Featured Post

There is only one goal. That is to be whole again.

There is only one goal. That is to be whole again. How human beings live and work determines whether they remain whole or are split. ...


To understand our selves we must explore our selves. As a performance artist I use performance lectures and performance workshops to engage people in self-explorations and sharing. The following are further excerpts from my trip to Brazil 2014. 

Exploring with four arms

Modern-day chess derives from the Persian game chatrang which itself derives from the Sanskrit chaturanga, which means four-armed. My father's Parsi ancestors came from old Persia and I imagine that they played the game of chatrang in their free time. 

My mother's ancestors were Brahmins from the Konkan coast, spoke Sanskrit and in the long monsoon season when villages like their's facing the Arabian Sea turn into little islands to this day, it is not hard to imagine the children and grownups sitting around the ancient chessboard playing chaturanga

I am told that this ancient game in accord with its name was once four-armed and it seems to me that in the journey it took from the coast of Konkan to Persia and the Arab world and on to Europe, it lost half its dimensionality. It went from being four-armed to being a game played only by two. 

And yet there remain four sides to the game board that are almost identical reminding us that once there were four back and front movements and that once moving to the side also meant moving to the back and the front and the other side depending on whose perspective the move was seen from. 

Exercise: Brazil 2014 performance workshops

Imagine that you have four arms. Using your real and imaginary arms start miming things that you do every day and how you would do them now that you have four arms. Try to do many different everyday tasks one after another. Remember the task that was most memorable: the most fun to do, the hardest, the weirdest, the coolest, whatever! (TASK) 

Now as you do your tasks notice that you've been making up and using imaginary objects that you needed to do your tasks. Pay attention to these imaginary objects as you do your everyday tasks and ask yourself these questions: 

1. How many objects do you use for each task? Perhaps you use only one, but perhaps more since you do have four arms!
2. How would you describe the objects?
3. How much does each object weigh?
4. What colors are they?
5. What textures do they have?
6. What are their volumes?
7. Are they new or old? Or are some new and some old?
8. Do you like them? Or do you like some of them and not the others? Which ones?
9. Find something odd about each object. Can you let their oddness grow?
10. How have the objects changed?

Remember the object and its attributes that you found most memorable. (OBJECT)

Now using your four arms start miming fantastic tasks that you can't actually do in your everyday life but that using your imagination and play acting you can now do in this performance space. Do many different fantastic tasks one after another. Remember the fantastic task that was most memorable to you. (FANTASTIC TASK)

Now as you do the fantastic tasks pay attention to the imaginary fantastic objects that you've been using and ask yourself the questions above. Remember the fantastic object and its attributes that you found most memorable. (FANTASTIC OBJECT)

Using the four elements, Task, Object, Fantastic Task and Fantastic Object create a silent one-minute performance. 

May the pulse be with you!

I was in Rio de Janeiro and Fortaleza, Brazil this year and I include below a short excerpt of an economics and performance lecture and workshop entitled Theory and Practice. The idea was to explore who each of us is before we start theorizing about what drives us. 


Small performances in everyday life.

Your life is a performance space. Every day every moment you have the opportunity to perform. These small performances of the moment constitute what you call your life.

If you improvise in every moment you call upon a great power of the universe that understands and is in harmony with your intention. Then you sing. Your life sings in each moment.

Your small performances of daily life develop a sacred quality of magical improvisation. Your small performances speak to you. Speak to others. Give you the will to live. They power you.

And that's when you start living. 

Exercise: Brazil 2014 performance workshops

Who are you? Answer this question in 2 pages of hand-written free-writing where you start writing and then don't stop until you have filled 2 blank pages with your answer. Don't worry about spelling, or grammar, or punctuation. In fact don't worry about anything, just write. Stop when you have 2 pages written down. 

Reflect briefly on your writing. Now underline 3 sentences that stand out for you. There is no right and wrong. You are simply exploring your self. Finally, pick a total of 3 words from the 3 sentences and circle them. 

Now pick an object, any object that you are drawn to. Using your object in any way you like you will share your 3 words with the group, one at a time in the form of an improvised 1 minute performance. 

Reflect on the experience. 

May the pulse be with you!



When we see that society is crumbling, falling apart we try to fix society. Have you noticed that does not work? We can not reform society or reformulate it. It can not be done.

Gandhiji pointed out that society is not the same as the masses. The masses are simply a collection of individuals. We can reform, reformulate the masses but such change is not lasting. Social reformers have come and gone through the ages and yet suffering, violence, destruction have not lessened. They have increased.

Society comes out of relationship. It is what is created when there is relationship. Unless each individual is whole he or she can not be engaged in meaningful relationship. Split individuals create split relationships and so society itself, which is nothing other than relationship, is non-existent since there is nothing like a split society. 

We do not have, at present, a society. We only have masses, big and small. A small mass controls all the resources and the large mass suffers passively and tries to get by by consuming consuming consuming all the time. The small mass gets richer while the large mass gets poorer. 

But there is no relationship. So there is no society. This is the crisis of our time and its nature is economic since it is how we live and work that creates split individuals. 

So the solution has to be economic. We need a new economics that can create wholeness in the individual so that individuals may have whole relationships. Then we will have what may truly be called a society. There will be no violence, no suffering, no price to pay at all. 

This can happen. In our lifetime. 


Who am I? Do I really know the answer? Is it possible to know the answer?

Who I am has to be discovered. Only I can do it. And it takes time. In a sense it is a moving target because I can never exhaust my understanding of who I am. 

As a part of the infinite, of universal love, of God if you will, I am infinite. Over time, with intention and effort I can understand more and more of who I am. Even though I can never come to an end and say, "I've got it! This is who I am!", even though my explorations of who I am will always be incomplete, a work-in-progress, the process of discovery is very important. 

It could well be the most important process of discovery that you can engage in.

Exercise: Brazil 2014 performance art workshops

Who are you? Answer this question in 2 pages of hand-written free-writing where you start writing and then don't stop until you have filled 2 blank pages with your answer. Don't worry about spelling, or grammar, or punctuation. In fact don't worry about anything, just write. Stop when you have 2 pages written down. 

Reflect briefly on your writing. Now underline 3 sentences that stand out for you. There is no right and wrong. You are simply exploring your self. Finally, pick a total of 3 words from the 3 sentences and circle them. 

Now pick an object, any object that you are drawn to. Using your object in any way you like you will share your 3 words with the group, one at a time, in the form of a 1 minute performance. 

Reflect on the experience. 


We see around the world so much destruction, so much suffering, so much anger. This is what we see. It is on the outside so we see it.

However what is outside is simply a reflection of what is inside. If each of us in the world were not destroying ourselves moment by moment, if we were not each suffering and creating even more suffering for our selves, if we were not each angry and getting angrier day by day, the world would not be full of destruction, suffering and anger.

Society is not just a collection of people. Gandhiji distinguished between society and masses. Society comes into being through relationship. Each relationship that I have, with my wife, my neighbor, my boss, reflects my relationship with myself. So if we find that society is fragile, at a breaking point, full of conflict and greed, it means that each of us is fragile, at breaking point, full of conflict and greed.

The problem is not outside. The problem is inside. The outside is simply a reflection of the inside. It is just that what is outside is available for us to see.

How do we respond to what is happening on the outside? We can not ignore it, pretend that it does not exist. Even the earth is rebelling against such studied ignoring and lashing back with climate change and increasingly extreme, unpredictable weather. People are taking to the streets unwilling to be coaxed along with promises of material fulfillment.

However the only real and effective response is for us to change on the inside. We must change. Each of us must change. We must work to heal the split within us.

We must look at how we live and how we work and heal those first.


Why Gandhian economics?

Modern man and modern woman are split. This is an internal split that each one of us living today experiences. This split expresses itself as the madness of greed, violence and out-of-controlness that is our world.

How we live and how we work causes this split. How we live and how we work is the purview of economics. So modern economics has caused this split.

If we want to solve the problems of the world, if we are no longer willing to ignore the fact that the individual, the family, society and the world are messed-up everywhere, we must reject modern economics and turn to Gandhian economics.

Then we can begin to heal the split in ourselves, in our families, in our society and the world. Changing our understanding of economics, we change how we live and how we work.

That results in a profound healing of the world. Every one of us who does that contributes to the healing of the planet. We can have hope for a future for our children. It is as simple as that.
Swadeshi to me means starting from who you are. In order to do that you must first understand who you are.  You can only understand who you are by practicing body meditation. You close your eyes and focus on the predominant sensation in you body. You follow this sensation, track it. You can do it all day. 

As the great teacher Dan Emmons says, "Every second you spend on body meditation counts." It helps you understand who you are. Over time you become who you are.

Then you and your actions are no longer split. You act from a deeper place of being, of understanding. You heal your self and start the process of healing the world. 

You see you, me, we are One. 
Letter to a young man

You have written to me asking for guidance. I do not have guidance for you. All I can provide is inspiration. Once you are inspired you will know what to do. Just follow your own intuition.

The problem of looking upon me as an expert in Gandhian economics is this: then every word I say means more than every word that you say, that every thought I have of what you should do outweighs every thought that you have of what you should do.

In that case the world does not change. Every generation has to come up with its own new ideas of how to do things. Otherwise everything, including Gandhian economics, becomes sterile repetition. When you consider that such sterile repetition, such brain-washing in the name of education has brought the world to the crisis it is in now, you will forgive me for not 'guiding' you. Perhaps one day, and that is my hope, you will thank me for not 'guiding' you.

What does it take to be inspired to take action? Do you see what is happening in the world? I am not talking about what is happening far away in some distant, perhaps exotic land, often described as 'colorful'? Just look around you. How do people treat each other? Do they value each other, do they treat each other with respect? How do they treat the animals, the earth? Is it not a crying shame? Can you stand it or do you feel like you want to tear your hair out and scream at the top of your lungs?

When you feel the injustice of the world around you, feel the ridiculous respect given to pure greed in the name of sophisticated-sounding but vacuous terms like self-interest and the extolling of maximizing, of profit, of income, of grades, of self over and above others, you are inspired to change the world.

But the first step is to change your self. As Gandhiji said, "Be the change you wish to see."

I wish you great inspiration.


It is really very simple.

The problem is that we are split.

The solution is wholeness.


Upcoming Travel, Teaching and Workshops

I will be in Brazil during the month of November 2014, in Rio de Janeiro and Fortaleza, traveling with a group of economics undergraduate and graduate students.
If we define economics as the study of maximizing the satisfaction gained from our limited resources we are headed for trouble. We can see that already. The world is in the midst of the crisis of climate change. We have been maximizing for over 200 years and we are now faced with extinction. This is not fanciful thinking. It is fact. We are close to destroying the viability of our survival on our once-beautiful planet.

If we define economics as the study of nurturing of our selves, each other and our resources we may have a chance of survival. We may, through peaceful, thoughtful and complementary means achieve a peaceful society of the future.

Gandhiji told us a long time ago that means and ends are always interchangeable terms. We have thus far used violent, greedy means but seem surprised that we have created a violent, greedy world. But

means = ends

so everything we see around us is a result of decisions made a long time ago. We have been taught to exploit resources, compete with our brothers and sisters and get ahead as if life were a race. These means have resulted in most of humanity being left behind. Suffering has increased rather than decreased over time.

If we are willing to think of economics as cooperation, as the nonviolent participation of all in society, as the powerful means and ends of sharing and above all love, then and only then can humanity survive and truly prosper.


We have some very wealthy people where we live. There are also many very poor people. Many who are homeless, destitute. The rich own money, own property, own assets. What does that wealth all amount to? Does it make them immortal? Of course not! Are they any wiser or better in any way from the poor? I don't think so.

And yet they are rich. What does that mean? How are they set apart from the poor? How is this couple who own a two million dollar home up the hill from where we live different from the dozen or so homeless people who live down our street? The one difference is of course that the rich have a particularly thick skin. Enjoying their lives even as others suffer.

But on a more fundamental level, the economic level, the rich have wealth and the poor do not. Now what is wealth? Let us say, to keep our analysis simple, that all of it is in the form of money. Let us say our rich couple living up the street has a million dollars. Now why is that significant? Isn't it only significant because the million dollars represent a lack amongst someone else, needs unfulfilled exactly to the tune of a million dollars?

If there were not people in the world who truly needed even a small portion of that million dollars to fulfill their own needs, no one would care that the rich couple had a million dollars. The couple wouldn't be able to do anything with the million dollars if the world was full of people whose needs were being met and who were satisfied with their lives.

The only reason why the million dollars means anything is precisely because there is a negative wealth, a need for exactly a million dollars, that is left unfulfilled in the world. That is what gives money wealth its power. Without the misery, without the lack, money wealth would be worth nothing at all.

So all money wealth implies a negative wealth of the same amount. Wealth is held by a few and negative wealth to the same total amount is held by the very many.

It is absurd to talk about a wealthy society when we think of wealth in terms of money. For each person with wealth in the society there are others carrying negative wealth. A wealthy society is thus an impossibility as long as we think of wealth in terms of what we own: money, property, or assets.

John Ruskin said a long time ago, "Wealth is life," and that is the only definition of wealth that makes any sense to me.


The object of economics is to see to the production and distribution of objects for use by people. We are not so interested in the objects themselves as the pleasure people get from using them. 

If that is so then it is clear to me that people can only get pleasure from objects that were made with pleasure. Work is as natural as play. Both are pleasurable. 

When we are whole we are profoundly connected to our lives, our families, our neighbors and our work. When we are whole we create objects that are whole. Whoever receives the fruit of our work enjoys it immensely. We in turn enjoy the fruits of the work of others done in pleasure.

The economy is like a children's playground. Have you noticed how little kids get immense pleasure from playing with each other in smaller and larger groups, many games going on simultaneously on one playground. When children play they are whole. Adult work should be just like play.

When we are whole we will create things with great enthusiasm and pride, receiving pleasure just as we did as children engaged in play. When we are whole we will create things that are whole and anyone who obtains our products will enjoy their wholeness. We in turn will enjoy not only making things but also enjoy things others have made in their wholeness.

If the very material basis of our society is whole our relationships will be whole. We will have whole families, whole communities, whole societies that treat themselves, each other and mother earth with kindness, consideration and love. 

That is the only economics I am interested in. Would you join me in this? How about your family? Your neighbors? 

Together we can bring about a complete change in our lives, our families, our neighbors, our society. We can do it. 

But we need to start now



On Gandhiji's birthday

Let us love and not hate

Let us accept with big hearts

Let us be nonresistant to evil.

Let us not choose

Let us follow


The right path and take

Right action.

Economics is not about

Greed and profit

Fear and lust for more

Economics is about

Creatively using

Our God-given resources

To celebrate


Let us remember


That Gandhiji taught us

We are one


So we must

Love ourselves

And love our neighbors

Like brothers and sisters.

We must create

New economies

With our neighbors

Our land our animals

Our lives.

In the words

Of John Ruskin

Wealth is Life.


Dear friends,

Thank you for gathering today to talk about Gandhiji, economics and the future of humanity. 

First of all what is Gandhian economics? It is the economics of Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhiji, as he is known to us who grew up in India (the -ji added after his name is in the Indian tradition of respectful address), created the finest and clearest approach to a whole economics that was part of and not separate from all the other aspects of what it means to be human. Gandhiji wrote prolifically and his collected works now fill 100 volumes. In each and every part of his writing are clues to his economics. He did not believe in separation, his goal was to heal the split in modern man and modern woman. So he wrote about economics the way he wanted his economics to be applied: not piece-meal but whole. We must therefore not look for his economics in any one volume of his many writings but instead for for it in all his writing. 

I believe (along with the late great E. F. Schumacher) Gandhiji to be the greatest economist who ever lived. To understand Gandhian economics though we must really look at all his writing, on every subject possible, to glean the deep principles and insights that he provides. These insights are embedded in thoughts and analyses of a multitude of problems, considerations and examples and must be understood in their entire wholeness, not separated out and distilled or summarized.

Well then, secondly, we must talk about what Gandhian economics is not!

It is not the economics of J. C. Kumarappa. Gandhian economics is the economics of Gandhiji just as surely as Keynesian economics is the economics of J. M. Keynes and Marxian economics is the economics of Karl Marx. Kumarappa may well have coined the term "Gandhian Economics" but what he wrote is simply one interpretation of what the great master had to teach and say. 

It is not the economics of John Ruskin. While it is true that reading Ruskin's Unto This Last made a huge and life-changing impact on Gandhiji while still living in South Africa and inspired Gandhiji to create the first of his Ashrams, their economics are actually very different. Ruskin was the product of his age while Gandhiji was ever the free thinker, unbound by tradition or rules of behavior. Let us take just one simple difference. Ruskin was, like many people of his time and place, brainwashed into a genuine belief in free trade. There is a footnote in Unto This Last (that many seem to have missed) in which Ruskin states this quite plainly. He was a free trader, while Gandhiji reasoned quite correctly that while free trade had made Britain rich, it had impoverished India. Gandhiji created the concept of swadeshi that has now spawned the buy local movement worldwide in opposition to the crude idea of free trade. 

Gandhian economics is a living, vital subject that is quickly gaining interest and developing worldwide. It is not a ready-made set of principles to be applied indiscriminately. The world has tried ready-made principles both in the Communist world and the Capitalist world. Neither has worked and in fact their failure has brought us to the brink of total destruction. As E. F. Schumacher taught us a long time ago, economics is treated like a convergent problem where we obtain one single solution to a problem when in fact true economics is a divergent problem requiring divergent creative approaches. I would add that true economics is also an organic problem requiring creative and organic transformation along with divergence. Gandhian economics fits the bill of a true economics perfectly and as I see it is the only hope for our, and dear young ones, your economic future. 

I would invite young people worldwide to explore this vital and important subject and contribute to the divergent and organic transformation of our world. Together we can do it, in our own lifetime. 


What does 'economic' mean? This concerns me because even otherwise thoughtful people talk about 'economic' as if to mean one thing alone, involving a calculus of maximizing greed. So people will say that a particular situation displays the tendency for participants in the situation to display 'economic' behavior when they mean that the participants are acting like calculating machines, adding up benefits and comparing them to costs in a way to maximize satisfaction.

I have noticed an increasing tendency in using the word 'economic' in this way. Even people opposed to the regimented, so-called rational-economic-man approach to social phenomena tend to use 'economic' to denote the use of a cost-benefit, adding-and-subtracting approach to life.

But why should 'economic' mean such a narrow and unwholesome thing? Why should human beings be artificially converted into mechanical calculators and then be given the term 'economic' to mean such a reduced, diminished, stupid state of being?

May I suggest that the reason why we use the word 'economic' in such a stilted, soul-destroying way is that we have allowed ourselves to be brainwashed by the tenets of classical economics.

It seems to me that even some of the brightest minds of the generation have simply given up the term 'economic' without a fight and use it to mean little more than the use of a base, quantitative, greed-based approach to life.

I do not think the term 'economic' is being used correctly. As I see it 'economic' has to do with our relationship to the earth, our relationship with each other, within families, within communities. It has to do with sustaining ourselves as whole people, building whole families, whole communities.

If the major split in modern men and women is the internal split caused by an evil economics applied purely out of greed, with no consideration for the majesty of what it means to be human, the tremendous responsibility to creation that comes with having consciousness, then the only way to heal that split is to (a) stop doing what we have been doing for so long, splitting our selves artificially by making us out to be little more than adding-machines, (b) start living whole lives where work is meaningful and a part of family, a part of society, a part of play and culture and exchange and expression, (c) return the term 'economic' to its correct meaning to mean that which involves creation, that which involves sustenance, that which is the foundation of a whole life.


What is interest?

Classical economics saw interest as the value of capital. It was the value at which supply of and demand for capital would find balance. In this way of thinking of interest any intervention that changed the supply conditions such as monetary policy would distort and confuse underlying valuations of capital. Hence the classical insistence of hands-off economics. Capital is appropriately used when its real value is clearly exposed. Its value is reflected in the interest. Messing with interest is tantamount to a sin.

As everyone knows classical economics and its hands-off approach meant that historically during depressions, those inevitable downturns of the trade cycle, millions of people would be jobless, homeless, hungry and in misery. This was the history of western economics until John Maynard Keynes.

John Maynard Keynes revolutionized economics by seeing interest as the value of money. New capital forms a very small part of the market for money so Keynes explained interest in terms of the balance between the supply of and demand for money. Seen in this light monetary policy or even fiscal policy does not cause distortions in capital. Money in the sense of modern fiat money (not backed by gold) can be sensitively modified to improve overall performance and in the case of crises such as the depression, fiscal policy can be brought in powerfully to effect a massive change in conditions. Neither distorts capital and can and have been used effectively to ease suffering.

We are grateful to Keynes for improving the lot of the common human. Millions upon millions of children would have died or never have been born without Keynes' revolution.

However the revolution was only partial. To be complete we must match means and ends. As Gandhiji once said, "Means and Ends are convertible terms." Keynes created a system where new means (monetary and fiscal policy) were created to meet the ends of preserving the very system that created the imbalance and suffering in the first place! Think about it in 5 easy to understand steps:

1. You have a system based on bad economics.

2. This system inevitably creates cyclical crises.

3. The crises cause untold suffering.

4. Classical economists say, "Hands-off, all this suffering cleanses the system of bad blood!"

5. Keynes brings humanity into the system by redefining interest, eases suffering somewhat.

Both systems preserve the system based on bad economics. Means and ends are not convertible!

Any system that involves senseless suffering of people is a system that we should no longer accept. We can not even let ourselves be hoodwinked into accepting it as a means to a lofty end. We must develop a new system where means and ends are convertible, where joyful work, wholeness, a spirit of community, peace and laughter are are means and also our ends.

In the previous blog post I ponder one small way of making a beginning in rethinking the concept of interest.
There is so much suffering in the world. I was in the library this morning and read a National Geographic report on hunger in the United States. Yes, even in the so-called richest country in the world millions go hungry each day. Many of them are children. The same thing is happening worldwide, in rich and poor countries alike. People are going hungry. 

I know a lot of people who would like to help.  But they don't know how. Many well-meaning attempts have been made to extend credit to the poor. However the credit is offered at interest and that, I believe, is wrong. It is wrong morally and is bad economics.

People borrow either to obtain necessities (n) or to create capital (c). The current system charges interest on both of these, necessities (n) and capital (c). That does not make any sense either practically or historically. 

If my neighbor's children are hungry it is my duty to offer them food. If my neighbor needs to fix her roof to keep her family safe and warm and dry, it is my duty to lend her money. Sure I can expect that the money be returned to me when she can do so but to expect interest would be plain wrong. It defies any kind of economic logic as well--my neighbor is in need. She is not applying my loan to the making of money elsewhere. She is in need and I must fulfill that need. That acts creates bonds of reciprocity that make up a tight, well-functioning society. 

I can expect that my loan will be repaid but I can not expect interest from her. To expect or even accept interest would be to gain from her misery. That is a very destructive act and splits us apart. I become the money-lender and she becomes my victim. For how many centuries have such relationships plagued the world? Have they ever created a happy society, have they ever ended suffering?

If my neighbor starts a business and wants to borrow money from me I may lend him money at interest. After all he expects to gain from the investment. He intends to create capital and I may share in that venture and rightfully expect a fair return on my share.  

So interest on money borrowed for capital (c) may earn a positive market interest rate. That is fine. But money lent for necessities (n) should never carry any interest. 

Historically the charging of interest for necessities (n) was called usury and forbidden by the ancients. Alas we have forgotten their wisdom and in our greed extended interest to everything borrowed and lent. In doing so we may have well lost our souls. 

I would suggest that the term interest be only applied to interest for capital (c). Henceforth interest on necessities (n) should be widely viewed as inhumane, economically unsound and no longer be called interest at all. 


 Interest = c + n

I am proposing that from now on

Interest = c

Which means that necessities (n) be free from the tyranny of exploitation. 

As Gandhiji once said, "the world has enough for everyone's needs but not enough for everyone's greed." Without the false yoke of interest, we can easily help our neighbors and suffering can end. This can happen very quickly, in our own lifetime. 


Why do we try to maximize?

Is it not because we are living in the delusion of a limitless life in which maximizing allows us to enjoy as much of life as possible?

What if life is not limitless? What if life is the sum total of our experiences and relationships in our own lifetime. These are obviously not limitless. They may be subtle and varied but they are certainly finite. Each one of us has a finite set of relationships and experiences. We call each such set our life.

When life is viewed this way maximizing seems absurd. Why act to maximize when what is needed is available right about you. You are surrounded by right relationships, right work, right experiences. You only need to be open and acknowledge them. This is what it means to live your life.

Maximization is not good economics. What is good economics is to acknowledge all the wonderful relationships in your life, be open to experiences and engage in work that honors your wholeness and the wholeness of the others.


Dear young friend,

The school of your future will not be in industrial factory-like buildings.

Your school will be in nature, in your home and your friends' homes, in travel and experience. Your teachers will be your self and your friends, your parents and your friends' parents, and life itself. You will learn by experiencing life and experimenting for your self, exploring for your self both individually and with your friends, making new friends along the way.

You will not be afraid to speak to strangers since you will know that your wholeness is respected by you and your family and your community and so you will be very strong and unafraid to explore, talk to anyone, do anything, go anywhere and learn from observing, engaging, laughing a lot, crying at times, expressing, taking naps when you need to, making things, building things, doing whatever you feel like and are drawn to do.

This dear young friend is your school of the future.
What really matters? That a person have a good family, have good work and that they are part of a good community.

How one organizes one's family is up to each one of us. It may be traditional or non-traditional, contain parts of tradition blended with modern, experimental parts. But each one of us must choose.

Work must involve all of us. Boredom is a sure sign of inferior work. Work must engage us making our inner light shine. It should feel good. It should make us whole and keep us whole. We bring our whole selves to our work. We are not diminished by our work, we are enhanced by it. Paid work is not the only option although there is nothing wrong with that. Work can be organized by tradition. It may be that men work and women care for the home and family or vice versa. Or that men or women create families together and decide to take up traditional roles in non-traditional ways. If that is the chosen way then that can be appropriate. If both adults work then a sensible, whole approach must be taken for the care of the family. That care must be whole and not an afterthought. To create whole lives families must be whole which means that children must be engaged in the family lives and not "dropped off" at so-called care centers and so-called schools which are nothing but industrial farming machines churning out standardized, dehumanized products. These care centers and schools are a form of violence and create the disconnected, disembodied youth of today.

A good community of friends and relations who are themselves whole, engaged in whole work and rearing whole families is the crucial last piece of the puzzle. This takes time. This takes effort. But the effort starts with the individual and proceeds from there. If every one of us individually seeks wholeness and works for it then over time that personal wholeness will create whole families, whole work and whole communities.

These communities of wholeness are the future of a whole economics that will end all suffering.


What is wealth?

Adam Smith (following the physiocrats) supposedly effected a giant leap in economic thinking when he introduced, from the opening sentence of the Wealth of Nations, time into the notion of wealth. Before Smith, wealth was seen as static, what was owned. Smith changed that forever by seeing wealth as the flow of things per unit of time, specifically in his view, one year.

In the Wealth of Nations Smith uses the word nation interchangeably with the word society. Smith is really exploring how wealth flows to a society over a period of time and what factors determine that flow, its size, its quality and how that may be influenced.

There was a big evolution in thinking of wealth with Adam Smith. However this evolution was incomplete and has stayed incomplete to this day. This almost technical-seeming incompleteness has brought us to the edge of destruction: Today we do not know if we will be able to reverse the changes in the earth and the atmosphere to survive.

Once we introduce time into the notion of wealth, we must look not only at the effects of the flow of wealth on the society receiving the wealth (as Adam Smith did) but also on the effects of that flow on everything else, over time. While it was convenient for Smith to think of the flow of wealth in annual terms, since he was only looking at the effects of that flow on the society being studied, expanding the notion to include the effects of that very flow on everything else can only be meaningfully understood taking account very long periods of time, measured in generations rather than years.

There is thus an essential asymmetry in how time affects wealth. While the flow of wealth has simple measurable effects (measured say, annually, in the tradition of Smith) on the society being studied, its effects on everything else can be felt only over a very long period of time and may not be measurable and must the qualitatively analyzed. If ignored these effects on everything else don't simply go away but life on earth will surely be gone.

Wealth not only flows to and through the members of the society being considered but has a sustained effect on everything else outside of that society.

So Adam Smith essentially effected a split in the notion of wealth by introducing time in a limited way but leaving out a fuller examination of time. This in turn led to the development, over time, of a monstrous system of exploitation of land and labor yielding ever-increasing annually measured wealth while the delicate balance of the earth was slowly, painfully and systematically destroyed over many generations of the application of so-called economic science, first in the industrialized world and over time through conquests and colonialization, worldwide.

If we expand the notion of wealth to include not just what flows to us but also through us and onto everything else, we will be at the beginning of bringing wisdom into economics. We will begin to heal the split between us and them, us and everything else. We must start now. The effects will only be felt generations later.

If we really manage to do that, together, you dear reader and me, generations from now will be able to feel our change as their change and our small steps as our wealth and theirs.


The paradox of thrift has been misunderstood for a long time. The idea is simple: if we all cut back upon our consumption in an attempt to raise our individual levels of saving, the overall saving rate for the economy will drop rather than rise. The paradox consists of the idea that individual actions in a logical fashion undertaken in a way that makes perfect sense for the individual may take society as a whole in exactly the opposite direction of that which is individually intended. It is my contention that such a paradox only exists in the present structure of the economy, a structure that splits the individual and that when we adopt a holistic structure that split will be healed and the paradox of thrift come to an end.

Let us examine the paradox of thrift a bit closer.

What we produce creates an income equal to it. If I produce a $100 pair of shoes I thereby create an additional $100 in income. This is true because we define profit in economics as a residual. Once I have paid my workers and overhead and whatever else, what I have left, the entire residual, is profit. Profit is part of income so,

Output = Income.

Output can be consumed (C) or invested (I). We include in investment all the residual output that is not sold, calling it inventory investment. So,

Output = C + I.

Income can be consumed (C) or saved (S). So,

Income = C + S.


Output = Income

C + I = C + S

I = S.

Investment equals saving.

The paradox of thrift is used to support two very different points of view. It will be my contention and concomitant responsibility to show that both views are structurally limited though entirely correct. It is this structural limitation that allows two opposing points of view to use the paradox of thrift to make their case.

The first view points out that in a modern economy saving decisions are made by one set of people and investment decisions by an entirely different set of people. Since these actions are not coordinated, an increased rate of individual saving creates an imbalance between investment and saving causing overproduction or underconsumption depending on how you look at it. This results in periodic gluts in the market followed by recessions.

The opposing point of view starts off exactly at the same point as the first view: in a modern economy saving and investment decisions are made by different sets of people and hence subject to imbalances. However, this view points out that in a well functioning market this imbalance is temporary. Excess saving will cause a drop in the price of savings or in other words the interest rate. As the interest rate drops investment rises. The interest rate, in fact, keeps dropping until investment rises to meet the level of saving. Now this does not always happen in a modern economy because of barriers to the free operation of the market such as government policies, regulations, the lack of well-defined property rights and so on. This in turn results, just as is asserted by the first point of view, in periodic gluts in the market followed by recessions.

The policy response of the first point of view is to raise investment to meet the higher level of saving through public investment financed by budget deficits and the bond market. The policy response of the second point of view is to reduce the size of the government at all levels, lower taxes and reduce regulations.

I find both points of view to be stuck in a mechanistic, industrial view of the world. We have seen both points of view cause much havoc and destruction in the world.

The problem with both points of view is that they take the structure of the economy as given. Neither view questions why saving and investment have been split and what terrible consequence this split has had on the individual and society. If we can imagine a way of living and working where we are connected to our work, connected to our planet and all that is part of it, living and non-living, we will have an entirely different approach to the paradox of thrift. In fact the paradox of thrift can not operate at all if saving decisions are made by the same people who are making the investment decisions.

If I save, not out of fear, not for a rainy day, but with a vision to expand my work, my creation, to embrace more sustainably, to create fresh webs of relationships, networks of people and land and animals and plants and minerals and nature herself, then my investment will be a natural consequence of and holistically equal to my saving. Society will then never depart from the

Saving = Investment

equality and the very nature of saving, the very act of saving will be an act of love and in that act of love spontaneously create an investment equal to it.

At that point the paradox of thrift will cease to exist the so-called points of view of economics will wither and return to their native nothingness, monuments to man's profound idiocy in the museums of tomorrow.


Here is an announcement for a new "unConference":

No sponsors, Zero budget, community-based, participant-driven.

Please check it out and if possible participate!

Back To The Land unConference: Pune, India 19-20 July 2014

Open to children and elders and everyone is encouraged to bunk sessions to interact with new friends. 
Swadeshi does not imply nationalism.

Swadeshi does not imply free trade.

Both free trade and nationalism are mired in dualism. They are opposites and hence are each other. One exists only in reference to the other. Both have caused immeasurable grief to the world.

Swadeshi means that we bring our consciousness to the small. Instead of self-identification with an entity that is large like our country or the world (nationalism and free trade respectively), we pay attention to what we can actually experience. And that is relationship.

Since we can experience only through relationship and not through concepts we must ask at what level are we really capable of experiencing relationships. When I say we I mean all of us ordinary people like you and me. I am not talking about some mystic yogi or guru but just simply the everyday person living his or her everyday life. Us.

We can only experience relationship with people around us. Our families and our neighbors. That we must engage with them primarily is a self evident truth. Who else are we going to engage with? Some teacher, some leader thousands of miles away or someone long passed whom we have made into a god? That is not engagement, that is worship. That is not relationship, it is farce. The only meaningful relationships we can have are with our immediate neighbors, the land we live on and all that grows and lives on it.

This is swadeshi. To have a relationship with our neighbors. Economics is simply a subset of that web of intricate relationships spun in the garden of truth.

So let us stop blaming others. In fact let us forget about the concept of other. It does not exist in the swadeshi spirit. There is only togetherness.

Swadeshi is a small togetherness.


Do you remember what Krishna tells us in the Bhagwad Gita? When was the last time you read Krishna's words? How wonderful to be able to call the supreme being by his name. Krishna, the wise. Krishna, the playful. 

Krishna tells us simply to do our work. He does not tell us to do productive work, to do work that enables us to make the most money, gain the most prestige, make a fortune so that we can then force our children into molds that they do not wish to enter into. Krishna tells us above all to be fearless and do our work. To do the work that is rightfully ours. Furthermore you will recall that Krishna asks us to let go of any intention behind the work, to have no fruits of the work in mind. We simply engage in work that is right for us. 

Now let us examine our lives. How do we live and work? Aren't these the same thing? Is it possible to live whole lives without work that is whole? Of course not! So why are we working long, miserable hours at work that is meaningless, that reduces us rather than enhances us at the end of the day? Is it not for a misconception, a lack of understanding?

The problem is that when and as we work we have the end in mind. I must work long, I must work tirelessly, even though the work I do is just busy work, moving papers around or programming computers to enable people half way around the world to buy more useless things that they don't need and that they will throw away in the garbage in a year. Work like that, typical work, is not work that is right for us. It is not worthy of thinking and feeling human beings. It does not utilize each of our special talents, our innate and individual genius. 

To begin the process of creating whole lives on our planet we need to return to right work. Let us embrace work that is meaningful to us, that expresses our personality, that allows of kindness and charity, that makes us more integrated into our societies. Much of modern work does not meet these basic requirements. So we need a revolution in our work. How we conceive of work needs to change. I am convinced that together we can do this, make this sea change happen, in our lifetimes.


Have you ever noticed how many emotions animals are capable of experiencing? If you live around animals you notice that they have a sophisticated range of emotions. Now how much more sophisticated and nuanced would human emotions be?

I would say that the number and qualities of human emotions are infinite. Modern economics does us a great dis-service by basing a whole science on just two rather crude emotions: fear and greed.

We are supposed to work hard, work long hours away from our loved ones, our children, our families because if we didn't what would happen to the very people we love? Would they not perish? If our children do not get into the best schools would that not be a disaster?

Much of modern life, based as it is on modern economics, is based on fear. In reality it would be much more healing for your children to see you, spend time with you in your wholeness, in your work and play, rather than for you to be absent so that you may provide for them. You do provide for their physical needs but since you are split, they are unfortunately split as well. Modern suffering is a particularly self-inflicted phenomena that comes from a belief in fear.

And then we always want to get ahead. A little more money, a bigger house, a promotion. Why? So that we may provide for our needs, our family. But was your family starving before? You may be emotionally starving your self and your loved ones even while playing the game of ever increasing accumulation and material earnings. This comes from an acceptance of greed in our lives and even seeing greed as a necessity.

We can go far beyond the two crude emotions of fear and greed. What about kindness and wonderment? Contentedness and wholeness?

We don't need to change things out there. We need to change ourselves. That is all that is needed.


The cardinal fault of modern economics is its conception of value. Value is absolute in its relativity.

The first effect of this is that modern value can only mean the upliftment of any one thing, say A, at the degradation of some other thing, say B. If A rises in value, B must diminish in value. Such a conception of value betrays a view of society that is split. Life is seen as a see-saw game, with some values gained only at the cost of others lost.

This conception of value, so absolute in its relativity, harms us all. It drives a wedge through the person. Unwhole individuals create split families, unstable societies, and rudderless economies. There is so much suffering in rich and poor worlds alike. False values diminish us all and lead us on a downward spiral.

I introduced the idea of dignity value at the Goat Island Performance Group's Last Symposium in 2008. It is a very simple concept. Dignity value is the inherent value in every thing and being. Value simply is.

Now the way we, society, creates problems is by assigning the wrong values to things. We have been trained by modern economics to accept the price of something as its value. Krishnamurti pointed out the error in this way of thinking of value with characteristic humor many years ago in old Bombay, when he defined stupidity as the assigning of wrong values to things.

When society assigns values, like the market price, that are different from dignity values, bubbles are born. Eventually they burst, returning values to their dignity values.

By recognizing the dignity values of all things, natural and built, as their only real and absolute value, we can create wholeness.

Human beings are capable of much stupidity. But that is not all we are capable of. We are capable of great thought, great wisdom, great sensitivity, great kindness, and taking upon ourselves the incredibly enlightened guiding principle of nonviolence.

Now I turn to the second effect of the conception of value, absolute in its relativity, of modern economics: There can never be a rise in the value of everything. By its very definition if something rises in value, something else must fall in value, all values simply can not rise.

This is a very limited understanding of the world and the role that humans, sentient thinking and feeling beings, can play in the world over an infinite span of time!

If we look at life in terms of dignity value, we can see that we can create, though few of us can at this point--given how society is organized, a rising dignity value of life. In fact this was the whole reason why Gandhiji started Tolstoy Farm and all his other ashrams.

Gandhiji intuitively understood that when people come together in wholeness and work the earth in wholeness, make things by hand and create communities in wholeness, the work, the land, and the people become one, and the dignity value of every thing and every one involved rises.

We need not just one Tolstoy Farm, but a hundred, a thousand, a million, and more, to create a rising dignity value for every single one of us, our neighbors, and through our neighbors, the world.

So Gandhian economics must begin with a new concept of value, perhaps the one I call dignity value, which is absolute without being rigid. We need to replace the present concept of value of modern economics which is absolute (hence rigid) in its relativity with something along the lines of my concept of dignity value, which is relative (hence flexible) in its absoluteness.


Time consistency means that a path from A to Z will be followed by all points in between such as B, C, and D or L, M, or N along the same exact trajectory. In other words whether you start at A, the beginning, or at M, somewhere in the middle, the time consistent method would follow the same route and sub route. In this sense, classical and Marxian economics are time consistent. 

Gandhian economics, on the other hand, is time inconsistent. When we start at point A, we have a certain amount of information and understanding of matters. By the time we get to B, things will have changed. We must assess our options at this new vantage point and move along the right path, not necessarily the path described at point A. 

When we successively get to points C, D, E, and so on, we must keep an open mind, modifying our plans and taking fresh paths at each point. 

In other words Gandhian economics is flexible, non-dogmatic, and constantly capable of holding a profound inconsistency of method with respect to time. 

While other approaches make much of being consistent with respect to time, Gandhian economics cares about being consistent with respect to the human being, all plants and animals, and our planet. Time inconsistency, the methodology of Gandhian economics, honors us and everything contained in mother earth. 


The two great myths of bad economics are

a) saving is good, consumption is bad

b) consumption is good, saving is bad. 

Let us consider them one at a time. Looking simply at the gross amount saved as a sign of a society doing well may satisfy narrow minds but is bad economics. There are those who seek to minimize consumption and maximize saving with the smug assurance of moral certitude. They are wrong. 

The gross amount of saving is irrelevant and inasmuch as it causes suffering in the form of lower consumption, is dangerous folly. James K. Galbraith has pointed out in his brilliant book The Predator State that right before the dissolution of the great Soviet empire, its saving rates were among the highest in the world. This high saving did result in low consumption, with hungry, ill-clothed and sheltered people particularly in the provinces, but did not make the Soviet economy function well enough to survive another day. What matters is never the gross quantity of saving but the nature of saving, its quality. 

The right kind of saving, generated in the living and working of whole lives, is what is good. And so is the right kind of consumption, generated from work that does not divide the self, that is made out of love and results in love. 

Let us consider the second myth. This relies on a misunderstanding of what the great economist John Maynard Keynes was talking about. When I was a graduate student in economics at Northwestern University, Robert Eisner (for whom I served as his favorite Teaching Assistant for 3 years) made us read Keynes. Eisner, a past President of the American Economics Association, was the last professor to require his students to do so. I wonder if anyone reads Keynes anymore. By the persistence of this myth my guess is no, no one reads Keynes anymore. This myth goes like this: we must keep up our consumption because more the saving the more we take away from the spending stream. Lower the spending, lower the output, lower the income. 

That is not how it works. As Keynes patiently explains, while what is saved is a leakage from the spending stream temporarily, it reenters the spending stream in the form of an injection: investment. Keynes did not explore the nature of saving but it is the next logical step:

If we save appropriately, in wholeness, without violence, the quality of the saving returns to us in the form of whole, non-violent investment. Once again, both consumption and saving are good, when their natures are appropriate and holistic. 

spending today = output tomorrow = income the day after

Step 1

spending = output

How we use our time and money, how we live our lives and spend today results in what gets produced tomorrow. How we spend our money also determines how we produce that output, whether it is produced in small, local, human scaled enterprises or large sub-human factories half way around the world.

Step 2

output = income

What is produced and how it is produced determine what and how we earn. Production results in an income equal to it both in quantity and quality. The nature of the production, its process, its roots in the community or lack thereof, is reflected in the income that we earn and how we feel about it. The more whole the production is, the more it recognizes our innate wholeness, the more whole our experience of earning is, the more whole income is.

Step 3

income = saving + consumption

What we earn and how we earn it determines what and how we save and consume. The more whole the income is, the more whole is the what we save and consume. The more we enjoy earning our income, the more meaningful the work that results in the income is, the more enjoyable and meaningful our saving and consumption is.

Step 4

saving + consumption = investment + consumption

The nature and quality of saving and consumption, how we save and consume determines the next step, which is how and what we invest and consume in our future. Saving is the act of setting aside. Investment is the act of putting to work. How we save determines how we invest and consume in the future. How we consume now determines how we invest and consume in the future. Can we see how crucial it is to save right and consume right?

Can we see that we can not save right and consume right unless we earn right? We can not earn right unless and until we produce right. We can not produce right unless we spend right! Which brings us full circle to the last step.

Step 5

investment + consumption = spending

What and how we invest and consume determines what and how we spend in the future. The nature of our investment, how we organize our productive resources, how we see people as whole beings capable of great imagination and love, how we interact with the built environment, using tools and technology that enhances rather than diminishes us, that accepts and respects us as whole beings rather than splits us into labor and capitalist, consumers and producers, determines the quality and quantity of our spending in the future.

The full cycle of economics is thus

spending = output = income = saving + consumption = investment + consumption = spending

and may be summarized for handy reference as

spending today = output tomorrow = income the day after.


Useful formulas in economics

means = ends

We can only achieve wholeness by being whole, we can only achieve peace by being peaceful, we can only achieve the end of suffering by ending our own actions that create suffering in our own lives and those of others. 

we = 100%

We are not the 99% fighting against the 1%. We are all in this together. We are all of us and we are every generation past and still to come. We are the 100%.

saving = investment

Saving in its holistic sense is what we put aside rather than consume and how we put aside what we do. It takes some practice and conviction to enjoy not consuming with a clear sense that we are adding to the future and the future of generations yet to come. When our saving comes out of love, our investment will come from love as well and we will have boundless good fortune that regenerates the earth, regenerates families and society. 

income = output

What we buy is what is made. What is made is what we earn. Our incomes come from output. In fact our incomes are our output. We must create output that is whole using methods that are whole and don't destroy the earth, don't split the person artificially into producer and worker, the have and the have-not. When we make wholly, we will earn wholly, and all violent conflict will simply vanish.

We are here on planet earth for a very short time. We are here on planet earth for a very long time. Both these statements are true and hinge upon what we consider to be we.

We are not just you and me, although you and me are contained in we. We are so much more than that. We are more than flesh and bones and we are more than our immediate self-interest. We include generations before us and generations after us. We are our fore-fathers and -mothers and sons and daughters and grand-sons and -daughters and onward into infinity.

When we are talking about sustaining ourselves, even flourishing upon our beautiful earth, we must take into consideration this broader sense of we.

So why do we act stupidly so much of the time? Why is modern life set up to hurt our future selves so much, to destroy nature beyond its capacity for regeneration, to leave future generations with a legacy of dwindling water, corrupted soil, and a lingering memory of grand-parents with stunted imaginations? I will tell you why.

I remember Krishnamurti saying that stupidity is the assigning of wrong values to things. 

This is very important to consider. If we hope to develop an economics that works for we in the true sense of the term, we must stop acting with stupidity. I consider most of the institutions of modern economic life to be quite stupid and the endless commentary by so-called economists sustaining this stupidity to be the compounding of stupidity at a compound rate of interest.

Krishnamurti suggests that the reason for the profound stupidity of modern economic life is that wrong values are being assigned to things. This is what I have lectured and written upon this subject:

What is value? Economists have tried to answer this question for at least two hundred years. I will try to answer it in a minute. There is an inherent value in all things and beings. It is the inherent dignity of a rock, tree, or person that gives it its value. The classical economists as well as the Marxians miss this simple point.

A tree may have no economic value-in-exchange nor reflect any labor expended by humans but surely it has value. I will call the inherent value in all things dignity value. All things natural and created have dignity value. It is when a society departs from the dignity value of things that bubbles are formed. The dignity value of all the so-called financial innovations in the real-estate market and stock market is close to zero. Their existence is of no real value whatsoever.

John Kenneth Galbraith pointed out years ago that bubbles are created by innovations in a subject incapable of innovations. In other words 'new' financial instruments are given a high and rising economic value while their dignity value is zero. The rising economic values of these financial assets in relation to their dignity value creates bubbles. Crashes return things to their dignity values. Bubbles must burst. There is after all a quiet dignity to that.*

Let us let go of this madness and change our lives, our outlooks, our ways of living and loving.

We deserve it.

* Goat Island Summer School Symposium, School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), July 2008 and  Performance Research 17.1, 2012. 


John Ruskin writes in the introduction to his Unto This Last: Four Essays on the First Principles of Political Economy that his book is the first attempt to express in plain English what was given in Greek by Xenophon (especially The Economist) and Plato (especially Laws) and in Latin by Horace and Cicero.

Clive Wilmer in his brilliant edition of Unto This Last and Other Writings by John Ruskin (Penguin Classics) adds to this list others that John Ruskin cites most often: Shakespeare, Dante and the Bible

All these works are concerned with fundamental truths of human nature. These works approach economics in terms of what is unchangingly just, everywhere and always, what Gandhiji simply called truth

Gandhiji had read all the Latin law-books in their original language while studying to join the Inns of Court in London. The examination in Roman Law was entirely in the Latin language. While many students chose not to read the difficult texts in Latin, Gandhiji chose to study them thoroughly in Latin, a language he undertook to learn in studying for the London matriculation. 

Gandhiji had undoubtedly read the Greeks, Shakespeare and Dante for his matriculation from Bombay University and again for his London Matriculation, which he describes in his autobiography as a difficult examination that meant a great deal of labor (Latin and a modern language were compulsory) and much addition to his stock of general knowledge. In England, while still a student, he had read the entire Bible, both Old and New Testaments. 

In 1908 when Gandhiji read Ruskin's Unto This Last: Four Essays on the First Principles of Political Economy on a life-changing 24 hour train journey from Johannesburg to Durban, he was already familiar with the great classical ideals that Ruskin based his own book upon. In fact, Gandhiji's creation of what we may now call Gandhian economics went far beyond Ruskin and his classical Greek and Latin sources. 

Gandhiji had, under the influence of the Theosophists in London, read many Hindu texts including the Bhagwad Gita. Bhikhu Parekh points out in his wonderful book Gandhi: A Very Short Introduction (and formerly in his masterful treatment of Gandhiji in the Past Masters series) that Gandhiji's mother came from a community which considered the Koran as equally holy as the Hindu scriptures. The influence of the non-violent Jain religion was very strong in the region where he grew up, especially in Gandhiji's own family. 

Furthermore, Gandhiji started corresponding with Tolstoy in 1909, during the last year of Tolstoy's life, and even translated Tolstoy's Letter to a Hindu: The Subjection of India--Its Cause and Cure into Gujarati. In his introduction to this book, Gandhiji calls Tolstoy his "great teacher whom I have long looked upon as one of my guides". 

So, when Gandhiji took the life-changing 24 hour train trip from Johannesburg to Durban reading Ruskin, he was recognizing in Ruskin truths that he already knew well and that were part of his family background, education and study. Gandhiji said he had read few books, but what he had read he had digested well. 

Gandhian Economics undoubtedly begins with Gandhiji, and its roots can be traced back through John Ruskin to the ancient Greeks with detours in Shakespeare, Dante, the Bible, Horace, Cicero, Tolstoy, Jainism, the Bhagwad Gita and Koran and that infinite pool of wisdom that was ancient India. 


John Ruskin's book Unto This Last: Four Essays on the First Principles of Political Economy starts with the following quote

Friend I do thee no wrong
Didst not thou agree with me for a penny?
Take that thine is and go thy way
I will give unto this last even as unto thee. 

The quote that opens Ruskin's book and provides him with his title comes from the parable of the vineyard, a simple story told by Jesus in the Gospels to illustrate a spiritual, and as it turns out, economic lesson. 

There was once a man who owned a vineyard. Early one morning he sets out to hire men to work in the vineyard for the day. A wage of a penny for the day is agreed upon and the men go to work. 

Our vineyard owner goes out at the third hour and sees the unemployed standing idle in the market place. He tells them to go work in his vineyard and that he will pay them what is right. So these unemployed go join the other men working in the vineyard. 

He goes out again at the sixth and ninth hours and finds still more unemployed men. He sends them to his vineyard to work with the understanding that he will pay them what is right. 

Our vineyard owner goes out one last time at the eleventh hour. He finds still more people who are unemployed and asks them why they stand idle all day. 

They say that no man has hired them. Upon hearing this our vineyard owner asks them to go work in his vineyard and that he will pay them what is right. 

At the twelfth hour, the end of the day, the vineyard owner asks his steward to pay all the laborers starting with the last ones hired and ending with the first. 

The group of men hired at the eleventh hour steps forward and each man receives a penny. 

Each group steps forward in turn, those hired in the ninth, sixth, and third hours, and each man receives a penny. 

When at last the men of the first group hired step forward to receive their wages, which are once again a penny per man, there is much grumbling and murmuring. They are disgruntled! They who have worked all day in the heat are paid the same as those who have worked less, some even for less than an hour!

In answer to the grumbling and murmuring of the disgruntled men who were hired first and worked all day, our vineyard owner gently says

Friend I do thee no wrong
Didst not thou agree with me for a penny?
Take that thine is and go thy way
I will give unto this last even as unto thee. 

In 1908, while still living in South Africa, Gandhiji read Ruskin's Unto This Last: Four Essays on the First Principles of Political Economy and underwent an "instantaneous and practical transformation" (Autobiography). Having discovered some of his deepest convictions reflected in this great book of Ruskin's, he talked things over with his associates, describing to them the effect that Unto This Last had produced on his mind. He proposed that all the group's political and social activities, including the press that produced Indian Opinion, the group's periodical, be removed to a farm on which everyone would labor drawing the same living wage and attending to the press work in spare time. Gandhiji's proposal was unanimously approved and £3 was agreed upon as the monthly allowance per head, regardless of color or nationality.

This was the first practical application of Gandhian economics. It led to the creation of the Phoenix Settlement, Gandhiji's first experiment in creating an ashram, where like-minded people would come together to live and work the land, create wholeness, and communicate this wholeness to the world. 


In 1908 Gandhiji read John Ruskin's Unto This Last: Four Essays on the First Principles of Political Economy while on a train from Johannesburg to Durban. He describes the experience of reading this book and the profound effect it had on him in his autobiography in a chapter entitled The Magic Spell of a Book.

The book is impossible to lay aside once he has begun it. It grips him. Hour after hour passes by. Johannesburg to Durban is a 24 hour journey. He gets no sleep that night. He is young. He has read very little outside of text-books for his studies at The Bombay University, The University of London and to qualify as a Barrister in England. He has been involved in nothing less than the emancipation of the human race, the early days of satyagraha, and has had no time to read books. Until this meandering train journey!

Hour after hour goes by. He is oblivious of the many stops that the train makes along the way. He sees his deepest convictions reflected in the pages of Ruskin's book. The book captures him. He sees the book as great poetry, sees Ruskin as the great poet who can with his words call forth the good latent in the human breast. He is aware that few have read this book, that upon its publication it was declared a failure, a colossal mistake of a great man in decline. He is not bothered by the book's reputation for he understands that poets cannot influence all alike, for everyone is not equally evolved. 

By the time the train reaches Durban, 24 hours have passed, and he finds that that John Ruskin's book on the first principles of political economy has brought about an awakening--an instantaneous and practical transformation of his life. 

This is the birth of Gandhian economics. 


Xenophon's The Economist (written somewhere around 400 B.C.) is a dialogue between Socrates and Critobulus. They are chatting about economics when the subject of wealth, of rich and poor, comes up. 

Socrates says he is rich enough already but feels compassion for Critobulus whom he sees as singularly poor. 

At this Critobulus laughs out loud! He asks teasingly what Socrates thinks each of their fortunes would fetch in the market. 

Socrates answers that everything that he owns could be sold for a total of 5 minae whereas Critobulus' property would fetch at least 100 times as much. 

Critobulus then condescendingly questions Socrates on how it could be that given Socrates' own reflection of the market value of their respective assets Socrates could still assert that Socrates was the one with no need of further wealth but that Critobulus was to be pitied for his poverty. 

Socrates replies that what little he possesses is more than sufficient for his wants whereas Critobulus, considering his lifestyle and obligations, would be barely well off if what he owned were to be multiplied by 3!

Socrates explains Critobulus' poverty thus: 

1. Critobulus is expected to offer many costly sacrifices failing which neither the gods nor men would tolerate him. 

2. Critobulus must welcome a number of foreigners as guests and entertain them handsomely. 

3. Critobulus must feast his fellow citizens and ply them with all kinds of favors or else lose their support. 

4. The State expects a man of Critobulus' position to make large contributions such as the rearing of studs, the training of choruses, the superintendence of gymnastic schools, and the conducting of consular duties. 

5. In the event of war, Critobulus is expected to make large contributions and pay onerous war taxes which are draining and difficult for him to support. 

In the event that any of the above 5 expectations are not met by Critobulus, the Citizens of Athens would treat Critobulus as severely as if they had caught him stealing their own property. 

Socrates then explains that were he, Socrates, ever in need of anything, his friends would help him out at trifling cost to themselves. Were Critobulus in need, none of his friends could help him, since they themselves depended on Critobulus' generosity for their own wealth. 

If we treat this wonderful dialogue from almost two and a half thousand years ago as an allegory, a story which can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning, it becomes a powerful story about neoclassical modern economics and gothic Gandhian economics.