Paul J. Dejillas
Professor of Anthropology
The Conventional View
The term “economics” is more popularly known today as the science that deals with allocating scarce resources to meet the basic needs of the individual, family, or society. Resources may be in the form of income or wages received from employment or profit generated from operating a business. Needs, on the other hand, may refer to such minimum basic needs as food, shelter, clothing, education, medical and health-care, etc.
Resources may be abundant or scarce relative to the needs of the individual. Usually, it is scarce relative to many individuals. One main concern of economics is how to increase these scarce resources, e.g., providing more job opportunities, augmenting the salary or income of individuals through some productivity or profitability schemes. Another concern could be keeping the prices of basic commodities and services at the minimum. When resource-based measures are not possible, one could simply limit his/her consumption by responding only to the most basic needs of food or clothing and perhaps abandoning education and savings for the future.
Economics can be viewed from the macro (national in scope) or micro (enterprise-based) perspective. The macro view considers the entire country or nation and is concerned of the country’s national income, technically, gross national product or gross domestic product. It is also concerned with population, wages, prices, investments, employment, inflation, foreign trade, money supply, and many more. There are indicators that would tell us that a country’s national economy is strong. Some of these are:
· GNP growth rate is higher than population growth rate.
· Unemployment rate is below 10% of the labor force.
· Inflation rate is below 6%.
· Export is greater than import.
· Wages and salaries are above the minimum-basic needs requirements
Many analysts find GNP too constricting and introduce an alternative concepts and measures, like human development index (HDI), gross national wellbeing (GNW), etc. All these measures to me, however, still are based on a distorted principle that resources, in economics, are scarce and limited. Because of this, they miss the essential features that economics intends to originally be introduced.
Economics as Household Management
Etymologically, the term comes from two Greek words jikos (household) and hoMOV (management). During the ancient period, household management encompasses several concerns other than the “allocation” and “utilization” features of scarce resources. The household is a political unit and structure founded on a hierarchy comprised of the father and the mother, each of whom have their corresponding power and authority defined and established by tradition, beliefs, or customs.
Other than money matters, family concerns include seeing to it that family rules are observed, discipline is established, daily household chores are done, and there is peace and harmony within the family. Family traditions, customs, and even religious beliefs are other equally important concerns too in the management of household affairs. Etymologically, all this comes into the realm of economics and that economy or household management becomes not only mediated by money but also by power, values (love and harmony), customs, and even religious beliefs.
Political power provides the structure and mechanism that influence the direction and content of the money economy. Power variables may include concentration of power and authority, maintenance of peace and order, availability of needed knowledge, skills or expertise as well as degree of people’s organization and participation.
Even during the olden days, such values as sharing, reciprocity, teamwork and cooperation, commitment, dedication have already been found to exert influence on the economic lives of the people.
The history of religion all over the globe demonstrates how religious beliefs influence the lives of peoples and nations. Today, history has given birth to such insightful discussions as Muslim economics, Christian economics, Hindu economics, Buddhist economics.
If we subscribe to the Greek model, the household can serve as the basic unit of analysis but this time viewed in the context of utilizing its scarce resources and allocating these to meet its basic needs. The firm or the enterprise, then, is viewed within the context of how it is able to respond to the objectives of the household.
As stated earlier, economics originally means household management and that family affairs is much more than just financial or money management. The household is a political unit and structure founded on a hierarchy comprised of the father and the mother, each of whom have their corresponding power and authority defined and established by tradition, beliefs, or customs.
Other than money matters, family concerns include seeing to it that family rules are observed, discipline is established, daily household chores are done, and there is peace and harmony within the family. Family traditions, customs, and even religious beliefs are other equally important concerns too in the management of household affairs. Etymologically, all this comes into the realm of economics and that economy or household management becomes not only mediated by money but also by power, values (love and harmony), customs, and even religious beliefs. Political power provides the structure and mechanism that influence the direction and content of the money economy. Power variables may include concentration of power and authority, maintenance of peace and order, availability of needed knowledge, skills or expertise as well as degree of people’s organization and participation. Even during the olden days, such values as sharing, reciprocity, teamwork and cooperation, commitment, dedication have already been found to exert influence on the economic lives of the people. The history of religion all over the globe demonstrates how religious beliefs influence the lives of peoples and nations. Today, history has given birth to such insightful discussions as Muslim economics, Christian economics, Hindu economics, Buddhist economics.
Economics can be better appreciated if viewed from the broader cosmic perspective. Perhaps, the broader view advanced here could provide more meaningful approaches to address existing economic problems. But even before this can be so, more serious efforts still remain to be done to construct a more comprehensive theory and framework that integrate in one holistic model the many variables --- economic, power, values, religious --- advanced in our discussion above. At best, what the discussion is able to achieve is to open up the possibility that economics is after all more encompassing than is popularly viewed today.
Economics of Abundance
Economics, as we learned, is based on the concept of scarcity. Because natural resources---land, water, minerals, trees, animals---are scarce, people need to allocate these limited resources in such a way that they can be optimally used to respond to the basic needs of man. But there are those who take the contrary view, convinced that the world possesses abundant natural resources far more than enough for everyone’s needs. The world possesses built-in mechanism to reproduce and replenish itself. Scarcity, according to this view, comes in only because of greed, hidden under the “noble” concepts of industrialization, development, profit, etc. In view of this, injustice has become rampant. One multinational financial corporation having an asset of over $22 trillion as against millions of people all over the globe earning less than $1 a day is one case of glaring injustice. The same in the case of one individual earning more than one developing nation earns in a year.
Another reason behind the concept of scarcity is fear. People fear about the future, the reason why they amass savings unto themselves – a hedge for the future, which to them is uncertain. Yet, uncertainty of the future is another creation of the concept of scarcity to justify the individual’s unrestricted accumulation of unlimited wealth and assets, without any regard at all to the other’s needs. Several theories support the concept of scarcity: Charles Darwin’s “survival of the fittest,” Adam Smith’s “laissez-faire,” the Western concept of “democracy,” etc. That there is in fact abundance in the world and in life gives rise to the concept of “economics of abundance.”
Let’s go to the Cosmos and see if we can get some answers. Let us think of the entire Cosmos as one big intergalactic enterprise. What do we see and observe?
WEALTH ABOUNDS IN THE UNIVERSE. IT IS THERE FOR MAN’S TAKING AND SHARING WITH OTHERS IN NEED.
There is in fact an infinite supply of wealth in the Universe. The Universe does not become poorer every time man accesses to and takes a portion of its resources. It does not get poorer if I am able to access $10,000 a month in addition to what I am already receiving now. On the contrary, the wealth and resources in the Universe will continue to multiply and increase geometrically. Why is this so? It is because of the built-in mechanism and process of how the Cosmic Economy works.
Observe how the honeybee gathers nectar from flower to flower. Yet, the flower does not stop giving its supply not only to that honeybee, but even to all the other members in the beehive community. This is so because as the honeybee scrambles around inside a flower sucking the latter’s nectar, it at the same time lodges into the sticky surface of the flower’s stigma the pollen which it has scooped during its previous visits to other flowers. In this manner, the honeybee pollinates the flower that in turn enables the latter to produce more abundant supply of nectar. The flower nourishes and sustains the life of the bee by its nectar in the same manner that the bee nourishes and prolongs the life of the flower by pollinating the latter. Because of pollination, fruits, vegetables, and other crops as well as plants and trees continue to grow. In the general scheme of things in the Universe, one gathers without impoverishing the other.
It is this symbiotic relationship between the bee and the flower that production in the Universe becomes ever so abundant. And there is no need to worry that the supply of wealth in the Universe will no longer be sufficient to meet the growing demands of all living beings, either today or in the far future. The Cosmic Economy has its own inherent mechanism to replenish and produce wealth in great abundance. This in essence is the economics of abundance as opposed to today’s economics which is based on the concept of scarcity.
What the individual bee gathers from the Cosmos, it brings back to the beehive community for all of its members to partake. Furthermore, acting in unison while serving their queen, the bees in synergy also produce honey in abundance that could even feed those outside of their community. In mathematics, one plus one equals two. But in synergy, the energy of one plus the energy of the other produce a power much greater than the two combined. The honeybees “produce” so that other living creatures—both from the plant and animal kingdoms—in the Cosmos can partake and share of its abundance. In the U.S. alone, it is reported that one-third (1/3) of its production depend on honeybees. Beehive products alone include wax used in candles, polish, and floor wax. Bee-related products gross $20 billion worth of crops annually. We see this pattern of living in the human kingdom.
The honeybee follows a formula for taking wealth from the Cosmos and for allocating and sharing this to others. This formula is the way how the Cosmos intends everyone to do it. It enables the Cosmos to continue producing abundance and, in so doing, assures the bee and mankind of continually reaping abundance.
The honeybee does not get the flower’s nectar for free. In hopping from one flower to another, it invests its time, effort, and resources. It travels great distances to look for the right flowers that give the right nectar. It is reported that the honeybee travels about 55,000 miles to gather enough nectar to produce one pound of honey. It does, says the report, 10 to 15 collection trips per day and visits up to 100 flowers. This is an enormous task for a tiny living being who has a lifespan of only less than a 100, or even 50, days. The farther it travels, the greater the chances it is able to gather nectar in great abundance. As the honeybee plows into a flower, its hairy body collects pollen, which then falls into other plant’s blossom as the honeybee flies over to and lands on another flower. Thus, it is only when the honeybee invests its time and effort, that it is able to access and scoop abundance from the Cosmos. But, in so doing, it also sorts of “pollinates” the Cosmos and brings it to fruition and abundance.
This is the rule of the game. Nobody is exempted from it. There are no short-cuts and short-cuts spell disaster, not only to the individual, but also to the Cosmos. By obeying the laws of the Universe and following its rhythm and harmony, the laws of the land and society, as well as natural and moral laws, man contributes to creating abundance, in the same manner as the Universe gives back its wealth to man in great abundance.
In gathering nectar from the flowers, the bee selects only certain flowers of the trees and plants. When the right tree or plant has been found, it further undergoes another kind of screening to select only those flowers whose nectar are ready for the picking. It leaves out those that are not yet ready and allow it to mature and ripen. The bee does not destroy flowers just because they do not produce the right nectar for the beehive.
I have laid down some basic economic concepts like “abundance (vs. scarcity),” “production,” “distribution,” “allocation,” “savings,” “investments,” “supply,” “demand,” “price,” etc. Abundance abounds in the Cosmos. Fourteen billion years ago, the Cosmos has already built-in mechanisms to produce abundance. It has its own natural way of producing goods and of disgorging, distributing, or allocating these goods to all creatures, humanity included. It has its own way of distributing jobs and income to everybody. On deeper reflection, we can even say that the Cosmos has built-in principles and laws to produce abundance. Humanity only needs to explore these laws and principles and, once known, to attune its economic operation and system in harmony with the cosmic process of evolution. Economic problems arise only when humanity deviates itself from these laws and principles.###