Buddhist Economics: An Economics of Peace

by Susan Witt, The Canadian, Jan 3, 2007

Toronto, Canada -- It has been fifty years since Fritz Schumacher first published his now classic essay "Buddhist Economics," calling for an economic system informed by simplicity and non-violence.

". . . the Buddhist economist would insist that a population basing its economic life on non-renewable fuels is living parasitically, on capital instead of income. Such a way of life could have no permanence and could therefore be justified only as a purely temporary expedient. As the world's resource of non-renewable fuels--coal, oil, and natural gas--are exceedingly unevenly distributed over the globe and undoubtedly limited in quantity, it is clear that their exploitation at an ever-increasing rate is an act of violence against nature which must almost inevitably lead to violence between men."

Schumacher was thus persuaded that the most rational form of production is from local resources for local needs. Work is not something to avoid but "blesses those who do it" when conducted in conditions of human dignity and freedom, so favouring a system of full employment.

"Buddhist Economics" is a simple reminder that our economic systems should reflect our highest aspirations as a culture--whether we find the source of those aspirations in religion, philosophy, our communion with nature, or our sympathy with others.

In the midst of the crushing effects of the global economy on local communities and the people and ecology of those communities, Schumacher's essay challenges us to imagine another kind of economic future--an economics of peace. That imagining is the first step to implementation.