How Can We Create a Successful Economy Without Continuous Economic Growth?

Reprinted from

My book: Buddhist Economics: An Enlightened Approach to the Dismal Science (Bloomsbury Press, 2017) also addresses this question. Buddhist economics assumes that humans are interdependent with each other and with nature, and happiness comes from helping others and living a meaningful life, and not from consumption. Society can structure the economy and regulate markets to provide opportunities for everyone to live a comfortable worthwhile life while caring for the environment.

Buddhist economics integrates the capabilities approach of Sen, with the ecological economic approach compatible with strong sustainability (boundary thresholds for ecosystems), with the UN sustainable development approach for shared prosperity worldwide. Happiness comes from creating a worthy life, based on Aristotle, rather than hedonic happiness based on “more is better.” We move from a “closetful economy” to a “mindful economy.”

Following in the footsteps of Daly and the other Genuine Progress Indicator researchers, Buddhist economics measures economic performance (and growth) by people’s quality of life, and not by the average GDP. Once we evaluate economic performance this way, then economic growth increases with redistribution from the rich to people in need, and increases with protecting nature and reducing environmental degradation.

Consumption in Buddhist Economics takes a global approach rather than a domestic approach. Rich countries no longer can ignore the suffering from extreme hunger or poverty in poor countries; social welfare increases with transfers from rich countries to poor countries that improve the consumption of basic food, water, shelter, health care, education, and human rights. Development must depend on using clean energy instead of fossil fuel energy to raise the standard of living. Rich countries benefit from providing clean energy technology that supports green development.