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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 ...

6/8/14

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. 

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