Capitalist society in disarray – Buddhist compassion, right livelihood and Buddhist banking/economics is the answer

Capitalist society in disarray – Buddhist compassion, right livelihood and Buddhist banking/economics is the answer

 7 billion populace live in 195 countries. Some countries are rich others are poor – all countries are in debt. People are obsessed with wealth. Media projects the notion that wealth is the answer to all. Films aggravate situation by glorifying the lifestyles of the elite. Even those who preach the faith are shown as ‘prosperity preachers’. Size is shown as a qualifier. The phrase “the American Dream” reveals how materialistic we are. Sadly, no matter how big our homes are and no matter how many shiny new toys we accumulate, we never seem to be happy. The world needs peace, more compassion and a new economic order that departs from creating disparities. We need to take a serious step back and move towards a more harmonious means of living.  

 The capitalist model concentrates power and money in the hands of a few. We live in a materialistic world where acquisition becomes the norm. Sadly, studies reveal that buying things does not make people happy. Liberal experiments have turned cultures upside down and created zombie cultures which people are made to follow as the latest trends. People are experimenting and making wrong choices and eventual discovery of truth leads them to greater depression.

 Capitalist ideology is controlled by a handful of elites through organizations that they control – the IMF and World Bank are western controlled oligarchies. Their loans are conditional and subject to a government reducing welfare to people in need, structural adjustments force privatization, massive tax cuts for the rich, the crushing of trade unions, deregulation and opening economy to what suits external investors, IMF even forces removal of controls over flows of capital.

 Freedom from trade unions and collective bargaining means the freedom to suppress wages. Freedom from regulation means the freedom to poison rivers & pollute environment, endanger workers, charge iniquitous rates of interest and design exotic financial instruments. Freedom from tax means freedom from the distribution of wealth that lifts people out of poverty. Marketisation of public services such as energy, water, trains, health, education, roads and prisons has enabled corporations to charge for its use.

 Neoliberalism has impacted countries politically. No person without money can contest elections. No political parties can survive without throwing money. Money buys votes and even voters. Those funding campaigns do so expecting returns with interest!

 Viktor Orbán, the Hungarian prime minister with his decision to ban Rothschild banking became the 1stEuropean nation to even close down the IMF office in Hungary.

 Let’s look at what the world looks like..

 The wealthiest one percent now have 65 times more wealth than the entire poorest half of the global population does. The ultra-wealthy have approximately 32 trillion dollars (that we know about) stashed in offshore banks around the planet. 

 The poorest half of the world’s population only owns about 1 percent of all global wealth, and about a billion people throughout the world go to bed hungry every night.

 An article in the Economic Collapse says U.S. economy loses approximately 9,000 jobs for every 1 billion dollars of goods that are imported from overseas.

 US trade deficit is $8trillion!  More than 102 million working age Americans do not have a job. Today, only about 9 percent of the jobs in the United States are manufacturing jobs. Everything is getting outsourced overseas. In 1950, more than 80 percent of all men in the United States had jobs.  Today, less than 65 percent of all men in the United States have jobs. In 1985, US trade deficit with China was approximately $6million in 2012 US trade deficit with China was $315billion.

 In Qatar petrol is cheaper than water. There are over 4000 millionaires in Qatar yet poverty prevails.

 In Saudi Arabia – the average foreign worker earns as little as $266 a month – there are 9million foreign workers. Saudi unemployment rate is closer to 27 to 29%, rising to 33% among youths between 20 and 24 years and 38% for 24 to 29-year-olds (source ARAMCO employee), 

 According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression (5% of the world population)

 The wealthiest one percent of all Americans control 40 percent of all the wealth in the United States. Over a million American families are kicked out of their homes for not paying mortgage. The banks keep the mortgage that they previously paid plus the house as well! The same applies to all other items – stop paying and you forfeit that to the banks. The “too big to fail” banks now control 77 percent of all of the banking assets in the country.

 The number of millionaires in the United States rose 16% to 7.8 million in 2009. US debt is $18trillion / UK debt is £4.8 trillion

The average American supermarket stocks 40,000 unique items, while European stores have approximately 18,000 items. American cars are much larger than their international counterparts as are all other items. 

 In 1962, only 13 percent of all Americans were obese today that number is 36%, and likely to rise to 42 percent by 2030. United States has the highest divorce rate in the world. According to Pew Research Center, only 51 percent of all American adults are currently married as compared to 72% in 1960.

 According to CBS News, the average American uses 150 gallons of water per day, while residents of the U.K. only use 40 gallons per day and residents of China use just 22 gallons per day.

 It is estimated that 75 percent of India’s surface water is now contaminated by human and agricultural waste

 According to a UN study on sanitation, far more people in India have access to a mobile phone than to a toilet.

 Some 795 million people in the world do not have enough food to lead a healthy active life. That’s about one in nine people on earth. 12.5% of the world population are under nourished. In 2010, an estimated 7.6 million children — more than 20,000 a day — died.525.6 million in Asia are hungry. 60 percent of the world’s hungry are women. 50% of hungry people are farming families. Cash crops result in exporting food!

 Yet, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), says about one third of global food production (around 30 to 40%), is lost or wasted annually. Every year rich countries waste more that 220 million tonnes of food.  Institution of Mechanical Engineers say 2bn tonnes of food never makes it on to a plate. The annual food waste in Italy could feed 44 million people – all of Ethiopia’s undernourished population. The annual food waste in France is enough to feed the entire population of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Just five per cent of United States’ food waste could feed 4 million people for one day.

 Sadly the Eastern upcoming nations are following the same Western capitalist fundamentals thus the need for these nations to take a pause and not follow the same failed journey of the West.

 This is where Buddhist fundamentals can offer a solution and people need not be baptized or give up their faith to follow the fundamental theory of Buddhist ideology.

 When Buddhist philosophy urges man to make profits by not harming others no one can go against this, when Buddhist philosophy asks man to engage in right livelihoods without slaughtering animals and treat them as sentient beings, that too cannot be faulted. When Buddhist philosophy encourages people to be more compassionate and kind to all, this too is nothing that people can object to.

 Sadly it is Europeans who are again bringing out the concepts of Buddhism. E. F. Schumacher in his book “Buddhist Economics,” says “Right Livelihood” is one of the requirements of the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path”…. Buddhist economics must be very different from the economics of modern materialism, since the Buddhist sees the essence of civilization not in a multiplication of wants but in the purification of human character.”…. “The keynote of Buddhist economics, therefore, is simplicity and non-violence.”

 “The modern Western economist is used to measuring the “standard of living” by the amount of annual consumption, assuming all the time that a man who consumes more is “better off” than a man who consumes less. A Buddhist economist would consider this approach excessively irrational: since consumption is merely a means to human well-being, the aim should be to obtain the maximum of well-being with the minimum of consumption”

 “From the point of view of Buddhist economics … production from local resources for local needs is the most rational way of economic life, while dependence on imports from afar and the consequent need to produce for export to unknown and distant peoples is highly uneconomic and justifiable only in exceptional cases and on a small scale.”

Clair Brown economist at University of Berkeley created a Buddhist Economics course and says that applying Buddhist principles to the way an economy operates would produce an economy designed primarily to meet the needs of people. “In the traditional economic model, it makes sense to go shopping if you are feeling pain, because buying things makes you feel better,” Brown wrote in her class syllabus. “Yet, we know from experience that consuming more does not relieve pain. What if we lived in a society that did not put consumption at its center? What if we follow instead the Buddhist mandate to minimize suffering, and are driven by compassion rather than desire?”

Thai Buddhist monk and philosopher, P.A. Payutto that one should not be a Buddhist or an economist to be interested in Buddhist economics. Buddhist ethical principles and their applications in economic life offer a way of being and acting, which can help people to live a more ecological and happier life while contributing to the reduction of human and non-human suffering in the world.  

The Wall Street Journal carried an article titled “Buddhist Monk in Thailand Relies on Karma for Lending Success” – the more a borrower repays, the lower the interest rate will be the next month, unlike at commercial banks, which calculate interest rates at set levels.

Why cannot business models be based on Right Livelihood – people can be rich but not at the poverty of others!

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No country is flourishing, all countries are in debt, people are unhappy, environment has also been impacted …everything is on the decline because of man’s greed. We need to return to the concept of small is beautiful, to learn to prioritize people, environment and animals over products and creativity over consumption. Neither capitalism or socialism has provided us answers. The third alternative is Buddhist economics and the concept of right livelihood as well as greater compassion.

With over 535million world Buddhists and many philanthropists as well the onus is on them to come out with a Buddhist economic/banking model that encapsulates all that will help salvage nations, people, animals and the environment. It is advised that the Buddhist associations create a forum for this and come up with a new formula that would become a new breakthrough in a world that is like a volcano ready to erupt. A small town/city can be selected to implement a new economic/banking system that puts people, animals, environment before wealth and greed.

We do not need wars – we need peace, we do not need stress, pressure and depression – we need to relax and be at one with our inner being, we do not need to inflict pain on others because karma will return that pain to us – we need more compassion in the world for all. We do not need greed – it is never ending. We do not need to acquire –it doesn’t bring happiness and we do not take anything when we ultimately depart. Let us all contribute towards a model of living that does not create inequality, imbalances, conflicts and chaos.

 Shenali D Waduge


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