Friday Book Club: Buddhist Economics.
“This has not been a happy year. This is not a happy country.” I wrote those words in 2008. Of course, they’re even more relevant today. A dozen years ago, I decided to venture to Bhutan to study their Gross National Happiness index.
I wanted to understand how Bhutan could measure the elusive intangible of happiness. I ended up giving a TED talk on this subject in 2010.
On that same line of thought, I recently re-read the book, “Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered,” E.F. Schumacher’s ode to true wealth from a societal perspective. Schumacher argues that traditional Western economics is infused with a self-righteousness that blinds us to the fundamental fallacy that “goods are more important than people, and consumption is more important than creative activity.”
I have to say my evolution from being a classic Stanford MBA to becoming a “karmic capitalist” came in tandem with me rethinking our “consumers” as “customers” and even “contributors.” Our customers are our evangelists and product shapers. This is a massive change in perspective—a shift from “targeting consumers” (war-like language) to “cultivating contributors” (we’re in this together).
Schumacher suggested that the Buddhist point of view takes the function of work to be at least threefold: 1) to give a person a chance to utilize and develop his or her faculties; 2) to enable them to overcome their ego-centeredness by joining with other people in a common task; and 3) to bring forth the goods and services needed for a “becoming existence.” In other words, the development of companies should be foundational for the development of humans, whether they be employees, customers, or investors.
Maybe at this pivotal time in our history, the United States needs to recognize it’s time for a pivot when it comes to our relationship with money. As MEA alums know, we often ask the following questions of ourselves (based on the idea that we all have a relationship with money, even if it’s unconscious):
Since you and Money are in a lifelong relationship, what if you both went to relationship counseling together? What would you say to Money, and what would Money say to you? How can you transform this relationship to make it more functional?”
Maybe it’s time to make a therapy appointment for the United States and Money—let them lie down on the couch together and solve this thing once and for all.