An Economics of Peace

It has been fifty years since Fritz Schumacher first published his now classic essay “Buddhist Economics,” calling for an economic system informed by simplicity and non-violence.

. . . the Buddhist economist would insist that a population basing its economic life on non-renewable fuels is living parasitically, on capital instead of income. Such a way of life could have no permanence and could therefore be justified only as a purely temporary expedient. As the world’s resource of non-renewable fuels—coal, oil, and natural gas—are exceedingly unevenly distributed over the globe and undoubtedly limited in quantity, it is clear that their exploitation at an ever-increasing rate is an act of violence against nature which must almost inevitably lead to violence between men.

Schumacher was thus persuaded that the most rational form of production is from local resources for local needs. Work is not something to avoid but “blesses those who do it” when conducted in conditions of human dignity and freedom, so favoring a system of full employment.

“Buddhist Economics” is a simple reminder that our economic systems should reflect our highest aspirations as a culture—whether we find the source of those aspirations in religion, philosophy, our communion with nature, or our sympathy with others.

In the midst of the crushing effects of the global economy on local communities and the people and ecology of those communities, Schumacher’s essay challenges us to imagine another kind of economic future—an economics of peace. That imagining is the first step to implementation.

Gathered at the Schumacher Center’s website are 16 different translations of “Buddhist Economics” in pdf and word format as appropriate to the language—Danish, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Russian, Serbian, Spanish, and Swedish.

At this time of new beginnings we encourage you to share these translations with friends around the world as a greeting of peace and possibility.


Quotes from “Buddhist Economics” by Ernest Friedrich Schumacher

“It is clear, therefore, that Buddhist economics must be very different from the economics of modern materialism, since the Buddhist sees the essence of civilisation not in a multiplication of wants but in the purification of human character.”

“While the materialist is mainly interested in goods, the Buddhist is mainly interested in liberation. But Buddhism is “The Middle Way” and therefore in no way antagonistic to physical well-being. It is not wealth that stands in the way of liberation but the attachment to wealth; not the enjoyment of pleasurable things but the craving for them. The keynote of Buddhist economics, therefore, is simplicity and non-violence. From an economist’s point of view, the marvel of the Buddhist way of life is the utter rationality of its pattern–amazingly small means leading to extraordinarily satisfactory results.”

“The ownership and the consumption of goods is a means to an end, and Buddhist economics is the systematic study of how to attain given ends with the minimum means.”

“As physical resources are everywhere limited, people satisfying their needs by means of a modest use of resources are obviously less likely to be at each other’s throats than people depending upon a high rate of use. Equally, people who live in highly self-sufficient local communities are less likely to get involved in large-scale violence than people whose existence depends on world-wide systems of trade.”

“From the point of view of Buddhist economics, therefore, production from local resources for local needs is the most rational way of economic life, while dependence on imports from afar and the consequent need to produce for export to unknown and distant peoples is highly uneconomic and justifiable only in exceptional cases and on a small scale.”

“From a Buddhist point of view . . . non-renewable goods must be used only if they are indispensable, and then only with the greatest care and the most meticulous concern for conservation. To use them heedlessly or extravagantly is an act of violence, and while complete non-violence may not be attainable on this earth, there is nonetheless an ineluctable duty on man to aim at the ideal of non-violence in all he does.”