This is a blog about economics and spirituality: So, what do the IMF and the Vatican have in common?

28 07 2008

By Economicsfairy

Correct: Old white men tell everybody how the world works and what individuals and societies as a whole have to do in order to survive (in this world or the one still to come). I don’t want to go as far as to claim that economics is not a proper science, but i.e. even the IMF and the World Bank start to realize that their simple free markets blueprint didn’t really work in many countries (or worse, was detrimental), so might not have been grounded on thorough research, but rather on ideology:

 

We believe that this is the right way for everybody – and so it must be!

 

Fortunately, the IMF doesn’t come along with swords and axes like the crusaders in the Middle Ages, but for some of the countries that were very badly affected by the so-called “structural adjustment programmes” the difference may not be that big … Indian farmers committed suicide because of the economic pressure.

 

Certain people always tried to rule the world, be it via religious belief systems, political ideology or (most common today) economic power (and certain economic models (that don’t leave much room for the poor of this world). And there is always some kind of “big story” involved, some kind of narrative, model, belief, worldview … that serves the interests of the people in power.

 

Monty Python films ridicule this idea of “meta-stories” or “meta-narratives”, whether in religion or in politics. I think that economics could go down the same road if it does not allow for a constant reality-check. The economic/political meta-narratives of our time are: globalisation is good for everyone (“in the long run”), trade liberalisation is good for everyone, privatization is always better, Western democracy is the best model for every country (and the USA knows how to implement it), everybody is per se egoistic and a “utility maximizer”, everything needs to be assessed in terms of usefulness and rationality, money makes you happy, more money makes you happier ….

 

Okay, a bit exaggerated, but I think you get the idea: Since more and more churches are being converted into pubs – and priests had to give up their monopoly on story-telling: What kind of stories are we told these days? Who benefits from them?

 

And do we believe them?
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 





Wishes unlimited and the world economy

28 07 2008

By Economicsfairy

 

A very interesting idea concerning economics and spirituality came to my mind when I started to read more about Buddhism. Apparently, one of the Buddhists’ goals is to “eliminate” all sorts of wishes, because they see them as the root cause for all our suffering. Quite on the contrary, modern societies rely heavily on people and their never-ending wishes (and have set up enormous marketing machines to make sure that there will always be new ones). Capitalism is entirely built on people wanting more and more and more …Our daily lists of wishes (at least the ones money can buy) are the oil in the machineries of modern market economies.

 

I really wonder sometimes what would happen if people just stopped wishing and shopping like lunatics? What if one day we all woke up and said to ourselves: Hey, today I’m just going to buy some basic foodstuff, I don’t need these new fancy shoes and I also don’t need the latest computer games. What would happen if that mood continued and spread around the world? Would the world economy break down? And would that be good? Wouldn’t all the suddenly unemployed suffer greatly?

 

Or would we all together be able to “calm down” and live an easier, more shared, more joy- and meaningful life? I don’t know. But I think that at the moment our societies keep big illusions going – growth illusions, wealth illusions, happiness illusions (being under the illusion, that this is helpful).





Is money bad for your soul?

28 07 2008

By Economicsfairy

 

I feel that, unfortunately, in many religious belief systems money is regarded as something “bad”. Well, maybe not really bad, but something a bit dirty, and, hm, yes, you need it, but you shouldn’t want it too much. And people who have “too much” money (whatever that is) are regarded a bit suspiciously. How did their wealth come about? Hopefully, they didn’t exploit anyone …

 

What a poor, miserable idea that is!

 

Why not simply see money as a tool that you can use to create good things? Money is just another form of energy, so you should try to attract as much as possible with all your power (in a fair way and then using it wisely, of course). Why the hell should it ruin your character or be an obstacle “on the way to God” (as some religious people think)?

 

So get as much money as you can, become bloody rich, set up your own foundation and go change the world! If I had to make a choice between being poor, powerless and spiritual – or rich, powerful and spiritual, I would always go for the latter …!

 

Spiritual and material wealth (inner and outer wealth) can go perfectly together.





Scarcity

21 07 2008

By Teasome

I am rejoicing at the oil price growth. No, wrong guess, it’s not because I’m Russian. It is because the markets are finally starting to show the real price for depletable resources. I don’t believe it’s a bubble. I believe that it is finally starting to make it clear that our life-style is unsustatinable! Markets are working! The problem is, as always with markets, that they are imperfect, and that they have started working too late. Don’t fret! I say. better late than never!!!!

On the serious side. I found this wonderful article by Dosi, Grazzi: Energy, Development and Environment. They are talking about limits to growth debate of 1972. So THEY say (mind you, it’s not my wishful thinking, I’m quoting):

The higher the price for fossil fuels, the better it is in the long run for the world economy as for humankind in general.

Tadaa!

To the same piggy-bank:

Unsustainability is looming not for the reasons of scarcity… but… for lack of scarcity – at least with respect to energy availability and consumption.

One more, I LOVE the phrasing:

The proposition that ‘growth takes care of itself’ in terms of the environmental consequences is ANALYTICALLY LARGELY UNGROUNDED and NORMATIVELY RECKLESS [capitalisaion mine].

And a stone into World Bank’s allotment (as we say in Russia):

The Environmental Kuznets Curve (EKC) posits an inverted-U relationship between pollution and economic developments. Different versions of the EKC [are]characterized by different degrees of optimism… Their most optimistic interpretations have been popularized, not too surprisingly, by the World Bank’s World Development Report 1992 which argued that:

The view that greater economic activity inevitably hurts the environment is based on static assumptions about technology, tastes and environmental investment (IBRD [1992], p. 38).

[Big satisfied smile]

Only none of this makes it clear what I should research as my PhD [howling sounds].