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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 ...


My purpose here is not to set a dichotomy: x is good and y is bad. I do not think that the issue of the right means of organizing society's economics can be answered in a black and white way. The problem is that we have been seeing economics too narrowly. We have been ascribing to greed the guiding principle for action by calling it self interest. There is nothing wrong with greed. To be human is to be greedy. I know I myself am greedy.

However there is a slight possibility that on occasion I display, to my surprise, actions that are not guided by greed. Once in a while I do things that in fact go against my greedy nature. That benefit others. Or the communities that I belong to. I sometimes sweep away the plums that had fallen in our community garden and are lying rotting on the paths. Once in a while I pick us garbage right off the street. This leads me to believe that I am not wholly greedy. I may act greedy but I am not greedy: greed is not the sum and substance of who I am. There is a slight possibility that I may have much more complex motivations and given a guide for behavior other than modern society's atomistic, every person for himself and herself attitude, I may be capable of other kinds of behavior motivated by very different kinds of things.

I find that in the few instances when I am able to overcome my very natural, very human greed, and act from a higher, inexplicable need to do what is right rather than what benefits me immediately, I feel good. Engaging in such action a few times makes me feel much lighter and engaged with the world in ways that I did not know of before. Why am I doing such and such a thing when it does not feed my greed/self interest? I often do not know why because the motivations are more subtle compared to the dense reason that I am greedy.

What I am saying here is this: is it possible for each of us to expand just a little bit outside of the purview of greed each day? What if we do one thing every day that is motivated by anything other than greed? We would suddenly find ourselves with the possibility that life is rich in ways that go beyond what greed and self interest can measure. So we remain in the world that we inhabit and create a new habit to pursue each and every day. It is that simple.


Adam Smith argued that the good of society lay in the good of the individual. Hence the father of classical economics placed self-interest at the heart of his system of economics. Self-interest means the most profit at the least cost for the individual. A prosperous individual means a prosperous society. The assumption here is this: a prosperous society is a good thing. In fact the assumption presupposes that prosperity is the only thing that makes society good!

Gandhiji calmly asserted that the good of the individual lay in the good of society. Hence the father of the nation placed selflessness at the heart of his system of economics. Selflessness means thinking about the whole: family, neighbors and the village as a whole. Selflessness leads to a good society is a very different sense from the one Adam Smith had in mind. Prosperity has its place in a good society amongst a number of other important interpersonal and social dimensions such as good relationships, nurturing of nature, the use of live capital, and seeing people as whole rather than split as labor stripped of their humanness and hence their dignity. Gandhiji's economics allows the holistic development of society and through the society of the individuals living in it. 
To change the system we must offer civil disobedience. But how?

Gandhiji said that civil disobedience should be offered in a way the even the poorest are able to offer it. Making salt from sea water is a perfect example of that during his time.

What form would it take in your community today?


I walked down to Andronicos today. It is our local grocery store chain. I had run out of apples that I purchased at the farmers market and I thought I would get a few apples from Andronicos to last us until the next farmers market, later this week. When I got to the fruits section I noticed two things: All the apples were from either Chile or New Zealand. We live in California so that means these apples had been transported a very long distance all the way from the southern hemisphere and now they were sitting here in the store. The second thing I noticed was the price. These apples were priced at $4 a pound! I stood there amazed at the profound stupidity of modern economics! Let me explain:

This year the shifting weather patterns has meant that apples have arrived at the local farmers markets three weeks early. These are local organic apples grown a short distance away and brought to the market by the apple grower. He has priced his apples at $2 a pound. My local store on the other hand uses modern supply chains to create a complex process of orders that create a number of disturbances on the environment: shipping apples such a long distance means that the environment is burdened as the  shipping and transportation creates costs that are not accounted for: pollution, use of fossil-fuels and the accompanying wars that support a fossil-fuel based economy. After all this complicated, convoluted processes that are supposed to create massive economies of scale for the 'consumer', the store has to charge twice as much as locally-grown apples that are in season.

There is a massive illogic to classical economics that we accept meekly if we do not create change in our communities. Unchecked, this illogic will destroy us slowly. That is why I write. 


(A) Let us say you do something. If your action is simple you can trace the trajectory of your action carefully and evaluate every step. If each step meets our criterion of means and ends being reversible terms, you go ahead with the action. You may repeat it with confidence.

(B) However if your action is complex. Say you press a button. And something happens. In this case you may not be able to even begin breaking your action down into steps. One moment you had not pressed the button. The next moment you had. In this case it is no longer possible to trace the trajectory broken down into the steps involved. You find that you can not evaluate your action, broken down into its component steps, based on our criterion of means and ends being reversible terms. You are no longer able to have a guide for action. You struggle. You look for gurus, authority figures to tell you what to do. Eventually you have a crisis of meaning and start questioning everything.

B above is modern society based on classical economics. Let us return to our roots in A. That is the only next step available to human beings if we are to survive and thrive. 


What kind of world do we want to live in? Is the madness of modern living, with its deadlines, distractions, and death of the spirit worth spending our lives on?

Alfred Marshall famously defined economics as the study of man in his ordinary business of life. I guess women did not figure in his world. And the ordinary business of life for him involved only man's grossest instinct: that of self-interest and immediate survival.

Women and men are much more than that. Krishnamurti distinguished between and individual and a human being. An individual is just you, separated from everything around you, from life itself. That is Alfred Marshall's 'man'. A human being, on the other hand, is part of an interrelated web in nature. We are all connected. We are one. Classical economics is so narrow that it can not contain that idea of a human being and instead splits us into men and women and creates a denuded, deluded, and dead individual.


People not labor

Classical economics views labor (L) as human effort. By doing so it splits the human being artifically and separates effort from the person as if that were possible. By focusing on a single aspect of a multi-dimensional whole. it causes much harm. Both to individuals and to society.

Gandhian economics views the person as a whole. Instead of talking about labor we talk about persons and people (P).

We replace the L with a P. With that act we remove the violence done by economics to human souls. 


What does it offer other than money?

My friend A (who is a doctor) came to me the other day seeking my advice. He had been approached by someone, a very well-known person, I could say a celebrity doctor. The idea was that my friend would share some of his working methods, his research, and then this celebrity doctor would produce a line of products for sale that could potentially do very well.

My response was immediate. What does he have to offer you other than money?

It is a good guide for action. Take money out and see what the situation has to offer. Your answer will be there, sparkling and luminous.


Capital is defined by classical economics as the 'produced means of production'. This needs to be examined carefully and developed. It is time we did that.

Today I saw three men standing around a ladder that extended, to start with, upwards to the third floor of the building across from us. They are chatting quietly amidst their concentration as one man supported the ladder, another climbed up the ladder, and a third expertly pulled on a rope to extend the ladder higher and higher as the man on the ladder climbed higher.

Capital is created by human beings. That is, in the production of capital, the human being has to be present. We take a lot of dead material and with human ingenuity put it together. And we have a piece of capital like a hammer or a machine. In everything that goes into making capital all elements are replaceable except one: the human presence. Without the human being no capital would be produced. Without any one of the dead or inert materials we may have many substitutes now and in the future. But there is no substitute to the human element in the creation of capital.

In other words capital is in its entirety dependent on the human presence that created it. The quality of the capital created, its very nature, is dictated by the quality of the human presence behind it, that went into making it. So to classify capital we must look at the nature of the human presence in its making and its use.

We may define live capital as capital with a living, higher human presence. We may also define dead capital to be its opposite: a lower human presence that is close to dead.

Capital that is live is the kind of capital that Gandhiji encouraged. Back in Gandhiji's day, the charkha, or spinning wheel, was a wonderful example of live capital. Gandhiji attached himself to it to demonstrate its effectiveness and power of symbolism. It is very hard to mistake a charkha for an industrial cloth mill!

Now we come to my point: today, this very day will we come alive to the necessity to recognize live capital in our midst and even more, create live capital in our own communities?

The ladder that I mentioned above that extended, eventually to the fourth floor, is live capital. The three men were getting some important work done. They were doing it as a team, with great sense of concentration. They were also alive to each other's presence, chatting amiably, using the capital in their hands as a valuable tool in their work and friendship. 


Freedom from awareness

We need to free ourselves from awareness. The idea of awareness has been causing a lot of trouble. We need to simply live and do our work.

The problem is this: How many of us know our work? How many of us do it well?

Not many, least of all the so-called enlightened, 'aware' ones.

Let us leave all nonsense behind and do our work.


My article has been published

 My article has been published in Performance Research vol. 18, issue 1.

"Abhay Ghiara's text is a series of fragments, like a necklace of beads, perhaps worry beads (kombolói), and as in the Greek practice we are invited to turn each one and reflect for a moment. In Thirteen fragments of life and death Abhay Ghiara weaves autobiographical memories of fire - from Parsi ancestors, temple rites, travels across India and ultimately the teenage challenge to jump through a hoop of fire. These fragments are interlayered with short interjections on economics, Adam Smith and Gandhiji and residing behind all of the fragments is the question as to whether fire itself can be defiled or whether it only ever cleanses and purifies (a fundamental difference in Parsi and Hindu beliefs and practices)." -- The Editor.

You can read the article by clicking on the link below:

>> Thirteen fragments of life and death: Gandhian economics and a hoop of fire