Economics and Religion

May 30, 2014
अर्थम् अनर्थम् भािय तनत्यम्....

Thou shall always keep in mind that money power may lead to havocs.”

- Aadi Shankaracharya

If one looks to the fundamental Principles of Economics right from Adam Smith, a reference is rarely made to the Human values or religion in Economics theories. Let us look to the evolution of Human civilization in three critical phases. The Agriculture wave, prevailed for thousands of years with the civilization centered around nature, slow pace of life, manual production by masses, village based society, joint family system etc., where the life as well as the economy was driven by social values and spiritual values.

The industrialization wave beginning with 17th century brought with it the era of mass production, profit maximization, marketing with the simultaneous evolution of modern economics forming a foundation for the industrial society characterized by mechanization, urbanization, nuclear families, speedy life etc. As the renowned futurist Alvin Toffler has remarked, the industrialization wave has brought with it a concept of looking to human being merely as a clog in a wheel of the industry and has done everything to treat the humans as one of the factors of production. i.e. Land, Labor and Capital. The man is being treated as subservient to machines. The life and economy is guided by material values and individual gain justified quoting the Darwinian biological theory of survival of the fittest.

While the industrial era has enriched the mankind in various material aspects the results are quite contradictory from the viewpoint of holistic welfare of the human civilization, to name a few:

+ Mass Production v/s Rising Unemployment
+ Large volume of Capital formation v/s Rising Poverty and Degrading Environment
+ Profit Maximization v/s Increasing incidences of Manipulations in Corporate Governance.

The Knowledge Wave:
With ushering of the third wave i.e. knowledge wave backed by Information and Communication Technology and Electronics, since last 30 years with an accelerating speed and coverage since 1990s, a paradigm shift is hovering around and various fundamentals of industrial civilization are being questioned. A quest for revisiting those fundamentals is becoming more intense and widespread with a revolutionary forum of internet and social media available almost free of cost to masses.

Religion /Human values in Economics:
With the development of the knowledge wave, the new generation in particular is challenging the role of human being in economy merely as a Production factor and searching for a role which is more fulfilling, satisfying and meaningful. The quest for revisiting the values of industrial civilization is likely to become further intense with the deep-rooted and recurrent Recession not responding well to the measures backed by the theories of modern economics.

The Questions being raised:
• Why the Ethical values (aimed at overall long term welfare of society as a whole) described in all the Religions have found no place in the foundation of Economics Theories. There might be serious defects/bugs in the software of economy!

• Why the human being should accept to be treated merely as a factor of production with no regards for his personality development to lead a fulfilling life enriched with a sense of satisfaction.

• Why the human life be founded on the Darwinian Theory of “Survival of the Fittest” with indifferent and callous attitude towards poor and illiterate masses founding the Bottom of the Economic Pyramid.

• Whether the efforts of diagnosing and treating with a specialized economics and monetary approach instead of a multi-disciplinary holistic approach will lead to an effective long term solution to the Recession in the economy and rising Depression? across the society.

The Probable Answer : The problem is highly complex and therefore the answer lies in collective and holistic thinking. There is a dire need for the Economists, Sociologists, Scientists, Religions Leaders, Thinkers, Politicians and Management Gurus coming together and explore various alternatives to tackle the situation of receding concerns for ethical values, humane approach, environmental hazards, the recession and stagflation and save the human civilization from the vagaries of the pure economic approach which is likely to even justify destruction through war and implied colonization of weaker countries, through politico-economic considerations.

References:
‘Third Wave’, ‘War and Anti War’, ‘Revolutionary Wealth’ by Alvin Toffler. 
 Future at the Bottom of Pyramid, by Prof .C. K. Prahlad.
‘Hind Swaraj’ by Mahatma Gandhi.
‘Aapta-Vani’ – Dada Bhagwan

- Lalbhai Patel