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Buddhism for Capitalists

lobsterlobster Veteran
edited July 31 in Buddhism Today

previously ...
http://newbuddhist.com/discussion/5145/are-capitalism-and-buddhism-incompatible

Many of us live consumerist lives in capitalist societies. Are we being bought?
http://www.alternet.org/mindfullness-buddhism-capitalist-ends

Maybe The Buddha was an anarchist?
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kalama_Sutta

Disclosure: typed on a device not created by Buddhists but a corporate, capitalist, consumerist device aka iPad :3
https://yunomi.life/blogs/discover/declutter-your-mind-with-japanese-minimalism

Vastmind

Comments

  • KeromeKerome Did I fall in the forest? Europe Veteran
    edited August 1

    Interesting to read over the older topic in the forum...

    The first point I would make is that I think that capitalism is a giant machine that searches for ways to make profit, and so is not ultimately beneficial to humankind at large. It is the system we have, and it has proved useful, but it isn't a system that tries to produce the necessary goods at the lowest cost to the environment and the people. Instead it tries to create wealth for the elite, the owners of the means of production. All the rest are fortunate or unfortunate side-effects.

    Second, I do not think capitalism is beneficial to Buddhist practice. Capitalism benefits hugely from taking advantage of the three poisons of greed, hatred and ignorance to spur people on to impulse purchases of things they do not really need. It tries to create through advertising, through creating 'have-nots', through social ladders, a feeling of I-must-have-more. This goes directly counter to the Buddhist effort to free oneself of the defilements.

    Third, I think that inherent in capitalism there is competition. Competition between companies, between individuals, between solutions. Even through things like a focus on sporting events it stimulates competition to have the latest and the best, so you can be the best and keep earning the most. This is not an attitude that is conducive to peace, learning, and supporting each other.

    So, I think you can live in a capitalist society as a Buddhist, but you need to constantly beware that you are not being dragged along by the impulses of society around you. Somewhere like Bhutan might be more suited as the ideal country to be a Buddhist in.

    Vastmind
  • VastmindVastmind Memphis, TN Veteran
    edited August 1

    The cultural appropriation piece was interesting....I've thought about some of those things before.

    If capitalism was just about making money and making a living...ok...but I'm with @Kerome AFA what it creates and breeds.

    The last article was right up my ally...minimalist. I'm not that streamlined...but people are often surprised at how little furniture I have. No lamps...no coffee table...no pics all over the place. More stuff is just more to clean...and I want space to walk...and more clutter in a room makes more clutter in the mind. :)

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    Minimalism is definitely my nature, always has been. Trying to convince 3 kids hasn't been easy though! I am currently working on convincing my family of getting rid of our huge sectional (I bought it, and I hate it) and our dining room table in exchange for cushions and a low table. Spending less time on furniture is ideal for our health anyways! We keep a pretty close watch on what we buy and evaluate it consistently. I use Mint to track our spending in every category so we can make adjustments. Our goal has been to spend less on the stuff we don't actually need and save more. It's funny because there was this initial sense of panic of "But...but I deserve some things I want once in a while, don't I?" but really, when you sit down and consider what is important to you, most of it is free (time with loved ones, for example). I really did enjoy Marie Kondo's books, they helped me to look at the stuff we owned, and the stuff we consider buying in an entirely different light. It's so easy to think "Oh! Look how cute/fun this is! Let's buy it!" and then wonder a week later why you bought it. One can appreciate something cute without buying it, and when you look at it from a place of whether an item will bring you joy in the longer term, it's much easier to choose.

    As far as capitalism in general, I think you have to be vigilant and aware of the way it works, but it is possible to maintain Buddhsit values and still live in a capitalist country. It's not by far, the best way to run everything, but it's also not the worst. I found this comment from one of the threads posted interesting:

    "I believe Capitalism brings the highest standard of living to the most people possible. It is not perfect and there will always be "have nots" in any society - but the vast majority of people in capitalist societies go to bed with a full belly and clothes on their backs.

    The same cannot be said for many communist or socialist societies.

    If you are speaking from a personal perspective - what can be more noble and just than making sure people have the freedom to pursue whatever type of right livelihood they choose? "

    Poverty in the US is quite high, especially for children. They are not living in famine like some countries in the world (the situation in Africa is becoming quite dire right now :( ) but they go hungry and without their needs fulfilled quite often. The US poverty rate is almost 15% while in Finland it is 5.5%, which is among the lowest in the world. When considering children, Finland sits at 5.3% while the US is at 21%. So I'd highly disagree with the statement above. Also, the idea that it is "noble" for people to pursue whatever livelihood they want? It's not even true. You only get that choice if you are lucky enough to have been born into the right environment.

    Vastmind
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    Sorry for the double post, but I didn't want to make the last any longer than it already was. While I found the Buddhist appropriation article interesting, I think it's a way-overused term that results in real cultural appropriation being downplayed. There are more serious issues in US Buddhism (as angry Asian Buddhist points out often) than getting upset that Apple and Google bring up mindfulness. Yes, it's very watered down and missing foundation and context, but just practicing that kind of stuff opens a person to look for more. If it helps people, then great. My main beef with it is that they don't do out because of concern for the health of their staff, but to make them even MORE productive. To squeeze even more work out of them than they already get.

    Vastmind
  • VastmindVastmind Memphis, TN Veteran
    edited August 1

    @karasti . your posts are always well presented. Honest, usually showing both sides, and relatable. In case I haven't told you lately....I'm glad youre here . 🙏🏻

    I hadn't heard of Marie Kondo...I'll look into some of her books.

  • NamadaNamada Veteran
    edited August 1

    Capitalism is about the rich people investing their money in to things that they can earn even more. So if you have much already you will get more. Thats why we now have few people earning more than 98 % of the people in this world. They protect them self in laws, politics and also in science and media.

    Warren Buffet he lives in a middle class house, sitting at his office in the second floor and reading books about where he should invest next.

    And he eat in a normal local resturant and driving a normal car. He said he would never be where he is now, if he spent his money in cars, woman, and fancy resturants.

    Quite diffrent when kings and queens and the other elite, spent their money in total luxus, they didnt care about investing their money in sicence and other things, until the industrial revolution, then they saw what sicence really could do. Transforming the energi, instead getting the energi from human we could get it from steam engines. And Adam Smith came with the book The Wealth of Nations. Things changed.

    Big diffrence from the rich now and back in the middle ages.

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    Yeah but Buffet's investments are still primarily in industries that harm the planet and other beings. I don't think it's possible to get as rich as he (or any of the others) are without doing it on the backs of others. They outsource everything in life to people who are mostly poorly paid, and often exploited in return.

  • NamadaNamada Veteran
    edited August 1

    Yes, Coca Cola for example. Not so good for peoples health, but he earn money, that is most important for him. Greed and Ignorance at the same time, but he is a very smart man many will say.

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    And the funny thing is, we're left feeling grateful that we live in such a system. That forces us into jobs and careers we don't really want because we have to "pay the bills" including for an education we had to have to get such a job to pay for the bills we need to sustain our job, LOL. It's nuts. I'm determined to find a way out for myself. A system that makes it even more expensive the more you want to get away from that system. Simplifying to a certain level is the "in" thing, but we maintain our moderate houses and cars and other things. If you try to go off the grid in any way, it becomes quite a lot more expensive. Which is amusing to think about. The more simple you want your life, the more it costs, and the more you have to fight red tape for it.

    @Vastmind Thank you dear! I am likewise grateful for you! <3

  • NamadaNamada Veteran
    edited August 1

    The only way out is to earn enough money so you can quit your job, then you are free to do what you want.
    Grow some plants, make your own garden, go fishing and build a log house with your family, but still have a bank account thats ok in case the plan dosent work or something happens (all your plants dies from a storm and you dont have more food).

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    except you still have to pay for health care (well, we would, with 3 kids, 2 of whom have chronic and life threatening medical conditions). We actually do all of those things, we have a garden, we forage, we go fishing etc. But you need a sizable piece of land to grow enough to live on, and our climate isn't very conducive to it because it is winter here 7 months a year. Our growing season is only about 70 days and there's a lot of stuff that doesn't grow here. I do know people who are pretty self-sufficient, they only go into town a few times a year for supplies. But they have ample cash flow if needed, and live on very large pieces of land. We have a few people who had their 15 mins of fame and now call this area home, and that is how they often live. If I ever came into a large sum of money, that would be my goal-self-sufficiency. But I refuse to give up decades more of my life just to get there. It's not important enough to me, we can do a lot with what we have already.

  • KeromeKerome Did I fall in the forest? Europe Veteran

    So this is our solution for the modern lay Buddhist in a capitalist world? Save enough so that you don't have to work anymore? I think a lot of people might have seen that one coming...

    NamadaVastmind
  • gracklegrackle Veteran

    Capitalism gave me the chance to both make and lose money. More importantly when times were good there was a lot left to help others.

    Vastmind
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    Capitalising from the Dharma ...this is enough for this Buddhist capitalist :)

  • NamadaNamada Veteran
    edited August 1

    Problem with capitalism its always about growth and the craving for short term profit. But the companies dosent give anything back to nature.

    Who is the bigest loser?

    The humans, not jet but very soon, we will not last longer than 1000 years from now.

    Homo erectus our ancestor lived far longer, more than 1 million years.
    And they lived as hunter and gatheres.

    Hunting and gathering was humanity's first and most successful adaptation, occupying at least 90 percent of human history, now its different. We only need to walk 5 min to nearest market and buy some sweets.

  • VastmindVastmind Memphis, TN Veteran
    edited August 1

    Hubby and I were talking about this thread today, and he reminded me of this Tricycle article...

    https://tricycle.org/trikedaily/occupy-buddhism/

    .... Dalai Lama surprised his young audience when he volunteered that “as far as sociopolitical beliefs are concerned, I consider myself a Marxist.”

  • personperson Where is my mind? 'Merica! Veteran
    edited August 2

    I haven't heard of any other good option. I'm in favor of regulated capitalism, I feel grateful and fortunate to live in the world of abundance created in part through the forces of capitalism. But it does have it's excesses and negative sides, like inequality (though that existed before capitalism too), short sightedness which impacts negatively the environment and unwise technological advances and uses, exploitation, the promotion of greed and selfishness.

    I don't feel like socialism promotes innovation and risk taking at all and leads to bureaucratic stagnation. Unless human beings somehow overcome our greed, hatred and ignorance on a large scale I don't know of a system that would meet our economic needs. Maybe a future fully automated luxury communism could be our salvation?

    I think if there are negative psychological effects on us from capitalism's advertising and competitiveness that it is mostly on us as Buddhists to modify our attitude and behavior rather than trying to modify the world to shelter us from harm.

    Vastmind
  • NamadaNamada Veteran
    edited August 2

    Buddhism its all about our attitude, tolerance and adjust to our enviroment, just like water we are, even if its brutal and unfair we go with the flow. What can we as individual do about capitalism? Nothing :P

  • personperson Where is my mind? 'Merica! Veteran
    edited August 2

    @Namada said:
    Capitalism is about the rich people investing their money in to things that they can earn even more. So if you have much already you will get more. Thats why we now have few people earning more than 98 % of the people in this world.

    Wealth inequality is a growing problem that should be addressed but I think this is a misunderstanding of capitalism. Yes, a few people controlling 98% of the wealth is unbalanced but the misunderstanding is that there isn't a fixed amount of wealth. So if the overall global wealth was 1 billion and a few owned only 20% that would leave the rest with 800 million. Capitalism grows the total amount of wealth though so if capitalism grows the economy to 1 trillion overall but an effect is that only a few now own 98% of the wealth that leaves the rest with 20 billion.

    Maybe there exists some way to divide and grow wealth different than the capitalist one that would work better but no one has come up with it yet.

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    @person there are actually a lot of things that happen in socialized countries, we just are so centric in regards to our own country that we think we are the only ones putting out innovation. I mean, the sauna, Angry Birds, Nokia, reflectors and Linux are all Finnish creations, lol. But for me, I'd rather have the stability of knowing a health crisis wouldn't bankrupt me than the benefits of risk-taking (which, as usual, are mostly the people with money, as people with out excess money can't afford to take much risk).

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    B)

    Thanks everyone for your insights.

    Being exploitative to the detriment of others is not part of most spirituality. However we can be part of co-operative startups, venture start ups that benefit innovation and support well being for staff. Many other possible arrangements. Wealth and well being generation is perfectly OK. We do not have to follow the ascetic lifestyle of an ancient yogi (ye olde Buddha) unless we require or wish to acquire spiritual capital ...

    Being independent of having or not having opportunities, wealth, nirvana, health, affiliations is in a sense the Middle Way.

    Exploitative capitalism is not the only type ...

    Please give generous dana to the usual impoverished institutions, service providers, destitute banker support groups, beggar monks etc ... :p

    https://berkleycenter.georgetown.edu/essays/buddhism-on-wealth-and-poverty

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    Buddhism for Capitalists

    Wealthy capitalists who happen to be practising Buddhists (whom one would think would develop a philanthropic nature) can 'afford' to sit around and do nothing, whilst their investments/ shares continue to work for them making them more money ...

    It's a win win situation ....... Some Buddhists seem to have the luck of the Buddhas Irish ....
    Karma... don't you just love it ....

    karmy bastards

  • KeromeKerome Did I fall in the forest? Europe Veteran
    edited August 2

    There are some examples of Buddhist social enterprise...

    http://greyston.com/about-greyston/mission-history/

    The problem is, capitalism is easy to get started and grows like wildfire, but not so easy to put back in the box if you don't like the effects on the social structure. In many parts of the Far East there are lots of companies looking for ways to make a profit, while the people still look for Buddhist ideals.

    But there are ways to solve capitalism's ills. For example an 80% inheritance tax would give the government a lot of money to redistribute to young people just starting in life, thus fixing the problem of inequality.

  • personperson Where is my mind? 'Merica! Veteran
    edited August 2

    @karasti said:
    @person there are actually a lot of things that happen in socialized countries, we just are so centric in regards to our own country that we think we are the only ones putting out innovation. I mean, the sauna, Angry Birds, Nokia, reflectors and Linux are all Finnish creations, lol. But for me, I'd rather have the stability of knowing a health crisis wouldn't bankrupt me than the benefits of risk-taking (which, as usual, are mostly the people with money, as people with out excess money can't afford to take much risk).

    Those socialized countries use capitalism as their economic system not socialism or communism. I'm in favor of that sort of redistribution of wealth that helps empower citizens, putting it in things like education and job training. Things that help people keep productive like health care, child care and for the overall effectiveness of an economy like infrastructure.

    I think the right has been calling any move at regulating capitalism as socialism for so long that it confuses what socialism and capitalism are. Socialism means the workers or maybe the government own the businesses and decide how to run them, what products to make and develop, when to change course. I have serious doubts whether a business like that would be responsive enough or willing to take risks enough to keep up with change.

    @Kerome said:
    But there are ways to solve capitalism's ills. For example an 80% inheritance tax would give the government a lot of money to redistribute to young people just starting in life, thus fixing the problem of inequality.

    Yes, fix capitalism's ills with a certain amount of progressive taxation, inheritance tax being great at preventing aristocracy and promoting meritocracy.

    There are some examples of Buddhist social enterprise...

    http://greyston.com/about-greyston/mission-history/

    Greyston is great but it does require people who have care and compassion at the core, it's a noble ideal and a great vision of how things could work. It is still capitalism.

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Moderator

    We just had a new applicant for nb.com membership:

    "Hello I am a chinese businessman and i can give many members good things at resonabl (sic) prices! Sure most members would love my products! All genuine imported from buddhism monks in china, making for buddhist everywhere!"

    Form an orderly Capitalist queue, please.....

    personKeromeVastmindlobster
  • DavidDavid some guy The Hammer in Ontario, Canada, eh Veteran

    The thing I don't like about capitalism is there doesn't seem to be a top line. A cap on how much an individual or corporation can make. From what I see, if there is no top line there can be no bottom line which means it's ok for people to go without basics like nutrition, education and shelter so that others can revel in over-abundance.

  • personperson Where is my mind? 'Merica! Veteran
    edited August 3

    @David said:
    The thing I don't like about capitalism is there doesn't seem to be a top line. A cap on how much an individual or corporation can make. From what I see, if there is no top line there can be no bottom line which means it's ok for people to go without basics like nutrition, education and shelter so that others can revel in over-abundance.

    I think that's true in a true laissez fair capitalism. Most countries do tax and provide a basic safety net though to try and compensate for capitalism's downsides and excesses.

    The thing I like about capitalism is that an individual with a good idea or an ambition to be independent or whatever has a financial incentive to take that risk and can freely start their own business, set their own prices, trade with others. And that it is good in the macro sense of measuring demand and setting prices.

    Capitalism isn't perfect, but neither are humans and I have yet to hear of a good alternative.

  • KeromeKerome Did I fall in the forest? Europe Veteran

    I think some aspects of capitalism are good and useful - we can't ignore the marketplace, it is an important part of lay life. But I want it to be managed and constrained. For example, in the US there used to be 55 major media companies in the 1980's. Now there are only six mega-companies. I feel it concentrates power and money too much, which is not in the interest of the people.

  • KeromeKerome Did I fall in the forest? Europe Veteran

    Have you considered that the ultimate result of capitalism is to have as vast a mass of captive worker/consumers as possible, treated as little cells that generate wealth for those who own the means of production? It's not very different from the way battery chickens are kept...

  • DavidDavid some guy The Hammer in Ontario, Canada, eh Veteran

    @Kerome said:
    Have you considered that the ultimate result of capitalism is to have as vast a mass of captive worker/consumers as possible, treated as little cells that generate wealth for those who own the means of production? It's not very different from the way battery chickens are kept...

    I certainly have. This is why I endorse Democratic Socialism. The American Dream is a complete nightmare and it misses the point of what happiness is.

  • personperson Where is my mind? 'Merica! Veteran

    @Kerome said:
    I think some aspects of capitalism are good and useful - we can't ignore the marketplace, it is an important part of lay life. But I want it to be managed and constrained. For example, in the US there used to be 55 major media companies in the 1980's. Now there are only six mega-companies. I feel it concentrates power and money too much, which is not in the interest of the people.

    I agree it is a problem, power and wealth (and in the case of media, ideas) are better used if dispersed more widely. The benefit of consolidation is efficiency which allows capital to be used for other things.

    Have you considered that the ultimate result of capitalism is to have as vast a mass of captive worker/consumers as possible, treated as little cells that generate wealth for those who own the means of production? It's not very different from the way battery chickens are kept...

    Maybe I'm biased, I'm an independent contractor and have been for a long time. I haven't worked for someone else for years.

    I think that is one way to look at it. All big businesses start out as small businesses, someone who starts a business is taking a risk investing a lot of time and money in something that might fail. I think it is proper that they should reap the rewards of that risk and also be rewarded for having some good idea. At what point in the size and growth of a business should the owner get less of a return and employees get more? Maybe there is some sort of objective measure that would say at this point in size employees should now not only get a wage or a salary but get a stake in the company.

    In general my focus these days seems to be on the good in the world and wanting it to be better which can make it seem like I don't see or care about the problems.

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    I think we would see an expansion of entrepreneuership (butchered that one, lol) if so many millions of people didn't have no choice but to work in order to maintain health care. That health care is tied to our jobs is HUGE reason people do half the jobs that exist. No one dreams of doing the jobs they are doing, but health care is a major expense and owning a small business can create problems if you need that health care. Especially in small towns. I think if we had socialized health care we would see more people get out of their rat race jobs and start to do other things which would change the market a bit.

    We are taught from a young age to be consumers, and we are rewarded for doing so. Even in school, we turn out kids who are good for the economy and that's a major part of our education plan. Patriots and consumers.

    personVastmind
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