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I = S - M

The modern way of thinking about economics has been I = M - S Where I is the I as in me, M is what is 'mine' and S is what ...


Modern economics says, make sure property rights are well-defined and free markets work great.

We reject property rights and replace them with trusteeship. The idea is that none of us can own nature-given resources or the fruits of the labor of so many. We can only act as trustees and thus act in the interests of everyone in society.

We do not accept property rights and so we do not accept free markets.


Gandhiji said that means and ends are reversible terms. Capitalism is based on the idea that each person pursuing his or her own greed will lead to harmony for society. The idea is that while greed is not our end, it is the means to our end, and so we must accept it as the basis of society. It is for our own good!

In Gandhian economics we reject capitalism because means and ends are not reversible under it. Who would support a system where greed was the explicit end? No one except a very few misguided and disturbed people.

The urgency of adopting Gandhian economics is this: These few misguided and disturbed people are running the current world economic system of capitalism.


Gandhian economics is not about following Gandhiji blindly to the letter. It is not about finding out every word Gandhiji ever said about any topic related to economics and then repeating it, perhaps in modern garb, with econometrics tacked on for respectability. That approach may be called a Gandhist economics. That is the approach that most economists professing Gandhian thinking have taken. They usually limit themselves to one or two of Gandhiji's books that they consider to have economics content. Then they repeat what Gandhiji said with new words.

I have never seen the point of this exercise. We must create a living, breathing study in the spirit of Gandhiji. We must apply his definition of experiments to the world of economics around us. We must look at all his writing, on every topic imaginable, to get glimpses of the brilliant insight that his approach to life can teach us about developing a method of writing about economics. Sometimes it is his writing on diet that may inspire us. For instance, an agitated follower of Gandhiji who had resolved to become a vegetarian even while living in a meat eating family wrote to Gandhiji a letter that carried this thought: Through some substantial self-restraint the writer had managed to become and stay vegetarian while living in an extended Indian family. His family had recently brought to his attention the thoughts of the much-revered Swami Vivekananda, who urged his countrymen to partake of meat offering to take upon himself any sins that may befall people who did so. To this Gandhiji calmly replied that one must always do what feels right to us through a process of inner searching and turn down the views of even the greatest of authorities in favor of the results of our own inner experiments.*

I am always moved by this letter to a man whose own faith had been shaken by the words of authority. I am moved to attempt a creation of a Gandhian economics, in the spirit of Gandhiji, without looking to anyone, not even Gandhiji as the sole authority, but rather allowing bapu to lead us by shining his light upon our world. I have no desire to belittle the great scholars who may know much more than me about what Gandhiji said about this or that. They may be great in their own way. This for me is a personal search, the story of my own experiments with the truth of economics.

*Young India, 7-10-1926. 


I imagine a Gandhian economy without money. I have some slight experience doing that. An economy must be a small unit. Removing money from the picture removes large entities from the picture. It removes profit-seeking firms and it removes government and quasi-government bodies. They all work with a monetary framework. That is how they exert power.

A few years ago I was scheduled to teach a performance art workshop at a university in India. I was under some pressure to kowtow to the head of the university. I refused. So I was banished from the institution. Since interest in my workshop was high, I quickly organized a voluntary economy that enrolled students, acquired studio space, ran a three-day workshop that ended with a public performance. I have lectured about this event and the Institute of Failure has published my work about it so I will not elaborate on it further here. But I will say this: no money changed hands at any point. We had created a small moneyless economy.

I think economies should be small and local and moneyless. It can be done. It is the foundation of our Gandhian economics.