Enlightened Economics

Economics for an Enlightened Age

Posts Tagged ‘Spirituality’

• ‘Voluntary Simplicity’ Brings Higher Consciousness into Economics

Posted by Ron Robins on February 3, 2009

A sweeping new consumer frugality is enveloping the developed world bringing higher consciousness into economic affairs. Some call it ‘voluntary simplicity.’ And it ties in well with my thesis that as a more balanced, higher consciousness arises in consumers, their consumptive and savings habits will change significantly and more sustainably. Thus, I believe the age of Enlightened Economics is ahead us.

Voluntary Simplicity defined

The term voluntary simplicity (VS) according to the Simple Living Network is first thought to have been used by “Richard Gregg who, in 1936, was describing a way of life marked by a new balance between inner and outer growth.” Some might argue that numerous people are being forced into VS-as the unemployed might be, for instance. There is some truth to that. Nonetheless, I believe that most of us are sensing a new reality dawning in the consumptive habits of almost everyone around us.

For example, more and more people in developed countries are realizing that their lives have become so dominated by material possessions that the caring, maintenance and use of some of these possessions take too much of their time, energy and money! (i.e. ‘McMansions,’ large homes for just two or three people are going out of style.) They are also realizing that many of these products are damaging to the environment. Thus, a degree of frugality is coming to be seen by countless numbers of people as the way forward. It is important to understand though, that this VS style of living is not to be compared with an agrarian ‘back to nature’ lifestyle, nor related to material impoverishment.

The Simple Living Network states that the values underlying VS are: material simplicity, human scale, self-determination, ecological awareness, and personal growth. These personal values are often attributed to individuals of higher consciousness, and mesh well with the understanding of Enlightened Economics, which believes that with rich inner development of our minds will come the ability to fulfill our individual and collective economic aspirations.

The exact numbers of individuals abiding by the VS lifestyle, either knowingly, or unknowingly, are not known. But it is apparent that its ranks are growing fast. Evidence of this is seen in the cutting back of material consumption, increased spending on education, and a deepening interest in the environment, personal growth and spirituality.

Modern economies lose their way as happiness fades

Economics should be about assisting us in fulfilling our dreams while allowing us to enjoy great happiness and fulfillment in life. However, as practised today economics is sorely lacking in achieving such goals. In fact, when looking at measures of happiness, authoritative research by Dr. Robert Lane of Yale University, shows happiness actually declines as GDP grows! Other studies such as the one by Prof. Arthur A. Stone, of Stoney Brook University School of Medicine, demonstrate that happiness is unrelated to income.

People in developed countries everywhere are beginning to understand the deep flaws of a modern life based principally on the acquisition of material possessions. Hence, our lifestyles are increasingly favouring the nourishment of our subjective values and inner development, over outer material goods.

The coming era of voluntary simplicity

VS lifestyles encourage more entrepreneurship, independence, self-employment, the purchase and manufacture of sustainable products and services, lower debt levels, reduced consumption, and higher savings rates plus a tendency to save and pay cash for purchases. (For related reading, see my editorial on the Investing for the Soul website, Everyone Becoming A Cultural Creative.)

With society favouring qualitative and subjective values related to lifestyle, there will be considerably less emphasis on the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) statistic. This statistic simply totals the market value of all final goods and services sold. New economic measures that include quality of life factors will become the norm. These other measures might include the Calvert-Henderson Quality of Life Indicators, the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI), the Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare (ISEW), and variants of them.

The economic transformation giving rise to voluntary simplicity

Almost nobody in the mainstream economic community predicted our present circumstances, illustrating the deplorable state of economics in our institutions today. They naively believed it was fine for debt to grow exponentially while incomes stagnated and savings crashed. And then they wondered why the consumer stopped spending and acting more frugally. It’s amazing how such brilliant minds could get it so very wrong. It was primarily only those (like myself) adhering to the ignored and maligned Austrian School of economics who largely got it right.

People in developed countries are increasingly favouring more non-material growth that is founded on higher inner values, knowledge, simplicity and sustainability. They will not abandon material joys, but the emergence of VS is telling us that long-held so-called economic ‘truths’ are shattering before us. An age of Enlightened Economics is being born.

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© Ron Robins, 2009.

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• Short-Term Thinking Created Economic Pain

Posted by Ron Robins on December 12, 2008

Short-term unbalanced thinking has gotten us economic pain. The dangers of short-term thinking in economic matters became particularly evident to me in the late 1990s. At that time I said to colleagues that if the U.S. does not change its course, it is heading towards major economic difficulties. I made that statement after studying the trends of many economic statistics, particularly those of debt accumulation and savings rates.

Illustrating the short-term thinking at its worst is the current dire situation of Detroit’s Big Three auto makers.

In 2001, I quoted Maryann Keller, a top auto industry analyst in my still unfinished book, Investing for the Soul. She said in a Forbes article that year, “[That] Chrysler, GM and Ford spent billions of dollars to buy their stock in the open market since the mid-1990s… It was always obvious that product spending [developing new autos] was being sacrificed to provide trading liquidity [ease of selling stock] for big investors while boosting earnings per share. GM, Ford and the Chrysler Group today [remember this was 2001] find themselves with growing gaps in their product portfolios as they lose market share…”

Short-termism pervades current thinking in economics, finance and business. Examples of this are everywhere. In economics, the U.S. Federal Reserve is always trying to fine-tune interest rates to effect relatively short-term changes. In finance, managers of ‘long-term’ mutual funds turnover their portfolios more than 100% a year (refer to page 18) as they are primarily evaluated on their latest quarterly results. In business, many CEOs who want to embed in their companies’ long term beneficial environmental, social and governance (ESG) actions—are handicapped by investors looking for short-term gains.

Even today, the financial bailouts are ad hoc arising from the immediate financial market chaos. However, over the next year it will become apparent that this short-term oriented government borrowing and spending binge will not solve the basic long-term problem of excessive debt. In fact, it only adds to it. Every family knows that you cannot forever borrow more than you earn and spend your way out of debt.

Soon, the U.S.A. will have to face-up to the reality that, either willingly or coerced, it will have to save more and spend less. It would be best if this could happen gradually over say, seven to ten years. That might well have been possible in the 1990s. But today though, it is unlikely as many consumers have hit the ‘debt wall.’ Unable (or unwilling) to borrow, they are reducing their spending significantly.

I believe next to hit the debt wall will be numerous businesses in the first half of 2009 followed by the possibility of the U.S. government itself, perhaps in the final six months of that year. Then a new reality will dawn in the minds of Americans and people everywhere. Their thinking will have to change.

Very few economists and financial market participants attempt to understand the connection between our thought processes and economic behaviour. Yet it is so obvious! The only permanent way out of this mess is for people everywhere to gain an inner sense of balance and well-being while developing their creativity and intelligence to earn more.

Such balanced, developed individuals will not sacrifice their longer-term material and spiritual goals for short-term gains like a drug addict needing an immediate ‘fix.’ This is the central, unacknowledged task, for individuals everywhere amidst this economic turmoil. When accepted, it will usher in an age of Enlightened Economics and bring unprecedented global affluence.

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© Ron Robins, 2008.

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• Cultural Creatives to Dominate in the Age of Enlightened Economics

Posted by Ron Robins on May 22, 2008

For many years I have envisioned the possible psychological archetype of individuals in the coming ‘Enlightened Economics’ era. After much thought and research, I believe it is likely to resemble that of what sociologist Paul Ray calls the “Cultural Creative.” He coined the term back in the 1990s after performing two extensive surveys on Americans’ psychological values for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to help understand and categorize Americans’ values to assist in the development of their environmental policies.

Who are the Cultural Creatives (CCs)?
In 2000, Dr. Ray co-authored with Sherry Ruth Anderson the book, Cultural Creatives (CCs), where they describe CCs as caring “…. deeply about ecology and saving the planet, about relationships, peace, and social justice, about self-actualization, spirituality, and self-expression.” They suggested that in the year 2000 there were more than 50 million CCs in America (about 25 per cent of the U.S. adult population) and a further 80-90 million in Europe. In a private conversation I had with Dr. Ray in 2002, he indicated that CCs could dominate western populations as early as 2020. I believe a case could now be made that this will occur much earlier than that.

Spiritual and personal development were at the centre of the values of the founding ‘core’ CCs. Referring to the early development of CCs, Dr. Ray and Ms. Anderson state, “As the ranks of beginners kept growing [in the 1960s], hundreds of thousands stayed with the process and went deeper. By the 1980s, the ‘movements’ numbers had swelled to a million or so, and by the 1990s, tens of millions were involved… But the consciousness movement-full of contradictions, shallow and deep, bubbling with new developments-is still in the phase of accelerating growth.”

CCs imbibe the values of Enlightened Economics
As explained in my various posts (The Missing Ingredient in Economics — Consciousness; Retiring the GDP (Gross Domestic Product, etc.) the fundamental shift I envisage in individual consciousness is towards that of global ecology, spirituality and social justice. This fits very well with the definition of CCs.

Though Dr. Ray has not completed further surveys in recent years as to the growth of CCs in western or global populations, it is clear from the enormous escalation of interest in green products and services, the environment, ethical investing, corporate social responsibility, spirituality, etc., that the numbers in the CC camp are growing significantly.

The ranks of the CCs are being filled from a group Dr. Ray refers to as ‘Moderns.’ The Moderns are the governing group in western societies. Their primary values concern money and status.

As the Moderns decline, the CCs gain
In the U.S., Moderns number close to half of the population. Dr. Ray and Ms. Anderson in their book explain the role of Moderns as “… the normative culture found in the office towers and factories of big business; in banks and the stock market; in university science labs and high tech firms; in hospitals and most doctors offices; in mainline churches and synagogues; in the ‘best’ schools and colleges …and most ‘mainstream’ and newspaper articles. The standard we take for granted, the rules we live by, are made by and for Moderns.”

However, the Moderns are declining in number as their values, focusing on financial materialism, status and lack of altruism, are under attack from both within and outside of their group. Increasingly, such values alone are seen as insufficient to meet the challenges of our world. The shenanigans on Wall Street – with the sub-prime mortgage and derivative fiascos and the gross irresponsibility of corporate elites – are some of the many reasons encouraging countless Moderns to re-align their values. Thus, unknowingly, they convert to the ranks of the CCs.

The expected era of Enlightened Economics necessitates a psychological archetype that reflects the demands of a new global epoch. This new epoch requires values depicting openness to the unfamiliar; a sense and inner experience of the unity of all things; and a deep caring for nature, the environment and humanity. And it also includes a realization that a new vision of global economics is critically needed. Cultural Creatives (CCs) heading to be the majority in numerous countries, imbibe these qualities. As such, their psychological archetype is the one I believe will dominate in the forthcoming age of Enlightened Economics.

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© Ron Robins, 2008.

Posted in Consciousness/Psychology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

 
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