On Neohumanist Economics

By Dr. Shambhushivananda

Summary of a talk delivered at Ramjas College of Commerce, Delhi University, Delhi on March 23, 2017

Dear faculty and students:

Every society wants freedom, happiness, abundance, progress and justice. Economics is intimately connected with all these sublime goals.

One cannot have freedom without recognizing the basic fact that individual freedom must be accompanied and balanced with collective interest. Thus, every human being must think and act in such ways by which no other creature is harmed or neglected in the process of pursuing individual goals. The laws and their enforcement must also ensure that individual and collective liberties are always protected. Unfortunately, the unbridled accumulation of wealth is ultra-vires to the goal of granting economic freedom to one and all. Economic freedom requires that the purchasing power of the masses must be raised. That is the true measure of economic growth. Today’s society, where extreme economic disparities abound, cannot be considered an ideal society. Hence, Neohumanist economics expounds that the goal of economics must be to enable every human being to be free from mundane problems so that they can have greater opportunities for intellectual and spiritual growth. Lasting freedom is only possible in the spiritual realm.

A simple formula of happiness is:

Happiness = Wealth / Desires

There must always be a regulated endeavor to balance individual longings, wants, urges and desires with the purchasing power at hand. A restrained lifestyle is a sure way to achieve lasting happiness in personal and collective life.

Today, are we conscious about where our food comes from? What is the status of our water resources and their quality? Where does our energy come from? Where does our trash go? What is the status of our material resources in the country? Why do we have pollution? Why do we have wars? What is our competitive advantages vis-à-vis other economic-zones. We cannot shop our way to sustainability and resilience. We need fundamental shifts in our thinking and consciousness.

If we want abundance in our lives, we must come closer to nature and tap the abundant potentialities of nature. We must not follow lifestyles or economic policies, which decrease our degrees of freedom. We need to align our lifestyle to nature – the source of abundance. Unfortunately, we do not seem to have time for real issues and challenges facing society and our survival. We are too absorbed in our personal pleasures and that is a recipe for a bleak future.

Education in the field of Economics must be transformed from being a mere “intellectual extravaganza” and made into a precise, practical science where we can begin to see the interconnections between the status of our natural resources & potentialities, the state of technologies and human aspirations.

When a nation or community is dependent on other nations or communities for its basic necessities, it is always vulnerable. The seeds of economic-exploitation reside in this vulnerability. Hence, we must always try to make each socio-economic zone as self-reliant as possible especially for the minimum essentialities of life. The productive use of labour must ensure that purchasing power is improving the standard of living of the common masses and not merely bloating the coffers of a few private individuals or the state. The wealth of society must be shared among one and all through a cooperative economy. Imbalanced economies lead to war-psychosis and imperialist tendencies. Over-industrialization also causes collective psychic degeneration. Industrial revolution must be based on local raw materials and not imported raw materials. The surplus and deficit labour problem must also be tackled through a balanced economic approach: balance between agriculture and non-agricultural sectors; and between rural and urban centers. Decentralization of economic power is necessary for granting economic-justice to the masses.

The real development of our country requires attention to five R’s.

  1. Reflective eco-friendly education
  2. Redesign of eco-friendly habitats
  3. Renewable energy conversion to clean electricity
  4. Regeneration of life forms via sequestering carbon
  5. Recycling of all wastes- solid, liquid and gases

Technologically, the solutions are available but the political will and consciousness of the masses is also necessary to bring about fundamental changes for nation building. A political process alone does not form a nation. It requires universal love and an enlightened lifestyle that reflects care for one-another. Albert Einstein rightly said: “The fate of humanity is entirely dependent on its moral development.”

When we begin to recognize that all creatures have both existential value and utility value, we shall begin to lay the foundations for a Neohumanist economy. It could lead to a happier, sustainable and a resilient world. In the words of Shri Shri P.R.Sarkar, “The value of any object changes according to time, space and person. The method of utilization should also vary accordingly.” This is an important dynamic principle of the Progressive Utilization Theory, popularly known as PROUT.