By Graham Simon
Income inequality has come to the fore as the most pressing economic and social issue facing the world today. According to Credit Suisse’s Global Wealth Report 2013, 0.7% of the world’s inhabitants possess 41% of its wealth, 10% have 86%, and the poorest 50% hold a mere 1%.
A new book by French economist Thomas Picketty, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, has topped the bestseller lists. Picketty’s central thesis, supported by a wealth of historical data, is that over time the relative gains to owners of capital in peacetime economies are significantly higher than the returns to labor. His book proves beyond doubt what everyone has long known – the richer get richer while the poor get poorer, at least in relative terms. Pope Francis tweeted in April that “Inequality is the root of social evil.” Christine Lagarde, the head of the IMF, recently added her voice to the debate, warning that rising inequality threatens global financial stability, democracy and human rights.
While all may agree that inequality can tear nations apart, there is no consensus on the solution. Policy proposals to reverse inequality center upon taxation and redistributive measures. These are inevitably contentious. When owners of wealth, who came by their riches honestly, legitimately and, in their opinion, deservedly, are forcibly dispossessed through taxation or government fiat, resentment arises. If those same governments then expend the proceeds wastefully or corruptly, this resentment only deepens.
But there is another approach. It requires a basic understanding of economics and the application of some principled thinking.
The starting point of economics is scarcity. With scarcity comes the need to make choices. The economic cake is not infinite in size and there are a lot of hungry mouths to feed. The two perennial questions nations seek to address are how best to make the cake bigger and how to divide it up.
The first question falls primarily in the realm of economics which casts itself as a “normative science.” It does not seek to be prescriptive, but merely to say, “With this set of economic relations and knowing what we do about human behavior, then such-and-such a policy is likely to result in such-and-such an outcome.” The second question takes us into the realms of politics, ethics and beyond.
A fundamental tenet of economics is that everyone acts out of self-interest. Some may contest this, arguing that there are people who live truly altruistic lives with no attachment to worldly possessions. However, such an argument fails to recognize that self-interest differs from person to person. This point was made succinctly by a Buddhist monk who quipped: “We monks are the greediest people on earth. Not content with storing up riches in this world we want them in the next one instead.” From such a perspective, the economic choices of a wandering dervish are as rational as those of a rich miser who refuses to give a cent to charity.
Unificationism extols the goal of true love. Through love, one’s consciousness of self is expanded to include the other. The Buddhist concept of compassion expresses a similar notion. Regardless of how much or how little we are able to actualize love or compassion, the very inkling of its existence can suffice to modify our behavior. It would be hard to conceive of a person with any spark of humanity who could sit in an expensive restaurant and enjoy a lavish meal if a starving beggar stood outside the window watching every mouthful. In rich nations in particular, many of us are able to make the economic choices we do only because we are relatively isolated from the suffering of others.
Over the past 70 years, empirical studies have convinced leaders of nations of the importance of capital formation, technology, and investment in the health and education of their people – so-called “human capital.” Yet, until now, little or no investment has gone into improving the “spiritual capital” of a nation. The reasons are clear. First, levels of health and education are relatively easy to measure empirically; the spiritual level of a society is not. Second, political leaders and academics are often wary about crossing a line that is primarily seen as the preserve of religion or philosophy. Nonetheless, a Nobel Prize surely awaits the first economist to empirically demonstrate that investment in a nation’s “spiritual capital” will raise the welfare of its citizens. The starting point for such an analysis might be the identification of proxy variables to measure the degree of responsibility individuals feel towards others within their family, clan, society, nation and the world.
Even if a credible measure of the spiritual capital of a society can be found, how might a secular government go about raising its level? The answer lies in education and in particular ensuring that, from an early age, all citizens recognize and accept three fundamental precepts of human life:
- Our individual talents: Each person is born with certain talents in greater or lesser abundance; these talents are not given simply for our own personal aggrandizement but for the benefit of others.
- Our interconnectedness: All mankind are members of a single human family and every person within this family is a brother or sister, parent or child to each other.
- Our common heritage: There are some things that we can create through our own initiative and effort and these we might rightfully designate as private property, but there are some things that are the common heritage of the whole of humanity and should be seen as public assets over which mankind is only a custodian.
These precepts, while seemingly idealistic, resonate with the original mind of all human beings. If internalized by individuals throughout society, they will have profound implications on our economic relations.
Pope Francis tweeted about inequality on April 28.
Our Individual Talents
Consider two college graduates of equal ability. One chooses to work in an investment bank calculating bond yields and the other works for NASA. The difference between their annual earnings may be huge. Economists call this difference “economic rent” — the surplus accruing to land, labor or capital above the amount earned in its next most rewarding employment.
Now, consider opera singers, composers, writers, and painters. While they may want to be paid well for what they do, true artists are not primarily motivated by monetary reward, but from the satisfaction they derive from both the creative process itself and the joy they bring to others. Should not the same premise apply to all who follow their calling and apply themselves to valuable occupations to which they are well-suited, including entrepreneurship, financial engineering, law and other professions? If so, responsible citizens earning substantial amounts of economic rent might well be expected to share a portion of their good fortune with the rest of society.
The 16th century metaphysical poet, John Donne, wrote:
“No man is an island entire of itself, every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main… any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
If we could become truly aware of our interconnectedness, then the inclination to ease the suffering of our fellow man would become an operating imperative and not just a philosophical concept in our lives. Despite growing inequality, this is already happening to some degree in many countries. There are a plethora of charitable causes vying for our money. Philanthropy enables great industrialists and entrepreneurs to ensure the durability of their name, long after they have passed into the next world. Today, Bill and Melinda Gates are working assiduously to erase disease in Africa. Meanwhile, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have enrolled 122 fellow billionaires to pledge to give away half their wealth before they die (significantly, none of these are yet Chinese, although China boasts 358 billionaires – one-fifth the global total).
Our Common Heritage
Land and minerals are assets which man has had no hand in creating. To regard these as the common heritage of mankind is entirely justifiable and has far-reaching economic implications.
Clearly some sense of continuity of possession is needed if people are to be motivated to build buildings, plant orchards, grow crops, or dig mines. Those same people need be able to receive appropriate recompense for their investment in fixed assets and the development of land if it changes hands. But should anyone be given ownership of the land in perpetuity? If the land were to belong to the nation as a whole and people were to pay a usage charge to occupy and exploit it, the revenues thus generated would be sufficient to replace all other taxes. Further, such an arrangement would prevent highly desirable land being accumulated for speculative purposes but left undeveloped. Enterprising individuals would be rewarded for their investment of labor and capital. Productivity would rise. In short, the whole society would benefit and today’s inequalities would be greatly diminished.
Such ideas were proposed by the political economist Henry George in his book Progress and Poverty in 1879 and have since found favor with leaders as ideologically diverse as Winston Churchill and Sun Yat-sen. Perhaps the time for their implementation is nigh.
* * *
In the final analysis, there is no such thing as “Principled Economics.” There are only the choices that principled people make when acting in accordance with their original mind. In 1980, the economist Milton Friedman famously said: “The society that puts equality before freedom will end up with neither. The society that puts freedom before equality will end up with a great measure of both.” The battle against communism has been won, and few today would dispute that free markets are the most efficient mechanism for allocating resources. Notwithstanding, Friedman’s message badly needs updating to say, “The society that puts freedom before equality will end up with a great measure of both, providing that its citizens can learn to behave responsibly.” ♦
Graham Simon met the Unification Movement in California in 1981. He holds an MA in Economics from New York University and has lived in the UK, Southeast Asia, the USA and Japan, working extensively for international corporations. He and his family now live in London, where he runs a software company and is a trustee of the FFWPU-UK charity.
The Land Value Tax proposed by Henry George refers to both land and natural resources. It becomes very relevant to society when all land is taken, and when there is a finite and very limited amount of valuable minerals and non-renewable sources of energy, the obvious one being fossil fuels.
Vast fortunes were built out of the capture of the revenue from land or natural resources into private hands, and yet these naturally belong to the community. Therefore, since governments failed to capture the increase in value of the land, it turned to taxing income, which turns out to be a way of taxing the middle classes and the poor to subsidize the rich. Anything the rich pay in taxes is returned to them in the increase in value of their land. See for example “Ricardo’s Law ~ The Great Tax Clawback Scam” on YouTube.
This I agree with Henry George and with Graham is the way that the rich have captured the economic rent and taken so much of the wealth. Unfortunately, individuals in government seem so caught up in the art of holding on to power that they have proven incapable of solving the issue of inequality. Certainly some people in power have no excuse, such as Joe Biden who used to live in the very same Georgist community where I now live, Ardentown in Delaware, USA.
One solution is to find free land. Unfortunately that requires us to get out to the galaxy and other planets, and although that time is drawing close, it won’t come in time for us to resolve our current crisis.
Molly Scott Cato and the Green Party in the UK have favored a Land Value Tax for a while now. They are gaining ground in politics these days. In the U.S., while the Green Party stood on an LVT platform economically, they have failed to organize well enough to gain much ground.
Picketty’s book is just another Communist Manifesto railing against freedom and free markets. There has been no capitalism in the West since 1913 when the US government handed over money printing and control of the economy to the Federal Reserve. Socialism instantly began growing here, as it already had in Europe, and the governments of the West began taking more and more control of the economy, largely deciding who the winners and losers would be. Hitler and Mussolini were the most forthright in their crony support of the rich, but all governments adopted that model. In this scenario, the losers have always been the average people, and the winners the rich and powerful, who only got richer and more powerful under the controlling hand of central banks backed up by the coercive power of government. When real free markets return, the average person will become wealthier. The rich do not get richer and the poor get poorer under capitalism, but only under crony socialism. In real free markets, all get wealthier, and new wealthy are added to the rolls daily.
What Divine Principle can do is teach that the critical value for prosperity is freedom from control. Government’s real role is to police fraud and corruption with honest vigor. DP is the ultimate teacher of human freedom. And it’s true in economics just as in religion. Unificationists should never be fooled by specious arguments against free markets like Picketty’s.
Personally, I strongly believe that free markets are the most efficient way to allocate resources. I am a firm proponent of private ownership, abhor the continued growth of the public sector and am no fan of socialism. However, my article is not about the relative merits of capitalism versus socialism or private enterprise versus the state sector.
The basic point I sought to make is that people look for systemic solutions to economic problems (i.e., changing the system), but the real root of the problem is a spiritual one. Until people can grow in spiritual maturity, we are unlikely to solve these problems. A subtext, in the context of rising global inequality, is that great wealth brings with it great responsibility.
As a footnote, I respectfully suggest that “The Freedom Society” might do well to be renamed “The Freedom and Responsibility Society.”
Thank you for your thoughtful article. You mentioned “principled thinking” in the very beginning but the very next paragraph began with “the starting point of economics is scarcity.” Just as communism failed because its core ideology was incorrect, so perhaps economic theories have failed because the premise of scarcity is inconsistent with a truly principled viewpoint. Nature teaches abundance at every level of creation. The ideology of scarcity, implies “there isn’t enough, so better get yours.” It engenders a taking mentality. If people understood that the true principle of creation is one of overwhelming abundance and that the key to unlocking that abundance is to invest one’s total heart, energy and intellect, then the world would be a totally different place. The majority of hunger in this world has not been caused by scarcity of resources but rather an ineffective use of or squandering of resources, misuse of land, and a great deal of war and conflict.
If one takes just one sunflower seed and plants it, the returns are more than a hundredfold. One fish can lay millions of eggs. One tree can produce millions of seeds for new trees. It is a lack of true knowledge, true heart and a true sense of purpose that has created a world with the illusion of scarcity. All creation is groaning in travail awaiting for the revealing of the sons and daughters of God. Once true men and women appear, creation will show itself clearly as the cornucopia of abundance it truly is.
A wise man recently said to me, “Do not let the armchair quarterbacks get you down. A seed planted is worth two opinions walking by.”
Clearly we have the means, but not the will to solve world hunger. And, yes, if man’s heart can change, problems of hunger, disease, war and suffering may be eliminated. This is a “principled viewpoint” to which, I believe, most of us can subscribe.
But we should be careful not to use this viewpoint to gloss over a fundamental fact of life: even in an ideal world, while living on earth, man will still have to make choices about the use of finite resources. It is this “finiteness” of material resources that underlies the notion of scarcity. Without scarcity, all products and services would be freely available to all people at all times. Yet, to make water freely available in the Sahara Desert or to provide power-points in the jungle so that passersby can recharge their iPhones inevitably requires the use of resources that can be usefully employed elsewhere. This is certainly true today and likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. Hence, the notion of opportunity cost and the continuous need to make choices.
To see scarcity as “a premise that is inconsistent with a principled viewpoint” is perhaps itself a premise that needs rethinking.
It is this “finiteness” of material resources underlying the notion of scarcity that I’m challenging. Energy is neither created nor destroyed, it simply changes form. Also, the material manifestation of that energy is very abundant, almost limitless, and it continues to change form.
Just as an example: “In 2012, Americans generated about 251 million tons of trash and recycled and composted almost 87 million tons of this material, equivalent to a 34.5 percent recycling rate,” according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Another example is steel. “In 2008, the steel industry recovered and recycled more than 14 million tons of shredded steel scrap from automobiles -— a recycling rate of 95 percent, according to the Steel Recycling Institute (SRI).”
These exemplify my point that matter, like energy, changes form according to the intelligence invested into it. As humans continue to learn to care for nature and use sustainable energy and products, this sense of “finiteness” will disappear along with other outdated, erroneous economic theories.
I respectfully watched Zeitgeist: The Movie because many younger UC members were into it. I followed the logic and only at one single point did I fail to sign off on it. If you watch that movie with patience you will find it too. As the narrator searches for a better world, it all comes down to the emotional state, whether or not each of us feels “significant.” But then, like many 90% truths, Zeitgeist goes off the rails as it begins to imagine the idea that government is responsible for each person’s sense of significance. This is the problem: Sinners attempting to build towers that can rival the heights of God’s throne, towers called “Ideal Government.” Ideal government becomes a false god that allows us to remain in sin, but removes the consequences of that sin on our behalf.
You mentioned “Spiritual Capital,” and Father says, “The value of the blessed family is greater than the value of anything you can imagine in the universe. Nothing can compare with it, from the beginning of the creation to the very end of history. Nothing can replace it.”
Donne offered “No man is an island,” but the Principle has it that “every man/woman is a son/daughter of their family, until marriage when they cleave to their spouse,” which is a seamless journey from significance to significance.
In your update of Friedman you added the words, “providing that its citizens can learn to behave responsibly.” God had only one grave concern about Adam and Eve’s free roaming, thus “Do not eat…”. We all know why God issued that warning. Adam and Eve needed to be “responsible” for the most powerful growth process in the garden, the growth of the human population (creatures who will yearn for significance like God who felt lonely prior to creation). Adam and Eve had children in ignorance and that is why the drive for significance is wrapped in confusion. When your parents bear you without intention, you must latch onto other things for a feeling of significance. Now sinners imagine that government should be responsible for the growth of the human population through Planned Parenthood and via UN Agenda 21.
In truth, God and His co-creator (human beings that are in the direct dominion) are responsible through the emotional agency of True Family. In a vibrant true family cultural sphere, the only “less than equal” people would be orphans and widows. If the emotional feeling of significance is such a powerful motivator for humans, then each person can find that emotional jewel attached to the family that thoughtfully, intentionally, passionately, and purposefully conceived them. So the New Testament asks us to fill in the gap with outreach beyond our family, to the orphans and widows. However, when we destroy families as a matter of sport (i.e., skirt-chasing) then we are creating greater emotional inequality where it truly matters. And it’s obvious that this inequality can reach a tipping point, that beyond which our culture begins to mutilate itself with rampant sex addiction and fatherless youth that result, a fall of civilization. This is why it’s kind of perplexing to me that God’s True Children don’t take up arms against sexual immorality more often, why initiatives like the PLA and Free Teens aren’t supported more by UC members.
True Father’s solution is still the deepest chess. That’s why he’s my Messiah, Christ the anointed one.
Balance. A very wealthy man once told me, “one man’s trash is another mans treasure.” He pumped septic systems and invested his money into real estate in Greenwich, CT. Over time, he succeeded in assembling a large fortune in a substantial property portfolio. Reflecting on his past, he said, “People are too busy working for a living to make money.” This statement has guided my inspirations toward a lifestyle of understanding. Surviving in the world and living in it are distinctly different paradigms if you consider they come at the challenge of life from two different perspectives. We live in a physical reality, controlled by universal physical laws. We are a spiritual being also governed by universal spiritual laws. Inequality is a physical measure used as leverage in a fallen world paradigm.
The most important consideration to have in this regard is to realize there is no sustainable solution outside a complete reconciliation of our relationships centered on God. Evil owns the ground and controls the actions of man through applied principles of eccentricity (yes, even economic “scarcity”). As long as man is free to choose eccentric living, extremes will be manifested on both ends of its spectrum.
For freedom to have and hold meaningful value, it requires an arena defined and bound by these universal laws to function. Free choice is ours, a gift given as an eternal blessing and inherent in each moment of our existence. This eternal power contains the absolute true value of the choices we make within the parameters of this existence that, in an instant, reflect the measure of our limited contribution to the whole as an individual. It is relative, yet one of the most meaningful contributions we make to our fellow man and to our heavenly parent, God. It represents the ultimate joy of God, unrealized from mankind as a whole, yet incrementally experienced through individual “free” beings, participating from an absolutely powerful position of free choice.
Live your love, follow your heart. We should not get immersed in the “economic” inequality of life. That said, I am not suggesting herein that anyone ignore evil at work. It is our duty to progress mankind’s plight towards absolute goodness. I believe this is done by collaboratively moving forward, not getting mired in the mud of irreconcilable complexity. To do this, we must seek selfless understanding away from egocentric views and values, past socio-centric “group think” views and values and into a true appreciation and fearless awareness of inclusive interdependence. Not a “hive” mentality, yet a recognition and allowance of freely-given collective participation. It is through the broad expression of our combined collective strengths made manifest that result in our greatest achievements. A paradigm shift of our collective hearts and minds towards dynamic application of sequential progress based on constant, even incremental improvements by incorporating proven success from best practices into the methodology of problem solving. Time is on our side. While we have a limited time in this physical reality, we also have eternity to get it right. The important point is constant and never ending improvement forward movement. Progress.
I am suggesting due consideration be given to the greater strategy of incremental progress to avoid wasting time involved in the complexity of evil’s eccentric manifestations of evil design to consume and dilute individual contributions. Our focus should shift instead to construction, growth. The creation is ours to steward. Our best potentials as individuals are realized by living this life and experiencing it in all its glory. Dynamic, active living, through action. Living for others and giving them the best of your efforts. God will guide and coordinate your heart to move in the direction He desires of us in order to attain real balance and ultimate equality based on His perspective, His priorities, His judgement, not ours. The truth of all life in this physical realm comes out in our eternal journey together. When we seek balance, we can listen. When we seek truth from the world, our spiritual capacity is awakened to receive the greatest impressions from our predecessors.
Graham, you wrote, “In the final analysis, there is no such thing as ‘Principled Economics’.” I am not clear whether you are saying that there is not currently principled economics in existence, or whether “Principled Economics” is a mythical quest that cannot be achieved.
I would argue that a “principled economics” would be economic activities that exist within the bounds of principle. In other words, activities that do not lead to harm to other individuals or the environment.
It is also important to recognize that, within the sphere of economics, many principles exist. For example, the principle of supply and demand, the principle of equality, incentives for production, the role of capital, etc.
Picketty is such a hit because he analyzed the principle investment, and why people who invest in the current economic system obtain so much wealth compared to average laborers. The problem is that like Marx, he analyzed one principle of many. He becomes reductionistic with this principle, and advocates fighting concentration of wealth (which is outside the bounds of principle) with a stronger concentration of wealth (which is even farther outside the bounds of principle), rather than a rebalancing of principles by fixing a broken system so that wealth doesn’t get improperly concentrated in the first place. In this sense, he is like followers of both Adam Smith and Marx who focused largely on particular economic principles that led to reductionistic ideologies rather than a systems approach that works to view the entirety “from God’s point of view.”
By talking about “talents,” “interconnectedness” and “common heritage” you are referring to three features of our existence that should be accounted for in an economic system. Pushing one of these items to the exclusion of the others is the way most people work in a world of single-interest-focused political lobbies. This system has to change to one in which these separate interests can be balanced, rather than one interest group trying to push one principle at the expense of others.
Gordon, when I say, “There is no such thing as ‘Principled Economics,’ there are only the choices that principled people make when acting in accordance with their original mind,” I mean just that.
There is economics, a social science that attempts to back up theories about the way things work with empirical data. There is the Divine Principle, a teaching that tells us that a Supreme Being of unified male/female and internal/external aspects created humankind in order to have an object of love. The intersection of economics and the Principle is man’s heart. If we grow our hearts, we will make different economic choices. Clearly, principled people won’t trash the environment, exploit their fellow-man, waste valuable resources, make war, lie, cheat, or steal.
However, there is also a long tradition of political economists. These include many great thinkers whose ideas have significantly changed the way the world works. We might reasonably conclude that what some call “Principled Economics” is actually the advocacy of a form of political economy, with an assumed or imagined Divine Principle pedigree. Good branding, after all, is the key to effective marketing!
The bottom line though is that we are imperfect people living in a fallen world. While it may be intellectually stimulating to speculate how spiritually mature people may organise their economic relationships in an ideal world, the reality is that we are probably entering into the realm of fantasy and science fiction.
If one is seeking an immediate avenue for political advocacy, then one could do worse than explore that proposed in my article: first get academic economists to demonstrate that societies composed of spiritually mature people are more economically rewarding and desirable places to live and then beat everyone over the head with this evidence to encourage investment in raising their society’s spiritual level.
Graham, I was trained as a mechanical engineer. We had to learn principles of design and construction to ensure we have a working product. This included knowledge of strength of materials, endurance, heat resistance, etc. These principles must be learned, and good product design requires knowledge of mechanical principles. For example, when designing an airplane wing, it is necessary to ensure that the strength of the wing is twice what is required to support a fully-loaded plane. If you create a plane with less strength than that, it would be a design that is outside the bounds of principle. It doesn’t matter how spiritually mature the designer is if the end product doesn’t fall within the bounds of known mechanical principles. One needs knowledge of physical principles that aren’t automatically known because one is spiritually mature. When I read what you are writing it sounds like you are believing in some kind of magic that, just because people are “perfect” they will automatically understand all of the principles by which the world operates.
Gordon, when I talk about a “principled person”, most readers will understand that I am talking about a person who acts in accordance with the dictates of his/her conscience and who feels some empathy for the suffering of his/her fellow man. Does someone need to have an in-depth understanding of the principles of engineering or economic laws in order to be a “principled person”? The answer is clearly no. Would the world be a better place if populated with more “principled persons”? The answer is clearly yes (Colin’s reservations below notwithstanding.) That was pretty much the whole thrust of my argument and no belief in magic is needed.
However, where we really part company is over my assertion that “Principled Economics” does not exist, other than as a form of branding adopted by political economists wanting to claim the moral high ground. To defend your own belief in Principled Economics, you draw a comparison between economic principles and the principles of structural engineering. Yet there is a world of difference between these two. Economics is a behavioural science. Its underlying principles are derived from observations about individual human behaviour; such behavior can change as a person grows in maturity. Engineering principles are based on immutable laws of physical science.
Graham, I agree with you that the idea of a “principled person” relates to the development of consciousness, and spiritual maturity is attaining a level of consciousness that is one of a “true parent” or one whose heart is aligned with God’s. Attaining this level of consciousness is different from understanding the principles by which any system — the planetary system, an ecosystem, or an economic system — operates.
“Principled Economics” is certainly of a different order than principles of mechanics because it is a social system over which human beings have more responsibility as co-creators. But just because the political economies of today are dominated by ideological rants is no reason to sweep the concept of economic principles under the rug. Economic principles apply in every society, even hunter-gatherer societies. However, the economic principles involved depend upon the type of system that is created.
If you desire a world as described by the Divine Principle, then there are boundaries placed on economic principles that naturally follow from that vision of everyone being able to obtain the “three blessings.” The idea that everyone is an individual truth body for example, would rule out the principle of slavery in an economic system. And the exploitation of one person by another for economic gain in any form, including the use of a government by a tribe to exploit other tribes, would be an unprincipled economic system. The same holds true of political parties exploiting a system for their financial contributors.
There are many possible paths “within the bounds of principle” that our human co-creativity can be put to proper use, and “principled economics” would involve productive economic activities that neither harm nor exploit others or destroy the environment. A principled economic system would more naturally flow from “principled people,” however those people would still have to learn the economic principles applicable for a given social system.
In a market system, where people bargain, no deal is struck unless both are happy with the result, However, in a system where the king or an elite few decide what others will have, happiness of all seldom follows because people are not responsible for their own achievement of the three blessings. A lot can be said about what is “principled economics” and what is not if you have a vision of what is a principled society and what is not. Chapter 1 of the Divine Principle has massive implications for “principled economics.”
Thank you for your lucid explanation, Gordon. I think it is fair to say we are actually arriving at the same point but coming from two different directions. You start with a vision of a principled society and say “such a society will embody these economic principles”. I start with a vision of a principled person and say “if a society were composed of such people, they may choose to organise their economic relations in such a way”.
Perhaps our different approaches could be called principled macro- and principled micro-economics!
The discussion here reminds me somewhat of the realist v. idealist debate. In the end, neither can ever be the whole truth. Yes, if we grow our hearts, we will make different economic choices. But will they necessarily be better? If the economic relations of spiritually mature people are so inscrutable, how can we judge them to be “better,” other than axiomatically?
The arguments in favour of free markets don’t emanate from spiritual enlightenment but from empirical observation (and they seem to have a tendency to be forgotten if they are not continually spelled out). The hypothesis that the development of spiritual capital (undefined, so unmeasurable) will increase human welfare (also undefined, in particular in its relationship with equality and prosperity) seems intrinsically untestable, so neither provable nor disprovable. I’m not sure how this increases understanding of economics without a bit more flesh on the bones of the theory.
Your point is well made, Colin. But that’s why there is surely a Nobel Prize awaiting the first economist to (a) develop a plausible measure of spiritual capital through the use of appropriate proxy variables, (b) identify policies that can increase this capital, and (c) demonstrate that increases in spiritual capital correlate disproportionately with increases in the overall prosperity of a society.
It may all be a pipedream, but if I was a young PhD economics student looking for fresh pastures, I’d consider it worth a toke.
We might be stuck in an immature state of worshipping or being overly concerned about material things and material life. This maybe the result of Adam and Eve’s fall while immature, thus falling under the immature delusions of material and the angel. Still stuck in this immature delusion, we fight over material possessions, function with worry, fear and greed. We also participate in various forms of split-heartedness, our love being split into polygamous attractions between more than one spouse, or between spouse and work and other improper and dysfunctional orders, which I label all as polygamy. Abraham participated in polygamy and the Middle East is still struggling in the war between his descendants. Similar struggles have occurred in many leading families.
We need to get back to one God and one spouse. That is the other original Eco, or house/family. After that the -nomics or numbers will fall in place.
In music, the greatest artists are those whose technical abilities, personal maturity and emotional expressiveness are fused in such a way that the end result is art of great meaning and beauty. I don’t care how “principled” a singer may be if he/she can’t sing in tune. Or as Mark Twain so perspicaciously put it, “Hell is a place where everyone is an amateur musician.”
DP asserts that freedom is a sine qua non (a requirement) for individuals to attain their divinity. As Hayek, Smith, Friedman, Buckley, Sowell, Scruton, Goldberg, and a host of other political/economic commentators have pointed out (including Dr. Mose Durst), a “principled economic” paradigm must allow for creativity to be seriously in the equation. We should learn a lesson about freedom and creativity by examining state-controlled art projects. It ain’t pretty.