Weekly Reflections; Emerging demand for spiritual economics


Dr. Abdul Saboor


Conventional wisdom of economics along with most of its theoretical narratives and policy imperatives is being challenged all over the world in general and in developing countries in particular.  The inherent defects in the very principles and theories of traditional economics have appeared on the surface. Its secular approaches based on elitist capitalism and oligopolistic trends of markets are likely taking their last breaths. Secular thoughts have almost completed their turn leaving behind the foot prints of chronic poverty and inequality. The artificiality of international financial institutions has been exposed to the world the echoes of which can be heard from the philosophical songs of some Noble Laureates in Economics.

On the one hand, there are Bubble Economies vulnerable to internal and external shocks while on the other hand, income and wealth inequality is seriously deteriorating the prospects of sustainable economic growth. Greed of the rich seems to be capturing even the basic needs of the poor. Many of the middle class labour are working hard to raise the profit for the high income groups. The subject matter of Economics has thus taken the shape of a new religion which is neither supportive to Divine religions nor backed by the narratives of any existing religions of the world. This new religion is actually the product of long race of materialism and jingoism. So, any anti-thesis to the existing thesis of economics which is triggered by only materialism may bring nothing new but the same results.

A unique kind of ‘constructive destruction’ needs to be operated in the form of ‘Spiritual Economics’ as an alternative arrangement for the welfare of humanity. All economic agents are carrying a soft fabric of soul or spirit in their bodies which is either consciously or unconsciously ignored in the application of fundamental economic principles. Emotional considerations activated by the spirit are equally important in the domain of rational considerations. Spiritual economics is thus closely associated to the psychic behavior of economic agents whose normative choices and preferences are made for the soothing of soul. Spiritual experience of economics in this material world is neither altogether material nor purely non-material. And it is equally a befitting case for the true followers of all religions.

Divine Wisdom always ushers a complete code of life for the welfare of humanity. The domain of Economics cannot be an exception. The minimum threshold of our livelihood is guaranteed as the Creator has already promised for it. The tangible and intangible stuff of welfare of mankind act as complementing units with each other. A good chunk of environmental economists are conscious of arithmetic increase in Carbon and Water Foot Prints much of which are implicitly outcome of the race of filling Greed Basket rather than Need Basket. Deaths due to over-eating are significantly higher in proportion than due to lack of food. When the seminal work of a good chunk of secular economists particularly those who are working in Welfare Economics are reviewed, it comes up that their narratives have lost secular flavor to a great extent. They have started moving towards spiritual discourse of economics though partially.

In Secular Economics, only intellectual dialogue of humans is taken into consideration while both intellectual and intuitive discussions of humans make their place in the domain of Spiritual Economics. Secular dimension of economics is merely based on material things in the very temporal sense while spiritual economics focuses both on material as well as non-material elements irrespective of spatial and temporal facets. Worshipers of secular economics become slaves of their desires. At some occasions, they act as ‘slaves of slave’. It is a gambling in which poor is always the loser while the rich acts a winner. But followers of Spiritual Economics may become well wishers of others. Their utility maximization becomes a sum of their own satisfaction and the satisfaction of everyone around them. Moreover it is the sum of satisfaction not associated to this material world and but the world hereafter as well.

Maximization of utility in the consumption of goods and services is to be realized in total. Some of us may be contended with little wealth but many others may not be happy with a huge chunk of money. There might be another class who is always happy to give others rather than taking from others. The spiritual element of utility maximization is always honored in the psychic behavior of economic agents. Human mind is naturally keen in enhancing the stock of long term benefits. Such long term dividend can only be enjoyed if the spiritual stuff is activated to the tune of others’ benefits. By activating this spiritual software in economic activities, we can capitalize our true human potential. Once capability of gaining this potential is attained, the functionality does not remain an issue for the welfare of the humanity.

All human needs are wants but all of human wants are not necessarily their needs. There is a challenging question to see how much proportion of our Basket of Goods constitute needs and how much of that makes the genuine wants. There are two components of wants. One is a necessary want which is actually required for physical, chemical, social and spiritual survival of consumers while other is not a necessary want which leads us away from ‘Point of Satiety’. Ultimately, the end up is realized in the shape of a secular behavior of consumers as we generally observe around us which promote nothing good but greed. Secular Economics thus compels us for greed rather than need; and that too at the cost of real needs.

The players of spiritual economics enjoy a variety of benefits. They always feel as if the purchasing power (Burkut) of their nominal income has been increased. They see their businesses flourished and profit multiplied. They find their foresight of trade and commerce enhanced.  There hardly face any kind of risk and uncertainty which could not be countered in an organized way. In the very advanced stages, they get unmatchable comprehension in knowledge that further soothes their economic life. They start striving for higher causes of life which ultimately strengthens and sustain the edifice of the economy.

Being the capacity consumers and producers, human beings may come across many tests and trials in their economic lives the solution of which lies in spiritual treatment rather than secular treatment. Spiritual battery needs to be recharged again and again through the appetite of honesty and integrity. By developing socio-behavioral skills and adaptation to changing and challenging situations, we arrive at spiritually charged rationality rather than secularly charged sub-optimality. The fundamental principles of Spiritual Economics ensure adaptation of economic men in all kinds of situations.

There are inherent demands of our souls like that of the needs of physical body. So the emergence of Spiritual Economics is the natural requirement of the physical and meta-physical assembly of human bodies. If we are really interested in making Economics more human, Spiritual Economics may be the right choice as it is completely compatible for all sects and religions of the world and even to a great extent for secular and atheistic mind that are also keeping human souls. And human soul is anxiously demanding for the functioning of Spiritual Economics in the road to sustainable development.

Having faith on oneself implicitly reflects the human mind keeping the image of some supra natural power though a specific name is not given for lack of foresight and vision. In this respect, economics itself is not a religion but as a religious person, we have a complete package of economic principles which are to be activated through spiritual means. Spirituality in its various forms needs to be familiarized, institutionalized and systemized in all state organs exactly in the same way as Confucius ideas have been incorporated in the Chinese governance, social and political systems.