Thursday, January 24, 2013

Best Buddhist Writing 2012

This brief excerpt from an essay in a recent book by that title edited by Melvin McLeod and published by Shambhala condenses for me the underlying problem with our economic system. It is elaborated on in Eisenstein's "Sacred Economy" that I have cited in earlier blogs, with his remedies, but this brief excerpt cuts to chase very well:

"The problem with greed becomes much worse when institutionalized in the form of a legal construct that takes on privileges of its own quite independently of the personal values and motivations of the people employed by it. On the one side, investors want increasing returns in the forms of dividends and higher stock prices. On the other side, this anonymous expectation translates into an impersonal but constant pressure for profitability and growth, preferably in the short run. Everything else, including the environment, employment, and the quality of life becomes an "externality," subordinated to this anonymous demand, a goal-that-can-never-be-satisfied. We all participate in this process, as workers, employers, consumers, and investors, yet normally with little or no personal sense of moral responsibility for what happens, because such awareness is lost in the impersonality of the system.

One might argue, in reply, that some corporations (usually family-owned or small) take good care of their employees, are concerned about effects on the environment, and so forth. The same argument could be made for slavery: there were a few good slave owners who took care of their slaves, etc. This does not refute the fact that the institution of slavery is intolerable. It is just as intolerable today that our collective well-being, including the way the earth's limited "resources" are shared is determined by what is profitable for large corporations.     
 David Loy "Occupy Wall Street"pp.156-57

There are other good essays with what I find profound thoughts laced within this book, perhaps I'll get around to posting a few more of those in the days ahead. We are in this economic system and the political system, and the educational system like fish in water. We can't seem to fathom anything different, even though each of these systems are human constructs and could be reconstructed in different ways. I had thought that maybe a college education would prepare us for better examining those systems with an eye toward developing better systems for a world that is constantly changing, but then I hear more and more it's about getting a job to make a lot of money. But that's just a view from here and certainly not the only one worth considering.