Buddhist Economics

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
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retrofuturist
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Buddhist Economics

Post by retrofuturist »

Greetings,

There's a few books around looking at whether Buddhist principles can be applied to Economics in the pursuit of an ideal Buddhist society.

One that I quite enjoyed is from P.A. Payutto...

Buddhist Economics
A Middle Way for the Market Place
By Ven. P. A. Payutto

http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma2/becono.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Quite thought provoking and worth a look given the current state of the global economy.

What are your thoughts on the potential influence of Buddhism on economic principles? Do you have any interesting texts of Buddhist Economics to share?

Metta,
Retro. :)
"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"Why now do you assume 'a being'? Mara, have you grasped a view?" (SN 5.10)

"Overcome the liar by truth." (Dhp 223)
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KeithBC
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Re: Buddhist Economics

Post by KeithBC »

That is a very interesting work, and it is headed in the right direction. I particularly like what Ven. Payutto has to say about non-production as a virtue. However, I don't think it goes far enough.

For any economic theory to be viable into the coming century, it has to be based on the principle of sustainability. To be truly sustainable, a system has to approach a zero level of net consumption of resources. Anything less than this will contribute to the eventual collapse of all economic systems.

Om mani padme hum
Keith
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DNS
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Re: Buddhist Economics

Post by DNS »

I have not read that work yet. Where does it fall on the traditional left-right spectrum?
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retrofuturist
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Re: Buddhist Economics

Post by retrofuturist »

Greetings TheDhamma,
TheDhamma wrote:I have not read that work yet. Where does it fall on the traditional left-right spectrum?
I think from memory it sidesteps that fixed dichotomy a little, as many "middle way" solutions do. Key themes are:

* Emphasis on need, not greed
* Re-humanisation of labour and the potential for it to be spiritually fulfilling

Metta,
Retro. :)
"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"Why now do you assume 'a being'? Mara, have you grasped a view?" (SN 5.10)

"Overcome the liar by truth." (Dhp 223)
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DNS
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Re: Buddhist Economics

Post by DNS »

Ok, thanks. I tend to be around the middle myself on the traditional spectrum, so I'll have to check it out and read it through.

I have noticed that Buddhist teachings can be used (perhaps manipulated?) to support almost any political view. For example, the compassion and brahma-vihara teachings can be used in a leftist way and the teachings on 'individual responsibility' can be used for a more right wing economic and political view.

Buddhists tend to lean to the left, but I have seen plenty of right leaning Buddhists too. So it will be interesting to see how learned bhikkhus feel on the issues.
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Re: Buddhist Economics

Post by Dhammanando »

Hi David,
TheDhamma wrote:Buddhists tend to lean to the left, but I have seen plenty of right leaning Buddhists too. So it will be interesting to see how learned bhikkhus feel on the issues.
My view is that no political outlook has a monopoly on the brahmaviharas or any other Buddhist virtues. I think Buddhists might with equally pure motivation, equally good conscience, and with equal fallibility, end up nearly anywhere on the political spectrum, excluding only those ideologies that have the doing of harm as an intrinsic and intentional feature.

Best wishes,
Dhammanando Bhikkhu
Anabhirati kho, āvuso, imasmiṃ dhammavinaye dukkhā, abhirati sukhā.

“To not delight in this dhammavinaya, friend, is painful; to delight in it is bliss.”
(Sukhasutta, AN 10:66)
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gavesako
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Re: Buddhist Economics

Post by gavesako »

Ajahn Buddhadasa had his vision of "Dhammic Socialism":

http://www.suanmokkh.org/ds/what_ds1.htm" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Bhikkhu Gavesako
Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

Access to Insight - Theravada texts
Ancient Buddhist Texts - Translations and history of Pali texts
Dhammatalks.org - Sutta translations
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Cittasanto
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Re: Buddhist Economics

Post by Cittasanto »

Hi Retro / All,
I can not find my copy to see if it is the same on but the one I have is quite thin and about A5 in size, not read it yet but have in on my to read list!

there is a small passage of What the Buddha Taught which quotes the Buddha in how to distribute your earnings! looked it up it is to Sigala (page 83, 2003 print run of the oneworld classics)

1 fourth Daily expenses savings
1 fourth Savings
1 half invest in his bussiness
Blog, Suttas, Aj Chah, Facebook.

He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them.
But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion …
...
He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them … he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.
John Stuart Mill
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DNS
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Re: Buddhist Economics

Post by DNS »

Here is an interesting video, which explains the American system of government, well at least "in theory":

http://www.wimp.com/thegovernment/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

It is sort of the Libertarian Party view, which is some ways is middle way between No government and Total government. As a businessman, I can relate to many of the ideas and find it attractive. G. W. Bush in no way fits into this model as he only expanded government.
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Re: Buddhist Economics

Post by Individual »

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

There's a few books around looking at whether Buddhist principles can be applied to Economics in the pursuit of an ideal Buddhist society.

One that I quite enjoyed is from P.A. Payutto...

Buddhist Economics
A Middle Way for the Market Place
By Ven. P. A. Payutto

http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma2/becono.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Quite thought provoking and worth a look given the current state of the global economy.

What are your thoughts on the potential influence of Buddhism on economic principles? Do you have any interesting texts of Buddhist Economics to share?

Metta,
Retro. :)
It's just pseudo-Marxism that they're trying to spread through associating it with Buddhism. :cookoo:

I didn't read it all, but to see if it was even worth reading, I decided to first take a look at the "Buddhist" definition of value, as a rough gauge of the coherency of the rest of it. Because value is such a fundamental concept, that if they misunderstand or distort the very meaning of "value," then there's not much basis for the rest of their analysis.

What I was found was, of course, simply Marxism with a Buddhist face:

http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma2/becono3.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
In the previous chapter, we discussed the two kinds of desire, chanda and tanha. Given that there are two kinds of desire, it follows that there are two kinds of value, which we might term true value and artificial value. True value is created by chanda. In other words, a commodity's true value is determined by its ability to meet the need for well-being. Conversely, artificial value is created by tanha -- it is a commodity's capacity to satisfy the desire for pleasure.

To assess an object's value, we must ask ourselves which kind of desire -- tanha or chanda -- defines it. Fashionable clothes, jewelry, luxury cars and other status-symbols contain a high degree of artificial value because they cater to people's vanity and desire for pleasure. A luxury car may serve the same function as a cheaper car, but it commands a higher price largely because of its artificial value. Many of the pleasures taken for granted in today's consumer society -- the games, media thrills and untold forms of junk foods available -- are created solely for the purpose of satisfying tanha, have no practical purpose at all and are often downright detrimental to well-being. For the most part, advertising promotes this artificial value. Advertisers stimulate desires by projecting pleasurable images onto the products they sell. They induce us to believe, for example, that whoever can afford a luxury car will stand out from the crowd and be a member of high society, or that by drinking a certain brand of soft drink we will have lots of friends and be happy.

The true value of an object is typically overshadowed by its artificial value. Craving and conceit, and the desire for the fashionable and sensually appealing, cloud any reckoning of the true value of things. How many people, for instance, reflect on the true value or reasons for eating food or wearing clothes?
This is "common sense," to many people, but from an economic standpoint, it's laughable nonsense. Even Classical economics (now old and outdated) criticized the idea of innate value by demonstrating the paradox that water is cheaper than diamonds, even though water is clearly so much more useful.

I'd say that a good 99.99% of economists, whether left-wing or right-wing, Democrat or Republican, would agree that there's no clear distinction between "true value" and "artificial value". As much as a person might think a good or service should be worth a certain price, this individual preference doesn't change the fact that in any market -- even markets under radical Socialist governments -- a service or good will be valued according to its exchange value. When the government tries to fix prices, this has been empirically demonstrated to be harmful, by several decades of research.

If you really want to examine real economics, I suggest taking a college-level course in it, picking up an Idiot's Guide or Dummy's guide on it, or read the classics, like the Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith and The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money by J.M. Keynes. The classic texts, though, are really bogged down with academic terminology... For a quick, interesting (but slightly freemarket-biased) introduction to economics, check out Milton Friedman's TV series, Free to Choose (available to watch here). John Stossel has also done some good work, although again, he's a bit biased in favor of Libertarianism.
The best things in life aren't things.

The Diamond Sutra
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retrofuturist
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Re: Buddhist Economics

Post by retrofuturist »

Greetings Individual,

Yes, I know about those writers... I'd rather spend my time investigating Buddhism nowadays.

Metta,
Retro. (Bachelor of Economics / Bachelor of Arts) :)
"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"Why now do you assume 'a being'? Mara, have you grasped a view?" (SN 5.10)

"Overcome the liar by truth." (Dhp 223)
Individual
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Re: Buddhist Economics

Post by Individual »

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Individual,

Yes, I know about those writers... I'd rather spend my time investigating Buddhism nowadays.

Metta,
Retro. (Bachelor of Economics / Bachelor of Arts) :)
Retrofuturist, the local Zen monk here said once that if you want to learn something, you go to the right person. If you go to the library, for instance, you have to find the right book.

Economics and Buddhism can go together, but a Buddhist approach to economics would involve making claims about economics by studying economics and making claims based on economic reasoning, and the evidence provided thus far by studies in the field of economics. Making claims about economics by philosophically relating general, "common sense" economic speculation to ideas in the Pali canon... this seems like a horrible methodology. The Buddha said it was only a handful of leaves and to extrapolate a mountain from a handful through logical analysis is going to fail at some point. Because the Pali canon is only so large and doesn't contain the answer to every conceivable question. If you want to know how to make a good apple pie, the Pali canon isn't going to help. The Buddha was not an economist.

Now, with that said, it would be interesting to see something written about the application of Buddhism to economics, but you need to distinguish normative economics (public policy, fairness, justness, etc.) from economic analysis which is value-free. And you need to use lots of references. Otherwise, it's just sloppy work. Laymen might be intrigued by it, but it also spreads ignorance about mainstream economics (by not clarifying what mainstream economists believe) and what do laymen -- Buddhists or non-Buddhists -- need to be intrigued for? And for professional economists and those who set public policy, because of the religious values thrown in there, and the lack of references, it's useless.

With metta :heart:,
Individual
The best things in life aren't things.

The Diamond Sutra
Element

Re: Buddhist Economics

Post by Element »

Individual wrote:Retrofuturist, the local Zen monk here said once that if you want to learn something, you go to the right person. If you go to the library, for instance, you have to find the right book.
Whilst I agree with Individual in general, the Buddha did give some economic advice. The Buddha said:
With wealth acquired this way,
a layman fit for household life,
in portions four divides his wealth:

One portion for his wants he uses,
two portions on his business spends,
the fourth for times of need he keeps.
"In five ways should a master minister to his servants and employees as the Nadir:

(i) by assigning them work according to their ability,
(ii) by supplying them with food and with wages,
(iii) by tending them in sickness,
(iv) by sharing with them any delicacies,
(v) by granting them leave at times.
"And what is the bliss of debtlessness? There is the case where the son of a good family owes no debt, great or small, to anyone at all. When he thinks, 'I owe no debt, great or small, to anyone at all,' he experiences bliss, he experiences joy. This is called the bliss of debtlessness. AN 4.62
Now there are many theories of economics but basically the issue is always one of greed or selfishness causing the whole system to collapse. Our world is expensing this today to the point there are the jobless.

However, the Buddha was a realist. As we can see above, the Buddha promoted business and investment. Without incentive, economic activity stiffles.

From the Buddha's advice above, we can list some economic ideals:

1. Not paying workers enough and not share profits with workers will stifle economic activity. If workers are paid optimally, they will spend a large proportion of their income. To the contrary, if the wealtly acquire too much wealth, it will be hoarded or placed in unproductive asssets, such as country retreats.

2. Manage debt. Avoid debt unless it is for investment, such as house mortgage. Avoid debt on depreciating assets or non-assets.

3. Live within your means so you have a certain portion of savings.

These recommendations will stabilise economic activity plus retrain incentive for enterpreners. Middle way is Buddha way.

There is no such thing as a perfect society. Of all prophets, it was the Lord Buddha himself who had the natural power to create a theocracy. He did not give it the slightest thought because the world will always be mostly comprised of putujanas.

This is why the Buddha always supported the devas but not the asuras. The asuras believe in controlling the masses by force. Buddha was not a communist or a Dalai Lmao.

With metta

Element
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sherubtse
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Re: Buddhist Economics

Post by sherubtse »

Dhammanando wrote:Hi David,

My view is that no political outlook has a monopoly on the brahmaviharas or any other Buddhist virtues. I think Buddhists might with equally pure motivation, equally good conscience, and with equal fallibility, end up nearly anywhere on the political spectrum, excluding only those ideologies that have the doing of harm as an intrinsic and intentional feature.

Best wishes,
Dhammanando Bhikkhu
Greetings Bhante:

My god. What a logical, rational, no-nonsense, right-on-the-money statement. I agree 100%! :jumping:

With metta,
Sherubtse
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Rui Sousa
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Re: Buddhist Economics

Post by Rui Sousa »

Dhammanando wrote:Hi David,
My view is that no political outlook has a monopoly on the brahmaviharas or any other Buddhist virtues. I think Buddhists might with equally pure motivation, equally good conscience, and with equal fallibility, end up nearly anywhere on the political spectrum, excluding only those ideologies that have the doing of harm as an intrinsic and intentional feature.
Banthe,

Thank you for your wise words.
With Metta
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