Hindu Economic Principles

Discussion in 'Economics' started by Yuvrajjj, Jun 3, 2009.

  1. At the heart of Hindu economics is this: the test of every policy is not profit, employment or growth, but how it strengthens family and community, individual character and sensitivity, states Romesh Diwan, Professor of Economics at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. Diwan, Dattopant Thengdi of New Delhi (founder of India's foremost labor union, Bhartiya Mazdoor Sangh), M.G. Bokare, (a disenchanted Marxist and author of Hindu Economics) and others are advocates of a thoroughly Hindu revamping of today's economic systems. "Many economists wonder how practical these ideas are," states Prof. Diwan. "I think, at the core of it, Hindu economics is very practical because it touches all aspects of a human life." In places such as Ralegaon Siddhi , where they have been applied even on a minuscule scale, the results have been impressive and real enough to support Diwan's claim. It is not a system imposed from up down by the government, but, according to Diwan, "The government plays an important role in Hindu economics by defining priorities for large investments and strengthening local economies by decentralizing economic and political power." The idea is not to enforce Hindu economics, as communism was enforced upon the people, but to create an environment where these principles become viable.

    Economics has been a topic of discussion for Hindu scripture since the Rig Veda. In that ancient scripture are found key concepts such as production, exchange, wages, interest, rent, profit and the market. Kautilya's Arthashastra, a treatise on statecraft, includes extensive advice on taxation, customs duties, trade and intelligent protection of environmental resources such as forests. The Tamil Tirukural spoke of the right and wrong ways to gather and spend wealth. The new "Hindu economics" advocated by a few pioneers is based in part on these ancient systems, and in part on a practical application of Hindu philosophy to the modern situation.

    The best minds in economics and social sciences, such as Lester Thurow and Alvin Toffler, question the viability of the capitalist approach to economics. They are aware that in last two decades the gulf between private affluence and public poverty has widened, the gap between the rich and the poor has virtually doubled, the Earth has been polluted and things far more precious to humanity--such as children, families, personal values and clean air and water--have been threatened.

    Fundamental questions remain unanswered. What is wealth? Is it accumulation of monetary resources, or should it also take into account the nonmaterial possessions such as friends, family, health and environment? What should be the goal of economics? Should it be maximization of profits or of human happiness? If it is human happiness, then can either of the prevalent theories--capitalism or communism--deliver that? The more the experts try to answer these fundamental questions of economics, the more they turn towards the Hindu approach. "In terms of larger ideas such as capitalism and socialism, Hindu economics belongs to spiritualism" says Professor Diwan.

    According to Dattopant Thengdi, Hindu economics is fundamentally different from Western economics. To start with, he says, in the West economics is treated as a separate discipline. But within Hinduism, economics falls under artha, one of the four legitimate aims of life: dharma (righteousness), artha (wealth), kama (pleasure) and moksha (liberation). In Western economics, human beings are too often regarded as essentially economic beings, carrying out economic activities, producing goods and, in turn, consuming goods to complete the economic cycle.

    It is, of course, an oversimplification to say the Western economic system is totally selfish, for charitable giving is common in the West among both poor and rich--witness the stated intention of Bill Gates, the world's richest man, to eventually give most of his money to charity or Ted Turner's recent billion-dollar gift to the UN. Indeed, American philanthropy has few equals.

    In contrast to the mechanical approach of Western economics, Hindu philosophy holds that human beings are not just physical entities to be kept happy by producing and consuming. Rather, humans comprise physical, mental and spiritual aspects, and for the happiness of an individual all three should be taken into consideration. When you apply these fundamental beliefs, the kind of economics you get is very different. For example, in Ralegaon Siddhi, the first thing Anna Hazare began was to earn people's trust by his own honesty and integrity. This, in turn, allowed them to trust each other--a significant factor in Hindu economics. He then persuaded the citizens to make their village self-sufficient by their own cooperative efforts so they were not exploited by outsiders. The environment of nonexploitation convinced the people that when they worked hard, they--not an outside person--benefited from the fruits of their own labor. Also it is important to keep in mind that there is a fundamental difference between poverty and frugality. There was poverty in Ralegaon Siddhi prior to the application of ethical economic principles. Today, though the level of material consumption is not high, the poverty is gone.

    Real-world application of a Hindu economic theory remains in a nascent state. The practical application of its principles on a personal, national or global level, is not clear, but the goal is. As captured by the great spiritual teacher Sri Aurobindo: "The aim of economics would be not to create a huge engine of production, whether of the competitive or the cooperative kind, but to give to men and women--not only some men and women but to all, each in his highest possible measure--the joy of work according to their own nature and free leisure to grow inwardly, as well as a simple, rich and beautiful life for all."
  2. It sounds great but the assertive and acquisitive people will never let it happen. You can dream though. :cool:
  3. Ash1972


    But the assertive and acquisitive people may end up being the greatest philanthropists. I believe capitalism and good deeds are perfectly compatible. At the simplest level, greed drives capitalism. But remember, greed itself is complex - it's not just about money but also power, justice, knowledge, vision and the desire to see things done your way. Once you've piled up a certain quantity of $ that drive will take a different form.
  4. Good post.
  5. Basic needs are food ....clothing....shelter....work....and sex....

    And the utmost need is satisfaction ....

    One is rich if one attains satisfaction....

    Good post....
  6. sjfan


    Perfect... let some come along and impose what their definition of "happiness" or "satisfaction" is on us. How about, let the economy do what it's best at doing: producing. Let charitable and alturistic actions be choices of the individual, not society. Let me give because I want to give, not because some scripture or tradition or law tell me that I have to give x% of my wealth away to be happy.

    Good times...

  7. How about letting everyone pick their own reasons for trading, profits, charity, etc.? If someone is religious, but not a Hindu, then they probably prefer to sort that out for themselves, not have someone else "inform" them how they should run their life.
  8. I really dont get it. How come whenever someone shares their religion, just informing others about it, people get so uptight and think that ther person is trying to "Force" some kind of martial law on them that they have to live that way or die.

    And its really only with religion. I mean you never seen people freak out about other stuff. You see people on TV, or on the streets all the time selling their stuff and you dont call it being "forced" to buy that stuff. You have a choice and you know it. Just like you have a choice to believe what someone says about their religion.

    I mean if one is walking down the street and someone tries to talk to him about religion, you might hear him say "Stop pushing your morals on me" But if the same guy is walking down the street and someone tries to get him to take a flyer to visit a restaurant or a host is trying to pull people in off the street to that restaurant, you NEVER hear the person say "Dont push your food on me"
  9. Eight


    great philosophies can't fix a sick world. If you want to create something extraordinary you have to take on the assertive bastards in your environment and defeat them one way or the other. After you do that, if you can still recall what it was you were trying to do, then you have a remote chance of implementing it...
  10. sjfan


    In general, I agree. BUT, this is a discussion forum, right? He posted something because he want it to be read and discussed, no? So in this case, this fella posted something that a few of us find a bit disagreeable, and we state as such. No where did we attack him because of his belief, just that we find his belief detestable. So, should we, because this is his "spiritual" belief, hold it to some high ground? After all, if his spiritual belief were to be realized, some of us would feel quite harmed by it.

    #10     Jun 3, 2009