Notes On Attention Paid

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Buddhist Economics

… this is a profound essay that i come back to again and again… it makes so much sense… please excuse it’s antiquated approach to gender roles which are a product of the time in which it was written:

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.1

… i think about the work i currently pursue, and i will call it work even though it doesn’t produce an income which it doesn’t need to do… i read, write and make pictures daily, and that is rewarding to me… i also enjoy setting it down and spending time with H and the dogs, cooking and sharing nice meals… i am in a perfect place with very good balance between work and leisure…

It is clear, therefore, that Buddhist economics must be very different from the economics of modern materialism, since the Buddhist sees the essence of civilisation not in a multiplication of wants but in the purification of human character. Character, at the same time, is formed primarily by a man’s work. And work, properly conducted in conditions of human dignity and freedom, blesses those who do it and equally their products.2

… and this:

From the point of view of Buddhist economics, therefore, production from local resources for local needs is the most rational way of economic life, while dependence on imports from afar and the consequent need to produce for export to unknown and distant peoples is highly uneconomic and justifiable only in exceptional cases and on a small scale.3

… are there exceptions?… aren’t there things better produced in large factories?… like smartphones, automobiles, computers, etc.?… don’t these things work better and interconnect better with a more unified system of production?… what we are left with then is a system where some (most?) things are produced and distributed locally and others are mass produced and distributed nationally and globally… factories will increasingly be automated, not requiring human labor… local production will be centered on handcrafting, on local labor…

… and this:

Just as a modern European economist would not consider it a great achievement if all European art treasures were sold to America at attractive prices, so the Buddhist economist would insist that a population basing its economic life on non-renewable fuels is living parasitically, on capital instead of income. Such a way of life could have no permanence and could therefore be justified only as a purely temporary expedient. As the world’s resources of non-renewable fuels—coal, oil, and natural gas—are exceedingly unevenly distributed over the globe and undoubtedly limited in quantity, it is clear that their exploitation at an ever-increasing rate is an act of violence against nature which must almost inevitably lead to violence between men.4


  1. Schumacher, E. F., Buddhist Economics [return]
  2. Ibid [return]
  3. Ibid [return]
  4. Ibid [return]