greed, keeps growing as a hungrier and hungrier beast. If any parts of the whole are in a helpless state, the whole will always remain greedily hungry. More money and more power can never fill such a void. Only recognition in the strengths of our global citizenry, the empowerment of all through the freeing of all, the trust that we will take care of the young, the truly infirm, and our environment, because we are a compassionate humanity, and the belief that we live in a truly abundant world, will ever fill such an illusory void.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t disagree with the reasoning or conclusions, but, effectively you’re attributing Amartya Sen’s ideas (which I probably mostly agree with) to the Buddha, and that’s something Buddhists have traditionally been extremely careful about not doing.

    Presectarian structuring of the Buddhist textual canon from the Buddha’s own lifetime and direct disciples was based fundamentally on distinguishing Word of Buddha (Buddhavacana) from commentaries and other teachings by disciples (Savakavacana). There is even a standard pericope across presectarian parallel recensions for when the Buddha immediately endorsed a disciple’s teaching, because that meant transforming it into an authoritative text rather than one that was only legitimate so long as the meaning was judged to be in conformity (anulomika).

    Putting words into the Buddha’s mouth knowingly and falsely used to be considered an obstructive act (dhammantarayika-kamma), even if the meaning is in conformity.

    It’s extremely common nowadays, but that isn’t really an excuse. At least Buddhists and scholars ought to be more careful to keep clarity about what comes from where.

  • Gavin Lee

    I agree that the corporatism is really bad for us, but do you really think that getting rid of welfare and having a for-profit healthcare system can be fairly called “compassionate”? Also, you mentioned that an economy unfettered by lots of tax and welfare operates smoothly as a whole – I’m curious about when that has happened ever, or what your basis is for making such a claim.

  • Drew Fister

    These are not new ideas. E.F. Schumacher was recommending this same approach to economics more than 40 years ago.

  • Michael H

    These ideas are not new, and represent, however worded (Libertarian, Free Market, Individual Empowerment, Social Compassion, etc), a mindset of “each for himself/herself” and the “chips will fall as they will.” It’s also predicated on the mistaken notion that all persons, given the opportunity, would choose some type of entrepreneurial path. To put it simply, it is in effect to say that in a perfect world, there can indeed be all chiefs and no underlings. For those not driven to create companies or who don’t have the opportunity for advanced education, however, people cannot “earn their livings” when there are no jobs for them – because jobs in a given economic base have been moved offshore to a different and cheaper economic base too increase the profit ratio of products subsequently created there and then returned to the original economic base for sale – or when the remaining jobs generate insufficient income to meet the cost of living. It’s that simple.

    So-called “welfare dependency” is a red herring, a cry of false outrage from the well-to-do, and one which has been successfully instilled in some of the less well-to-do by careful media and propaganda efforts, the latter of whom subsequently and continually vote for ideological reasons, yet against their own economic best interests (to the great amusement of those who promulgate the propaganda). “Kicking people out of the welfare nest” in order to empower them suggests that, other than entrepreneurs, people are lazy by nature, and need to be forced to work, and only then will they finally see the light: i.e., feel empowered, lose their aimless helplessness, and heal the economic system as a whole.

    If anything, the cause of welfare dependency is the other way around; not a politically liberal and social agenda that has hatched such a shiftless existence, but an economic opportunism which is severely driving down earning, and therefore buying, power of average and poor citizens. The “void” of which the commenter speaks is not due to the fact that parts of the whole are in a “helpless” (lazy) state. The void is a direct product of greed, tribalism (Us versus Them), social stratification, economic tyranny, and a failure those who are indeed successful to remember that they are part of a whole and cannot divorce themselves from it or operate in a vacuum, disadvantaging and/or harming many others along their climb to the top of the pile.

    In the initial post WW2 generations, this social responsibility and awareness was understood (for the most part), and we did not have near the income inequality that we see now. The oligarchy of this country have zero interest in individual empowerment and other such lofty terms. The system as it is now benefits them greatly, and they are driven to further the divide if possible, ultimately leading back to historical scenarios of two classes – aristocrat and peasant – with virtually nothing in between except perhaps an economically enslaved merchant class. Certainly no wide middle class that prefers to be employed (rather than be employer), is able to earn a decent living to support their families, and does not desire entrepreneurial pathways.

  • Anonymous

    The basic fallacy of capitalism is that it treats money as a commodity, rather than a contract. Abstract promises can be manufactured to infinity, given enough leverage, but actual value is very contextual. If people understood money as a public medium and not possessed of objective value, they might be far more careful what value they extract from social relations and environmental resources, in order to accumulate this notational wealth. That would make society and the environment the stores of value they must be, for a healthy planet.

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/03/17/1075305/–What-is-Your-Occupation?detail=hide

  • GregoryC

    Do Americans earn more than Europeans on average? Key word: average. Median income for individuals is $27,519, a poverty wage. Europeans have a stronger social safety net than Americans with craddle to grave health care, as opposed to privatized health insurance, and guaranteed pensions. I wish my ancestors had remained in the old world, I’d have it better today if they had.

  • Anonymous

    Lauren Sonnenberg comments that the Buddist approach is ” It’s a very Libertarian, free market notion. ” and that “Health is not achieved through government healthcare systems, and poverty is not overcome by welfare handouts either.” Our current system has reduced regulations across the board and the basic result has’s been increased inequality in this country. Pres. LBJ’s policies were not perfect but they did much to reduce grinding poverty and improve health care. How many senior citizens today would be dire health care straights without Medicare? Completely free markets lead to monopolistic policies that we used to fight with Anti-Trust laws—what happened to that idea? Banks were “Too Big to Fail” and are now bigger, making larger profits while the average employee sees reduced earnings. Has NAFTA been a boom for the average person in any of the three countries?

    Microsrfr notes that “Today we have payrolls as a percentage of GDP at a record low and profits as a percentage of GDP at a record high.” Yes! Michael H adds that “The oligarchy of this country have zero interest in individual empowerment and other such lofty terms.” So how can we have Libertarian ideas and free markets make the system work. The roll of government is to help everyone have a chance at a good life. Adam Smith realized that capitalism needed some controls and the a graduated income tax to extract some of the profits back from the rich was necessary to make the system work for all and not just the rich.

    How amazing it would be if the US would have something similar to this “underdeveloped country” of Bhutan to move the entire populace forward!

    Have you all seen Bill’s interview with Robert Reich on the Inequality for All? Take time to watch it.

  • Zoe Nicholson

    do you find it interesting that the book on Buddhist economics sells for $206. on Amazon? That is a bit of irony. As a Buddhist, I have to leave a little note to say that we would not use a phrase such as, “what would Buddha say?” Rather, it would rather be, what would the Buddhist teaching be. and we would also point out that within Buddhism, there are many, many sects. Schumacher and others give us worthy models for mindful economics. I do wish there for a better understanding of Right Livelihood.

  • Zoe Nicholson

    do you find it interesting that the book on Buddhist economics sells for
    $206. on Amazon? That is a bit of irony. As a Buddhist, I have to
    leave a little note to say that we would not use a phrase such as, “what
    would Buddha say?” Rather, it would rather be, what would the Buddhist
    teaching be. and we would also point out that within Buddhism, there
    are many, many sects. Schumacher and others give us worthy models for
    mindful economics. I do wish there for a better understanding of Right
    Livelihood.

  • http://intorpor.blogspot.com/ y.Slobodin

    Interesting that a book on economics sells for as much, as well. Seems rather ironic in both respects.

  • Anonymous

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    Charger SRT8 from only workin part time on a home pc… hop over to here F­i­s­c­a­l­P­o­s­t­.­ℂ­o­m

  • Anonymous

    Books from university presses have limited printing runs and fetch higher prices as a result. I guarantee you the author will probably see like 500 bucks of royalties annually if the book sells well but is not a big hit.

  • Anonymous

    Libertarians are lunatics, news at 11

  • Mike

    I think IF OUR NATION IS EVER TO COME TOGETHER, it will be OVER TWO OVERARCHING ISSUES:
    1. Special Interests controlling our government and the media, which makes it impossible to pass any meaningful legislation to help the common people, future people and the planet, and
    2. Eternal economic and population growth in the USA, which overwhelms all else we try to do to save our quality of life, the middle class and the environment. Sign onto CASSE athttp://steadystate.org/ and checkout GrowthBusters athttp://www.growthbusters.org/

  • Lauren Sonnenberg

    Thanks for the good questions, Gavin Lee. I would say that getting rid of welfare is compassionate in a “tough love” kind of way, i.e., we can understand the plights and challenges people face in life, and, at the same time, it is a motivator to the truly “abled” (vs. truly disabled) of them to find their strengths when they are no longer allowed to be dependent and to unlearn “learned helplessness”. We already have a for-profit healthcare system; free market health care system would be a more fair one. So, the word “fair” may better describe that aspect than “compassionate”. I believe the U.S. economy, prior to the Fed taking over in 1913, had a largely “unfettered” economy, if I’m not mistaken.

  • Lauren Sonnenberg

    I agree with you that right livelihood is not a political philosophy. I was saying that it is in alignment with the Libertarian philosophy of “live and let live, providing that you are not causing harm to others”. So, if one is to earn a living by whatever means they choose, providing they are not causing harm or usurping others in the process, this is where the Buddhist philosophy and the Libertarian philosophy overlap. To be clear, I’m not trying to paint any or all Libertarians as Buddhists; for the sake of commenting on the above article, however, I was pointing out that similarity.

  • Lauren Sonnenberg

    It is agreed that certainly not all would choose the entrepreneurial path, nor would that be advised. If we had a truly free market though, more jobs would be created. Obamacare is destroying jobs. It cannot be said that we are helping the whole the whole through socialized healthcare when we are simultaneously lowering the ability of companies to create more jobs because of the costs that many employers must contribute to employee healthcare. With a truly free market, we would also see the return of production within the nation as opposed to the great degree of outsourcing that we see currently.

    The “void” spoken about was a psychospiritual void that speaks about fear (of not having enough, of losing what one has, of losing one’s status, etc.) and helplessness, but not laziness. It is not implied that there is a full awareness of this notion by those driving the corporatocratic system, but it is possible that some of them may suffer as much helplessness to fill their own psychospiritual voids as the welfare-dependent person with learned helplessness. So, when that helplessness exists on any level, the “whole” remains greedily hungry. (Also, everyone in the system is responsible for the whole, so I am neither pointing fingers at the middle class, the wealthy, or the poor here.)

    Social responsibility is important and private charities and new systems would evolve as older systems, like welfare, are partially or fully dismantled. The goodwill of humanity will shine forth even more strongly after welfare undergoes such changes, I believe. Specifically,
    I also think we will begin to see more wealthy people become more philanthropic. Imagine what everyone could possibly do with their monies if the personal income tax ceased to be. We could more readily support whatever charity we saw fit. Also, when we get rid of a fractional reserve monetary system, we could, in time, see prices drop, as we would have deflation instead of inflation. There will be plenty for all.

  • Jeff Martin

    A Buddhist economy is out of the question in a continuation of Constantine’s Empire fueled by constant projection of ignorance, hatred, and greed from much of the establishment of wealth united. Suffering is a choice many make without regards to themselves, but for the most powerful, it’s without regard for anyone else.

  • Janet Hays

    This statement totally needs to be parsed out long race and class lines. In New Orleans 52% on Black males are unemployed. 50% of residents are living in poverty. That is not average. Many working poor are homeless. Are the many hours they work factored in and how does that translate into their quality of life? For many of those people Health Care and Education ARE a priority. – “Americans earn more, on average, than people in most European countries, but we also work about 30 percent more hours per year than they do.”

  • Anonymous

    Thanks to Bill AND to Dave for their participation in this thread — I only wish, as I’m sure Dave Gardner does, that Professor Brown would give her students the dana (gift) of a jaundiced approach to economic growth as the underpinning of development. Amartya Sen may be a preferred author to say Robert Samuelson, but I surely hope that Herman Daly and other founders of contemporary Western ecological economics are compared with the Eastern masters like Phra (Brother)Payutto. It is this blending of Schumacher’s philosophy with Eastern and Western social science that leads up to advances like the Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare (ISEW). I hope Bill and Josh will provide more stimulation for those trained in liberal (and I mean here, political liberal/Democrat) economics to lead them away from the myth that growth and prosperity are inherently linked. I wonder what that other UC-Berkeley Economics Professor, Robert Reich would say about such heretical post-liberal economic beliefs.