In the world view of modern economics the symbol deeply inherent is that of self interest. That mankind is slave to, indeed is driven by, the need to satisfy its self interest.
Gandhian economics has a very different symbol inherent in it. That symbol is love. Mankind is capable of love. Love at the level of love for another, love for family, love for society, love for everyone and everything in our world.
The thing is self interest is very easily accessible. If I do not live a life of meditated action, of deep and consistent contemplation, I know that I myself fall into a very self interested state. It is a very small minded, a very small hearted state.
When I work hard to be more mindful of my life, of others, of mother earth herself, I find myself capable of love. Sometimes I am so overflowing with love I want to hug everyone around me. In my hardest moments, in my trials, I find gratitude towards God, that which is infinite love.
So we could say that Gandhian economics is economics as if love matters.
buying = selling
However the fact is that whatever is bought is in fact sold! This is a trivial observation, what we would mathematically call an identity, rather than an equality. An identity is true by the very way in which we define the terms and tells us nothing novel or interesting about how magnitudes may potentially relate to one another.
While buying is identical to selling, the idea that buying equals earning is far from trivial. Mathematically, it is a true equality rather than an identity.
buying = earning
How we buy ends up equalling, over time, and through the complex and drawn out process of what we call the economy, how we earn.
So we must pay a lot of attention to how we buy. When we buy from neighbors, from businesses that promote wholeness, that are integrated in the society that we live in, we create the foundation for whole earning for everyone who resides in our society.
It is simple as that!
Not what we want. What we need.
So supply has to do with needs not wants.
Sometimes we need suffering in our lives. Often we don't want it, but we may need it. Just as much as we need joy.
Supply is the unfailing flow of resources from God to meet our needs.
"How can you begrudge self-interest? It is what is universal, what connects us all, each to each."
What is truly universal, what truly connects us is God. I have traveled the world and I have yet to find even in the farthest reaches of the earth families, communities and societies that do not believe in God. They may call their God by different names but they all have the sense of something much bigger than themselves, far greater than their miserable self-interest, which is based only on fear and greed. So I say that God is what truly connects us and God is who is universally considered to be holy or hallowed, both words that mean 'whole'. What connects us, each to each is wholeness.
When asked by the distinguished Christian leader Dr. John R. Mott what had brought deepest satisfaction to his soul in difficulties, doubts and questionings, Gandhiji replied quietly, "A living faith in God."
God connects us all, everywhere in the world. To create wholeness in our lives we need to bring God back inside our homes. Back to our work. Back to our lives.
"When I entered the country of the Marathas, I thought myself in the midst of simplicity and happiness of the golden age, where nature was as yet unchanged, and war and misery were unknown. The people were cheerful, vigorous and in high health, and unbounded hospitality was an universal virtue; every door was open and friends, neighbours and strangers were alike welcome to whatever they found."
This description is not a figment of du Perron's imagination. I know that for a fact for my wife and I visited this mythical-seeming land of the Marathas during my Fulbright in India. It is after all this time still the same. I must also inform you, dear reader, that this is my ancestral land.
That it is unchanged, untouched should not come as a surprise. After all Kumarappa, the father of Gandhian economics, called it the economy of permanence.
Not how what they produce grows but how they grow. Whether they grow into fearful and greedy souls or whether they come to the realization that all life is one. The former has been the path taken by the modern economy, which is to say most of the world, while the latter is the clear path that Gandhiji lighted up for us with his wisdom and love.
These are simple matters but we have to care to listen.
Why do we accept greed and competition as the basis of economy? Is it not a wonder that we do so? Stop for a bit and think about it. Do we have any tradition anywhere in the world of sustained wisdom, something that has had lasting value and was passed on through many stages of the society that taught greed as a principle to be adopted in living and working?
No, all sustainable traditions have taught, as did Shukracharya, that morality was inseparable from economy. In modern times this idea found its clearest expression in John Ruskin's Unto This Last, the book that was to profoundly influence Gandhiji's life and make him, in the words of the great humanitarian economist E. F. Schumacher, the 'greatest economist of our age'.
Gandhiji taught us that
means = ends
so that the adoption of violent means would create a violent society, the adoption of greed as a means (as Adam Smith and most economists following him have argued for) will only lead to a very greedy society and the adoption of competition as the means will create a society of cut-throat competitors.
Survival depends on cooperation rather that competition. If we cooperate to create good work and good families we will have a society with people who are fulfilled by their work and loved by their families. The creation of a new economics is well within our reach. All we have to do is let go of fear and greed and accept wholeness as our guiding principle.
We should love our work and work our love. We should love our families and we should love our neighbors. We should work with others instead of against them. That is all that Gandhian economics asks of us. Would you join me in making this happen one person, one workplace, one family, one society at a time?
True swadeshi sees everyone as one.
Since it makes sense to use our resources wisely we turn to our neighbors first both to share the fruit of our labor and to seek that which they may have produced.
We are truly one.
Let's be sensible about it. We are all one but let's turn to our neighbors first.
When we do that we end up creating a real society. That is all that Gandhiji wanted us to understand about economics.
Is it because we have been trained like Pavlov's poor dogs to respond a certain way to certain stimuli? I think it is. In my own case the Pavlovian analogy is not so far-fetched. My so-called teachers carried canes in their hands and beat us mercilessly if we did not do exactly what they wanted us to do. I remember once I was caned for speaking in Hindi, once for eating 'Indian food' out of my plastic lunch box. Both those were forbidden. So for me it is not hard to understand why I would 'buy in' to the brainwashing that passed for an education. With that sort of education it is a wonder that I ever 'got out'.
And the only reason I 'got out' was because of Gandhiji.
Growing up in a system far worse than the one I was subjected to, Gandhiji managed to find his bearings and with strength and dignity declared freedom from the stupid bigoted colonial education that all of us in India grew up with. Which is why he is my bapu, my father.
He is our bapu.
And he is the bapu of what we may now call Gandhian economics (though he never called it that). This would be an economics, a study of how people live and work in the 'ordinary business of life' as whole beings. People not split into consumers and producers but whole people who do many things: Live, work, love, laugh, enjoy their families, their friends, contribute to the building of complex inter-relationships and hence society itself. That is what we are exploring in these pages.
We are inspired by our father's example in rejecting the conventions of what passes today as economics, just as it did 100 years ago in Gandhiji's own time. We are building up, bit by bit, ideas, principles, theory and applications of a multifaceted, pluralistic and above all whole body of ideas that replaces the conventional ideas held by economics today which serve only to split each of us, split our families and destroy what is left of society.
We can change the world. We have to start with ourselves. We have to deprogram ourselves from our Pavlovian training and think for ourselves, chart our own paths across the sea of our life.
Gandhiji can serve as a useful compass on this journey. Which is why I write and which is why we should read him in his own words.
Rationality gives precedence to cold reason over human considerations. Rationality is the path urged by modern economics. It is rationality alone that made it possible for the British to tax salt in India at levels that were unsustainable for the poor but immensely profitable for the government. India being a land of the poor, its very spirit was broken by this law. The salt lay in plain sight in the earth and yet its harvesting was forbidden even when done for the sake of the cattle who needed an occasional lick to sustain themselves.
There are accounts of cattlemen taking their cattle out late at night so that the cattle could lick some salt. Often such attempts were aborted by the overzealous police. The men were beaten, their cattle impounded. Such was the use of rationality in economic policy-making in British India.
It was a very profitable policy. All it lacked was humanity.
And that missing humanity makes all the difference between bad policy and good policy, between life wasted and life sustained. It is hard for me to believe that in my own country of birth (and that of Gandhiji) and all over the world people still, to this day, buy into the idea of rationality as the guiding principle of economic policy.
Friends, that is not just silly, it is downright dangerous. That attitude has brought the world to the brink of destruction. Only humanity can save it.
And yet, and yet, unless we truly try something different, something our fathers and fore-fathers and mothers and fore-mothers never tried, unless that is to say we can break out of our entire world-view, created for us through the modern family, society and schooling, we are unable to create something new.
This something new is waiting for us. It is our future. The question is, is it going to be realized?
Unless we change in the now, this very moment, the past continues into the future. Our only hope is that we may awaken in the now and change. We must break that continuity from the past to the future to truly have a future that is different from where we have been.
Yesterday the people suffered. Everywhere, not just in the so-called poor countries. Tomorrow people will suffer. Unless we can break the curse and that breaking of the curse has to happen in the present moment. It has to happen now.
So what we are up against is a monumental challenge. I am not saying: We have to go to such and such a place and do such and such a heroic task. I am saying that we have to change. And we only have a moment to do so.
We have to change now! Without each one of us changing in this very instant, all the things that we are saddened by, all the stupendous unrealized potentials of human beings and Mother Earth, that is to say our past and our cherished future will remain, as it has for eons, a tragedy.
It doesn't have to be that way. All it takes is for one of us to embrace change in the now.
When we embrace that change, we change. We no longer operate from our automatic programming of school, family and society. We let go of the twin feelings controlling us, fear and greed.
And suddenly we are free.
Whether we explore the microcosm, the mesocosm or the macrocosm we find the same economic relationships hold true for the economic system.
In what I call the economy of use the microcosm consists of whole individuals living whole lives as parts of whole families and whole societies. Gandhiji said that a group of people did not make a society. A group of people by themselves are what he called 'the masses'. It was when people had interrelationships that a society was created. Interrelationships are impossible without wholeness. The modern split is fundamental because it precludes society by negating wholeness.
Such a whole microcosm is reflected in the mesocosm. The village is not just a source for labor or raw materials or markets. It is all these and much more. It is itself a society by which I mean that there are interrelationships that are fundamental to the well-being of the village society. Production is with local materials, found within a five mile radius around the village, using local labor and enterprise and for local use in the village and neighboring villages. The city is not just a center of production, drawing resources in from far and wide. In fact the city, just like the village, uses local resources, local labor and produces for local use.
In the macrocosm the entire country produces not for export but for use. It produces not at the cheapest cost but at the appropriate cost that would sustain the local economies. Imports are largely unnecessary because the micro- and meso- components of the macrocosm are self-sustaining and self-reliant.
Friends, once again: As above so below. As in the small so in the medium and so in the large. So when we examine our present economic system or what I call the economy of more more more, we find at all levels the basic disconnect, the splitting that is at the heart of modern life.
In the microcosm of the economy of more more more is the split individual struggling to juggle relationships, keep up with paying her bills, working at a job at a company owned by unknown entities, generally directed by someone far away. It is a struggle to know who exactly one is, once stripped away from one's labels: what schools did you go to, what recognitions did you receive, how much are you worth? Just as the individual is fragile so are her relationships, especially vulnerable being the family. Work keeps piling up, debt keeps piling up, the kids are disrespectful, friends unreliable, the pressure is always on. There is no time to sit around and tell stories, to work together, the laugh together, to tend to the garden together, to hug trees.
I hope I have not lost you by now dear reader. Perhaps you are thinking, what nonsense! This ain't economics! Well hold on. This all is decidedly economics, just not the economics that you were drilled in. You will have to step outside your schooling to see what I am talking about. Let us continue. In the mesocosm the village is seen simply as a source of three things: raw materials, labor and markets. Thus in country after country rural areas have seen food production replaced by so-called cash crops. Good land that could sustain millions of families on the whole grains is used to grow sugar cane for the sweet-loving city folks, corn to feed animals who live their entire lives in cages, cotton to make billions of items of cheaply made cloth such a T-shirts that are used for a little while and thrown away and so on. In village after village young people leave looking for work. They head to the cities and leave behind clean air and water, the beautiful land itself to live in slums to make money to send home to their families. And finally the crap produced in giant factories in cities far away are shipped back to the villages for sale. Traveling in my ancestral lands in India I found that the red rice that I grew up on was no longer available where it once originated from. The hand-pounded rice, nutty and brown of my childhood is also not available. Bajri, Juwar and the other grains of my childhood are available only in the cities! In the villages themselves, where they once grew all these things locally, the only grains that you can buy is white polished rice and wheat, both of which come from the cities in branded form. And what about the economy of the city? Overpopulated to the point that it is difficult even to walk around such as in my city of birth. There are people everywhere! They have flooded in from the villages and keep flooding in every day. People working so hard that in many families I talked to children were sent away to live with grandparents because with husbands and wives working twelve hour days, commuting for another two to four hours a day, six days a week, there is no time for family life. Overpopulated, incredibly polluted and filthy are our cities as they keep pumping the economy of more more more.
And what about the macrocosm of the economy of more more more? The history of the world since the Industrial Revolution should make that very clear. When the system creates an appetite that can never be satisfied, what modern economics calls 'unlimited wants', there is a need for ever larger sources of raw materials, an ever larger source of labor and ever larger markets. Since this is in fact impossible, since the earth is only one and life itself is limited, it only means one thing: war. The macrocosm involves constant battles big and small for more more more. More raw materials, more command over labor, more markets. When every country starts doing that someone's got to get hurt. That someone is the innocent who bleeds to death in the economy of more more more.
Let us wake up to this madness. Let us spend more time with ourselves in thought and contemplation. Let us spend time with our children. Stop buying them things and start buying them time. Time to do projects together. Time to simply sit and laugh. Let us examine our work and let our work sustain us. Let us let go of two things in our lives that make us slaves to the economy of more more more: fear and greed. Letting go of fear allows us to be ourselves instead of being judged by our degrees and job titles and how much money we make. It allows us to leave the pack racing towards more more more destruction of the human being, families, societies, and the human race itself. Let us let go of greed and learn to be happy with what we have. Everything we need is available to us simply and with very little effort. We must work to live but let us not live to work. Let us be the owners of our own destiny by starting to be the owners of our own time, our own tastes, our own wholeness.
We don't need to wait for the world to change. We can change. Now.
Once again my friends, as above so below. As in the small so in the medium and so in the large. When one of us changes we change the world.
What is Gandhian banking?
The banking system is raw power, like horses, bullocks, steam or electricity, that may be used for evil (as it has so far in modern times) or for good (as I propose). The principal tool of this magnificent system of unrivaled power is interest.
The banking system flows capital to various channels and receives a reciprocal flow called interest. That is natural and the way it should be. Interest is ever flowing in the opposite direction of the flow of capital.
However, interest has been misused so far to create poverty rather than wealth, to drain communities of wealth rather than build communities. This has happened because of the misuse and abuse of the concept of interest.
A Gandhian banking would involve the simple proposition:
That interest is ever flowing as a reciprocal flow to capital and that interest should be paid on productive loans but be unpaid on use loans.
When money is borrowed for productive purposes, to start or expand a business for instance, a profit is expected to be realized, new wealth is created in the world, and so the paying of interest is the most natural thing in the world. It is simply sharing of the new wealth so created.
When money is borrowed for use, to buy food or shelter for instance, no profit is expected, no new wealth is created, and so the paying of interest would be the most unnatural thing in the world. In this case interest if paid would lead to the impoverishment of the borrower and would make the world a poorer place.
For much of the history of the modern world interest has been charged and paid for both productive loans (where it is natural to do so) and use loans (where is is unnatural to do so). The result of this is that wealth has multiplied (as a result of the former) even as people have been impoverished (as a result of the latter).
Understanding the difference between productive loans and use loans is crucial and has so far been ignored in the modern economy since the industrial revolution. But the ancients understood this distinction perfectly, always allowing interest on productive loans while frowning upon interest on use loans. The ancients called this latter practice usury, meaning 'wearing down'.
Let us summarize the economics of Gandhian banking:
1. Interest flows always as a reciprocal flow to capital.
2. In the case of productive loans interest is borne by the borrower. This is a business transaction. The profits are shared out of new wealth created.
3. In the case of use loans interest is borne by the lender. This is a social transaction. There are no profits involved and to charge interest drains the borrower. By charging no interest wealth is maintained and not drained.
4. The system of Gandhian banking is a sustainable system of banking. Like the ancients we recognize that charging interest on productive loans is simply sharing profits while refraining from charging interest on use loans keeps wealth from being drained from those in need.
The banking system is indeed raw power, like bullocks, horses, steam or electricity. Together let us use it for good.
And then there is also this: If we see corruption we become corrupt. If we see self-interest we become self-interested.
Krishnamurti said in the last talk he gave in Bombay, "Corruption is not just passing money under the table. Anytime there is self-interest there is corruption. Self-interest is corruption."
What is the task ahead of us? It is not to change anything 'out there'. It is to change ourselves bit by bit. I am the most selfish man alive, the most greedy. However my task is not to judge. My task is not to make a leap.
My only task is to be a little less selfish and a little less greedy each day. Every single day. And to share this profound change with you, my readers.
Change, however small, can be seen. At first only we ourselves see it. And we change. And then others see us change. Then they become the change.
Friends, you, me, we, are One.
Gandhian economics is a simple and honest program to end misery. The poor are humanity! We are the 100%! Let us work together as brothers and sisters to change the world.
The economics of more more more is based only on two things. They are FEAR and GREED.
Bertrand Russell pointed out a long time ago that society and schooling instill in the child, at an impressionable age, the idea that life is a fearful matter. That bad things are just waiting to happen. That life is a punishment rather than a gift. This twisted indoctrination made in every modern society on earth leads to the modern man and woman being split. This split causes behavior actuated by and based on greed.
When the world is seen as a dangerous place the acquiring of material possessions and the inherent power in such possessions becomes a 'natural' part of the life of men and women. In such a state maximizing behavior is described as the 'natural' expression of human consciousness and self-interest is justified as a logical basis for the functioning of life.
A society based on self-interest is a society based on unTruth. UnTruth is self-defeating. UnTruth causes anxiousness, distrust of one's fellow beings, loneliness, stress, self-aggrandizing behavior. UnTruth is violent.
A society based on the simple principle of universal love as Gandhiji taught us is a society based on Truth. Such a society has no place for FEAR and GREED.
Let us turn our backs on unTruth. We can do so quite easily by eliminating FEAR and GREED from our own lives. When we begin to do that the economy of more more more loses its power base and withers away leaving behind only the economy of use.
Then Truth prevails and we are whole.