By E. F. Schumacher
“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. Buddhist countries have often stated that they wish to remain faithful to their heritage.
So Burma: “The New Burma sees no conflict between religious values and economic progress. Spiritual health and material
well-being are not enemies: they are natural allies.” Or: “We can blend successfully the religious and spiritual values of our
heritage with the benefits of modern technology.” Or: “We Burmans have a sacred duty to conform both our dreams and
our acts to our faith. This we shall ever do.”
All the same, such countries invariably assume that they can model their economic development plans in accordance with
modern economics, and they call upon modern economists from so-called advanced countries to advise them, to formulate
the policies to be pursued, and to construct the grand design for development, the Five-Year Plan or whatever it may be
called. No one seems to think that a Buddhist way of life would call for Buddhist economics, just as the modern materialist
way of life has brought forth modern economics.
Economists themselves, like most specialists, normally suffer from a kind of metaphysical blindness, assuming that theirs is a
science of absolute and invariable truths, without any presuppositions. Some go as far as to claim that economic laws are as
free from “metaphysics” or “values” as the law of gravitation. We need not, however, get involved in arguments of
methodology. Instead, let us take some fundamentals and see what they look like when viewed by a modern economist and
a Buddhist economist.
There is universal agreement that a fundamental source of wealth is human labour. Now, the modern economist has been
brought up to consider “labour” or work as little more than a necessary evil. From the point of view of the…