Why on Earth bring Spirituality into Economics?

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

Spirituality and economics have traditionally been viewed as things on opposite ends of the human intellectual spectrum. One built on graphs, models and complex mathematics, while the other is painted with the brush of mystique, imprecision and often unproven assertion. And yet Prout brings these two things together to shape a new vision of economic policy that can create a more sustainable and humane world. Why? Here are 3 reasons.

  1. Outlook
    • So often, economics lacks a global or even universal outlook. Economics are played out on the stage of national monetary policy, that excludes other countries, or the state of the entire globe. "Make my country great - and lets not give a damn which other countries we harm in the process" is the common cry of the nationalist economists, what to speak of concern for lifeforms that are not human - animals, birds, plants etc. Economics has been allowed to become a reductionist way of thinking, in the mistaken belief that reductionist precision will give us the answers we need. The world is far more complex and unpredictable than that, and it is the minds with expanded, universal outlooks that will shape the economic solutions of the global future, not those minds blinkered by narrow sentiment. Universal outlook is a natural product of those involved in spiritual pursuit - those trying to understand the very large and very subtle nature of the universe.
    • Dogmas cloud our intellectual ability to develop beneficial economics. What do I mean by dogma here? Simply put, a dogma is an idea or belief that will not allow your mind to advance beyond its narrow confines. For example - the idea that the market will take care of itself. Under the influence of this idea - economists have allowed or justified the harming and exploitation of so many third world countries - and reneged on the responsibility for this -because it is the Market's fault if some bad economic crisis results. Another dogma that our governments cling to right now is that printing more money will solve our economic woes. By clinging to this they fail to see that what they are doing is creating an invisible sort of inflation that really harms everyone (except the super-rich). The spirituality I refer to in this article, is one of mind expansion, one which forces the mind to shatter any limiting beliefs or ideas that confine it, one which is in line with the human condition of never being satisfied with anything limited in nature. The blending of this type of spirituality with economic policy making will bring about a much clearer economic planning.
  2. Happiness
    • Economics is intended to bring humans to a state where they can pursue happiness. Beyond guaranteeing the provision of the basic necessities for living (food, shelter, clothing, education, medical care), good economics needs to provide humans with that additional purchasing capacity that will allow them to pursue happiness in life. Of course humans need to be free to pursue happiness in the way that they see fit, providing it does not harm others. The natural limitations of this needs to be economically recognised - humans seek an unending state of happiness but cannot achieve this through any limited physical means. Hence, local economic policy should limit the variation in additional purchasing capacity between people and to what extent this additional purchasing capacity can be used to accumulate physical wealth or possessions (since this leads to disparity of wealth and a raft of further economic issues). If we define spirituality as the pursuit of a permanent state of happiness, then this brings a new dynamic to what could realistically be encouraged and invested in as far as the pursuit of happiness without harming others goes. Yes, we would always need to keep the economy moving by encouraging spending on some luxury goods, but imagine if financial incentives were prioritised for physical, mental and spiritual health pursuits....
  3. Security
    • A goal of good economics is to provide a secure financial base for a society.  In reality, the best economic models and policies in the world cannot prepare us for the variability that occurs on this planet, and throughout the universe. Providing absolute security is beyond any economic model. No one can predict just when birth, death, plague, pestilence or natural disaster might strike, and with what force. Absolute security can only come from something absolute. I think this is where a spiritual outlook can bring a healthy dose of realism to economics. Economics can and should strive to provide a sense of relative security, with the acknowledgement that real security is something that can only be understood in a spiritual sense - it is only with spiritual insight that one can explain why bad things happen to good people, and that there is continuity before birth and after death. However, "Trust in God, but tie your camel", as the old adage goes - its still important for economics to constantly strive to provide relative security and financial equity amongst Earth's many inhabitants.

It's my guess that the successful economic leaders of tomorrow will have a spiritual as well as fiscal mindset. The blending of these two modes of thinking will provide the type of optimistic realism that can inject new ways of thinking about economics into a science that is lagging under its own sense of impending doom.