“Right Livelihood” is one of the requirements of the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path. It is clear, therefore, that there must be such a thing as Buddhist economics. E.F. Schumacher’s opening lines of his 1966 essay “Buddhist Economics” provides us with a lens to examine “The Great Reassessment.” See our blog “The Re-Enchantment of Work: Resignation, Realignment, Reassessment.”
One thing COVID and the subsequent Lockdown have done is to cause a widespread questioning of how we approach “right livelihood1.” The “Lockdown” broke work’s spell for those who could and couldn’t work from home.
Some workers left the labor market, others have resisted resisting returning to the office, and others have been organizing unions to improve pay and working conditions.
Let’s see how Schumacher contrasts views about work and unemployment2 to help us with “re-assessing” and “re-enchanting” work.
For mainstream economics, work is a necessary evil. However, under an alternative system, work would be a path to give people a chance to utilize and develop their capacity to overcome ego-centeredness.
1 For a list of the Eight Noble Truths seen this Wikipedia article.
2 See our PowerPoint of the five areas of comparison We’ll review the other alternatives views in subsequent blogs. Also see “Economics for Yogis-003.”
For Buddhist economics, we would still need “things” (goods and services), but they would be the necessities for “a becoming existence,” not for “endless consumption.”
Furthermore, in Buddhist economics, work develops our capacity to live fully. It brings us joy, and leisure brings bliss, making our work and leisure complementary. Schumacher highlights these points.
One of our “trust dimensions” is “self-awareness-based trust.” When this “trust dimension” is present: I’m showing at work with authenticity & agency, and I am aware of who I am/am not.
As we see from current headlines, the mainstream view is to increase unemployment to “hold down inflation.” Why? Increases in unemployment put downward pressures on the rate of growth in wages, thus the overall cost of producing goods and providing services.
For Schumacher, within a Buddhist paradigm, using unemployment this way goes against the grain of an economy that enhances the possibilities of everyone holding a job who wants one.
There’s much discussion about the tradeoff between unemployment and inflation. There’s less about a tradeoff between profit and inflation.
When labor becomes the tool to fight inflation, all workers may begin to reassess what they mean in the economy. Under our current system, we see the challenges the Federal Reserve System faces in meeting its mandate of maximum employment, stable prices, and moderate interest rates.
About The Great Reassessment
If we follow Schumacher, there was something not quite right about how we approached work before COVID, and the Lockdown revealed that.
Consequently, there’s a scramble to make work financially rewarding and personally satisfying. Call this scramble “The Great Readjustment” or “Reassessment.” Look for alternative work formations as part of your reassessment. That way, you’ll be able to identify “the box” you’re thinking of inside so you can think outside of it.