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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 ...

1/20/14

Why must we work so much and get so little? If we use the criterion of efficiency which is defined in economics as the absence of waste, we must admit that modern life is a particularly spectacular instance of inefficiency. What could be more wasteful than hours and hours spent at 'work' that simply moves a lot of goods from one part of the world to another and then supports that movement with ever complex services that initially support that movement and eventually become ends in themselves. We have become a bloated race of consumers and producers of what we are not really even sure. We buy into certain pat ideas: education is good, technology is good, consuming is good, having more of everything is even better, working-working-working all the time to make it all happen. And then what?

Where are we headed with all this and what have we lost view of? Do any of us work with our hands, work with the dirt of the earth? Dirty has become a bad word but isn't working meaningless jobs in artificial lighting in workplaces where windows don't even open to let in air and light what are actually the bad words? How could we have got so lost?

I remember watching as a child in Bombay a program on TV called Living Tomorrow. The program was an optimist's interpretation of how the new scientific inventions and modern scientific management of resources was going to create a utopia in the near future. We would all get so fired up about how computers and robots would do all the grunt work and all the dull moving of papers around and how human beings wonderful creatures that they are would finally be free to work about four hours a day, two days a week and be free to pursue philosophy and the arts. Needless to say that utopian future has not come upon us. Instead we have moved toward more demeaning work, longer working hours, and a disrespecting of the arts and philosophy neither of which is now deemed worthy of study even at major universities and increasingly unaffordable with steeply rising tuition costs which students must bear in the form of student loans. We are turning young men and women into bonded labor. They must work for the so-called education that they receive, work all their lives if need be. That is the most incredibly inefficient use of our most priceless resources: our young people. What a sad waste!


1/16/14

Why do we own so many things? Land, house, objects, jewelry, furniture, cars? It seems to me that we own things for two reasons:

First, owning things makes me feel a little better. I had a small hut, then a bigger one, then a cement house. In that process I feel a little better each time. Since no one can peer into my mind no one can know why. But let us say it does. This is all for argument's sake. In reality I do not own a house of any kind. But let us agree that owning things makes us feel a little better. Not dramatically better, especially once the novelty has worn off in a day or week or month but a little bit better.

Second, owning things make me feel a little less afraid. As human beings we have the ability to sense things. We are not only aware of our selves and our surroundings but are aware of our awareness in a second-order thinking and feeling process that may be unique to us as far as we know. Of course what we know is not much and is based on the past. Past experience, past knowledge, passed down to us. Owning things makes us feel a little less vulnerable in this vast emptiness known to us as the universe, a little less afraid. Again we are just talking this over here and we might agree that we are nowhere close to being fearless. If we were we would not be bombing our neighbors or killing people we deem dangers to society. If we were really fearless we would simply let people be and treat everyone with dignity. We do not do that. Because we are afraid. Actually we are very afraid because we do not understand life and we certainly do not understand death. Buying things makes us feel just a little less scared.

So the reason for buying things, for the acquisitive instinct, wanting to own is a simple twofold one: By doing so we feel a little better and are a little less afraid.

We could learn to feel better and become fearless by finding truth within our selves. We bring attention to the dominant physical sensation in our body and follow that sensation until it leads us to a small truth. Then we follow the next sensation to the next small truth. When we do that for many many years we find that we do not need to own so much. We feel a little better and are less afraid.

We are also less weighed down by things and are thus free. 

1/12/14

We were digging in our plot in the community garden for a few hours today to get a large root out. Now we can plant fava beans so that in the spring when we plant vegetables they will grow beautifully in the nitrogen-rich aerated soil. 

Working the soil is so satisfying! In the calculus of the economist, work takes away from utility, which in turn is seen as the measure of satisfaction. Manual labor in the garden, especially a community garden, not only creates utility for one but also for the entire community. More the work, more the satisfaction!

It occurs to me that economics only applies to modern industrial work which deadens the soul and wreaks havoc on the human psyche. If we all work in and with nature, in and with communities, in and with other people rather than with inert money-making institutions, we could work more and have more satisfaction. 

Gandhiji called this bread labor. It should be one of the pillars of a Gandhian economics.