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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. ...

4/25/15

Gathered among friends a wise man asks, "What is the most important principle of Gandhian economics?"

"Nonresistance," I answer.

"Whom did Gandhiji himself learn this from?"

"Tolstoy."

"Whom did Tolstoy learn this from?"

"Jesus." 

4/20/15

What is the economy of use?

The economy of more more more survives only because we tend to think of economics in terms of twos. We assume that trade happens between two, a buyer and a seller, and that that is the end of the matter. In fact economics involves three parties. The buyer, the seller and the innocent affected by the actions of the buyer and seller. 

A buys an expensive and gaudy trinket from B. The novelty wears off in less than a week. The trinket lies in a dusty corner of A's house along with all the other useless things accumulated over a lifetime of participating in the economy of more more more. "But hold on, B got paid for it!" you exclaim. "Surely B benefitted from A's action. B uses the money earned from A to buy things. There is a net gain to society." This, my friend, is bad economics. This view misses the important point that there is a third party to the transaction between A and B. This third party is the innocent. 

The innocent is trying to use resources available to her locally to make a living. She works very hard simply to keep her family eating regular meals. There are billions of these innocents all over the world. When A buys the trinket from B, A effectively diverts resources aways from the innocent. Resources are, after all, scarce. When A buys the trinket and B sells it, all the resources used to conceive of, make, package, market and transport the trinket are no longer available to the innocent for use. Similar resources may be available but they will be more expensive. This is because the transaction between A and B competes resources away from alternate uses and raises the price of these and similar resources.

So the thoughtless action of buying and selling that which is not used steals resources away from the innocent. When we understand that economics always involves three parties not two we come to realize the folly of our ways, let go of the economy of more more more and adopt the economy of use. 

Keep what you use and give away, in a creative way, what you don't use. That is the first lesson in economics we need to learn. This is what I call the economy of use.

4/16/15

Employment means that resources are engaged in a way that not only sustains them but also enhances them. Good work enhances the person working and the resources she works with. On Fukuoka's land in Japan, and in all the many communities across the world inspired by his example, natural farming enhances the land as well as the people living and working on it. Employment is not simply someone showing up at work and working in the typical dehumanizing manner of our time. It is not our typical mindless using up of the resources of Mother Earth. That can hardly be called employment. 

If we are concerned about employment we must switch from the economy of more more more to the economy of use. We keep what we use and find creative ways to give away what we don't use. This lowers the cost of acquiring resources worldwide, making it possible for people everywhere to employ themselves and resources thus unfrozen to create meaningful work. Employment, in the true sense of the word, is made possible. 


4/15/15

"Are you saying that if I buy the latest gadget and don't use it, that that act alone will create unemployment?" asks a man at my talk in a badgering tone. 

"Undoubtedly." I answer.

"And you will probably say that it will take you too long to explain the mathematics of it?" he adds rather crossly.

"No," I say, "I can explain it in plain words in less than a minute."

"When you buy a gadget (or anything else) that you don't use, you divert resources away from their alternative uses. Resources used to make the gadget are now no longer available for someone somewhere in the world to use. Similar resources are now higher in price than before and hence more difficult to afford and acquire. With the higher price attached to these resources, potential users of these resources, on the margin, are no longer able to employ themselves in using these resources to produce what they would have in the absence of the purchase of the gadget (or anything else) and its lack of use. 

"Since resources are scarce, our acts of purchase without use always steal resources away from alternate uses, creating unemployment for someone somewhere in the world."

The questioner is silent. I have seen this happen in my talks and workshops before. I sense that he is becoming a conscious human being. I sense that I have made a new friend. 

The economy of use urges us to become conscious of our spending decisions by keeping only that which we use and giving away, in a creative way, that which we do not use. This is the only was to redress the imbalance that centuries of the economy of more more more has created on our planet and solve the problem of unemployment. 


4/14/15

In a small village in Rajasthan, India, a colleague is taken ill and rushed to the local hospital. There he finds that the hospital is bare, that there isn't even a single thermometer. 

Krista puts it in a way that enlightens us. She says, "The reason we have a hospital with no thermometer is that it is impossible to steal a hospital."

Stealing is at the heart of the situation. However it is not stealing as commonly understood.

Resources are so very limited worldwide that any resource stumbled upon is immediately procured for use in one's family and immediate community. It may be hard for us in the West, with all our many material comforts, to imagine thermometers disappearing from hospitals but this is the reality in most of the world. 

The reason why there are no thermometers in this hospital in rural Rajasthan is because there are too many in the West. There is every conceivable kind of this device, using unbelievably sophisticated technology, in every hospital and home and office in the West, even though all they do is tell temperature. 

Furthermore, resources have interchangeable uses and the broader reason why there are no thermometers in this hospital in rural Rajasthan is that we in the West sit upon a pile of largely useless stuff, that we call our possessions. Every single thing we own has diverted resources away from thermometers that may be made and stocked in the hospital in rural Rajasthan.

A child is lying neglected in a hospital right now in rural India, and Bangladesh, and Pakistan, and all over the poor world because we are stealing resources away from her and the fulfillment of her needs.  

The economy of use argues for the keeping of only such resources as we use and creatively distributing what we don't use. Each of us can live this way. If we do, I am sure that soon, very soon, there will be thermometers in that hospital in rural Rajasthan. 

Isn't it time for us in the West to own up to our theft? To stop stealing thermometers from rural areas of the poor countries?



4/10/15

The economy of use and the economy of more more more

It is good economics to keep what you use and give away what you don't use. It is bad economics to keep on piling up in our lives things that we don't use, under the precept of more more more. 

Wait a minute, says a neighbor. What about the good that I do to industry when I buy according to my means rather than according to what I will use. Admittedly my shiny black Cadillac sits in my garage all day, most of the year (I have two other cars for my daily use, another one for my wife, and an old one for my teenage daughter). But think of all the jobs created by the purchase of my Cadillac, all the materials used, all the skilled metal workers, leather workers, painters, organizers, advertisers, business people, bankers, sales people and even government workers who process my registration renewals each year. All these people and resources benefit from my action. Surely that is what economics teaches us?

And I say, you are confused for you do not distinguish between what is seen and what is not seen. You are basing your entire argument on the effects of your actions that are immediate and hence seen. However, good economics requires us to look at both effects, those that are seen as well as those that are not seen.

What is not seen is that your Cadillac sitting in your garage consists of fabulous resources of Mother Earth that are frozen by your action of non use. Mother Earth's resources are limited. You are holding ransom a good bit of her resources in the form and shape of that Cadillac. Had you not demanded that Cadillac, all the resources contained in it would have been available for use elsewhere. What is not seen is that you have driven up the price of the resources contained in your Cadillac by competing the resources used away from alternate uses. What is not seen is that even as you have captured and frozen some of Mother Earth's resources you have allowed less resources to be available elsewhere for others by your thoughtless act. 

My neighbor is silent. 

After a while he says, So my actions as well as non-actions have a profound effect upon Mother Earth. When I hoard things, fill up our house with shiny objects whose glitter lasts for less than a week after which they sit there gathering dust (there are many such 'gifts' in my children's rooms), I am causing great suffering upon Mother Earth. For I freeze her resources and make them unavailable to people elsewhere. If I only keep what I use I free up resources--magnificent life-sustaining resources, the original gift from Mother Earth--and make the world a better place.

I say, You have done well neighbor. But there is one more effect that is not seen. After you separate the things in your life into that which you use and that which you don't use, you go even further. You keep all that you use but you think of creative ways to give away that which you don't use. Can you find good homes for all that you don't use, people who would value and use the very things that you don't?

My neighbor laughs. We hug. And he starts looking for the perfect person somewhere in the world whom he could gift his Cadillac to, someone who would use it every single day.

Friends, it is no crime to own things! But only keep what you use and gift away creatively what you don't use. 

Gandhiji said that if you use something don't give it up. He added, "As long as you derive inner help and comfort from anything, you should keep it. If you were to give it up in a mood of self-sacrifice or out of a stern sense of duty, you would continue to want it back, and that unsatisfied want would make trouble for you. Only give up a thing when you want some other condition so much that the thing no longer has any attraction for you, or when it seems to interfere with that which is more greatly desired." What a wonderful statement of the philosophy of the economy of use! 


4/9/15


In all honesty there should be no such thing as Gandhian economics. There is only good economics and bad economics. In our own time the economy of more more more has falsely claimed the throne and established greed as the guiding principle of life. What is commonly called economics is really just bad economics. 

Gandhiji revolutionized economics and was recognized for it by E. F. Schumacher, author of Small is Beautiful, who called Gandhiji "the greatest economist of our age." Oddly enough though, this revolution in thinking was totally ignored by the economics profession and continues to be ignored today. 

Imagine if Einstein's work had been ignored and physics had remained piously Newtonian. Imagine if instead of physics encompassing Relativity it were totally ignored. Then people would have to invent a physics called Einsteinian physics. Imagine if their pleas that this be the Truth were to fall on deaf ears. No it is too absurd to imagine such a thing you say.

And I say just such a thing has happened in economics. Gandhiji revolutionized economics much as Einstein revolutionized physics. The difference is this:

While good physics is synonymous with the ideas of Einstein, what parades around as good economics bears not a trace of the ideas of Gandhiji. 

That is the tragedy. 

4/4/15

How the use economy can replace the economy of more more more.

We currently live in an economy of more more more. We have much more than we can possibly use. Look around you. What is it that you truly use? In workshops that I teach across four continents my students find that they use only a small percentage of what they own. I encourage them to give away what they do not use, to find creative ways to find others who would truly use what they own but do not use. Regardless of where my students live, regardless of how rich or poor their circumstances are, this exercise in keeping and giving has a powerful effect on their lives and on the lives of all others touched by this act. 

When we consume only that which we find to be useful we release that which we do not find useful from our lives. Our lives grow lighter. We find we need a lot less than we thought we did and we don't need to work as hard. In fact over time we quit the rat race and find simple ways of making a living that are more than sufficient for earning the resources that we need to enable us to have everything that we truly use. The things that we discard, that we have found are not useful to us, enter into general circulation. There is always someone somewhere in the world who will find a use for that which we do not have a use for. It enhances their lives, makes their lives lighter for they will obtain these things at a fraction of the effort it would have taken them in the normal market economy to obtain. They need to work less, they can quit the rat race and have everything that they need to live a good life.

The key in understanding a use economy is that resources are limited. When we give away what we do not have an immediate and pressing use for, we release waves of resources that reach the people who need them. The use economy releases resources that were previously frozen and sets into motion an equitable distribution of these resources. Resources are redistributed from ownership to use, from hoarding to circulation.

As we enjoy only that which we use and lighten our lives of the heavy burden of the useless clutter of modern living we refuse to be brainwashed into entering the more more more economy. We leave the present system of more more more behind and start looking for simple ways of living and sharing. 

Exercise (for students in my Brazil and United States workshop)

Have paper and pen ready before you and then close you eyes. I am going to count from 0 to 10 and each time you hear a number I want you to see, more and more clearly, your material world, the world of the stuff that you possess. Enter your imagination as I count to 10. 

You see yourself in your home or your room with all your belongings. Use your mind's eye to examine everything that you own. 0,1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9, and 10. 

Look around you with your mind's eye slowly and carefully. What is it that you truly use? We currently live in an economy of more more more. We have much more than we can possibly use. Start separating the things that you use from the things that you don't use. Arrange them in neat piles. You may find that you use only a small percentage of what you own. Don't worry about it, don't judge yourself, just keep making tidy piles of that which you use and that which you don't use. You have three minutes to separate your belongings into these two piles. Don't worry about getting to every single thing that you own, just go along with what presents itself to your mind.

Now I am going to count backwards from 10 to 0 and each time you hear a number I want you to bring your attention slowly back to the present, back to our workshop space, and by the time I get to 0 you will have your eyes open.

10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1, and 0. Now pick up you pen and make two neat columns on your paper in front of you. One column for the things that you use and another for the things that you don't use. You have ten minutes to complete these two lists.

Now, you are obviously going to keep all the things that you use. However for each thing that you do not use I am going to encourage you to give it away! Can you find creative ways to find others who would truly use these things that you own but do not use? Jot down some ideas next to each item. 

Before next class find creative ways to give away any three items from your list of things that you do not use and come prepared to share your experience in doing so. I want you to think of how this act of giving affected both you all others touched by this act.  



4/2/15

There are three departments of economics. They are,

1. Production
2. Distribution
3. Consumption 

Useful objects and services constitute the aspect of economics called production. Anything that is not used is what I call misproduction. It is a negative and takes away from the total production of the economy. The reason for this is that resources are not unlimited. When someone makes something that is not used resources are used up without offering a corresponding flow of usefulness. It is as if a certain percentage of the society's resources were frozen, unavailable for use. This raises the price of resources, raises the price of food and other useful things, and hence lowers the real wage of workers. Our modern economy is characterized by an excess of misproduction. We produce a wide variety of useless products, poorly made and thoughtlessly put aside with the piles and piles of material junk that characterizes the typical family home. The pile of misproduction in the average Western home surely towers way higher than Mount Everest. 

Distribution is about who gets to enjoy the fruits of production. In our modern world a very few at the very top of the income pyramid get almost all the fruits. Over time this is a very dehumanizing phenomenon. People lose their wholeness and value themselves less and less as they see the 'market' value them less and less relative to the fabulously wealthy. 

Consumption is what people do with the money they earn. Most ordinary people everywhere in the world get very little and what little that they do get they are liable to misspend. I define misspending as the act of spending hard earned money on things that are not useful. So the average family in the West eats poorly, gets little of the wonders and beauty of nature, spends little time together singing, talking, laughing, and hugging. Instead the average Western family spends its money on junk food, electronic gifts, and loads of badly made clothes, gadgets, and sundries. 

In all three departments of economics, production, distribution, and consumption, the modern economy has done miserably. It is time to wake up to this and do something.