I’m reading this book called Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science. Here is a quote from page six:
Individuals act to make themselves as well off as possible. To use the jargon of the profession, individuals seek to maximize their own utility, which is a similar concept to happiness, only broader.
That got me thinking about Buddhism and the Four Immeasurables:
May all beings have happiness and the causes of happiness,
May all beings be free from suffering and the causes of suffering,
May all beings never be parted from freedom’s true joy,
May all beings dwell in equanimity, free from attachment and anger.
Only doing it economist style:
May all beings maximize their own utility and have the causes of maximization,
May all beings be free from inflation and the causes of inflation,
May all beings never be parted from the freedom of supply and demand,
May all beings dwell in whatever manner they choose, not likely free at all.
It’s the last line on both poems that seems to be the most striking difference, the rest is pretty much in line. You could argue that inflation tends to be a bad deal for most people and it falls under one of the sufferings. “Freedom’s true joy” is kind of code for having an experience in meditation of seeing emptiness, or what you could call freedom. You see freedom for the first time and you also understand everything perfectly including the laws of cause and effect, or karma. Or supply and demand, it’s all the same.
Now the last line... that’s tricky. It’s where I have difficulty going strictly economist. An economist would say, “if it’s beneficial for you to hurt someone, then go ahead.” Whereas a Buddhist would say, “as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone, then go ahead. (But you should try to help people.)” And the reason being, helping others is the only thing that will stop your suffering (including inflation). The only way to do it is by understanding freedom’s true joy, which you do by living in equanimity, free from attachment and anger.
Anyway, it’s a good book. And it’s kind of right about some things (from page 8):
So, after only a few pages, we have an answer to a profound, age-old philosophical question: Why did the chicken cross the road? Because it maximized his utility.
posted @ 3:12 PM