Referring back to a pre-industrial time, many classically trained economists might easily miss the point of what Buddhist economics can mean for the twenty-first-century world. However, as we shall see, Buddhist ideas about economics have developed throughout the world over the last few decades. This is partly because people are increasingly aware of the fragility of the global financial system and because of the destructive nature of many industrial processes which harm the planet.
In an attempt to address these issues, some economists have tried to look at the principles behind Buddhist ethical teachings and apply them to areas like work, productivity, commerce and even concepts such as ownership. After all, it was the ethical nature of Buddhism that led Ashoka to invest in public works programmes such as those which built hospitals, hostels and parks. Building interest in the ethical dimension of Buddhist economics, the first international conference of its type was held in the city of Budapest in 2007.  Further such conventions, which look into all aspects of Buddhist economic thought, from increasing happiness to facing up to the economic challenges of Western economies, have since taken place. How did Buddhist economics get to this level of acceptance among modern academics?
The idea of Buddhist economics was first espoused in the twentieth century by E F Schumacher, a German statistician, who came up with his ideas while travelling through Southeast Asia. Schumacher ended up being an economic advisor to Prime Minister U Nu of what was then called Burma. His idea was to reject the economic theories of both Karl Marx and Adam Smith, both of whom focussed on units of labour as being the primary economic drivers in any economic model. Instead, Schumacher espoused a view of economics from a Buddhist point of view.
Essentially, Schumacher opted to redefine work from something that could be sold, for example to employers, or exploited, through slavery or unpaid labour, as well as choosing to view work as something that did not necessarily need to be conducted most efficiently. In other words, his view of work was one that was there to enrich the basic happiness of the person doing it from a spiritual standpoint, not from an economic one.Let's look at what Schumacher means by taking an example. In a factory, the most efficient way of making an item for sale into the wider economy might be to divide the labour up so that each worker does a repetitive task over and over. This simplifies their job function, makes the production method more predictable and lowers costs, especially if production is speeded up significantly. The outcome might be that the factory owner makes more money with such a system. Henry Ford, the American car maker, is often cited as a pioneer of these sorts of workplace practices which were developed for economic reasons. Schumacher turns that idea on its head. He put forward the idea that work should not be measured by economic output. 
According to his Buddhist principle, work is there to offer a worker the chance to utilise and develop all of his faculties, not just one or two key skills. Also, this will enable a worker to overcome ego-centric ideas, mainly when work is conducted with other people in a common task, for example building a house together. Crucially, Schumacher stated that work should “bring forth the goods and services needed for a becoming existence”. In other words, work ought to create enough economic output to sustain life but no more. Working just to accumulate more and more wealth is pointless from a spiritual perspective. Being rich is, in other words, counterproductive.
Some see the emergence of nationalism in recent years as a direct result of global economic trends over which local communities have little control.  Global economic challenges like these can be met by Buddhist teachings. Not only do they convey the idea that man is interdependent on his fellow man, but that overproduction for the sake of economic growth is undesirable.
According to Clair Brown, an economics professor at UC Berkeley and the director of the Center for Work, Technology and Society, students she teaches are focussed on the tremendous economic inequalities that globalisation has produced. In a world where the richest one percent of the population own half of all the wealth, it is fair to say that inequality – and abject poverty – is rife. 
Brown teaches that happiness, founded on less inequality, and the simple act of helping each other compassionately is the answer to these undeniable economic challenges. She puts forward the idea that economists must let go of the principle that people are fundamentally selfish, that they will always choose the best economic outcome for themselves. By studying cities in the so-called Rust Belt of America, she points out that economists must work in a way that is “compatible with what neuroscientists are finding out about people’s well-being and the way minds work.” 
Why? Because we feel negative about ourselves and others in the former model and a higher degree of happiness and inner peace with the latter. Imagine what could be achieved by humans if everyone just got on better with one another because they felt less pressured to make a few pounds. From a global point of view, this would bring about a deceleration in the exploitation of the Earth's valuable resources, helping to make economic life sustainable not just for today but for future generations.
 http://www.sundaytimes.lk/110320/BusinessTimes/bt24.html  https://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/ashoka-6226.php  http://laszlo-zsolnai.net/sites/default/files/3/documents/Buddhist-Economics-szorolap-4-oldalas.pdf  http://www.urbandharma.org/pdf/Buddhist_Economics.pdf  http://www.centerforneweconomics.org/Buddhist-economics  https://ourfiniteworld.com/2013/02/22/twelve-reasons-why-globalization-is-a-huge-problem/  https://www.cnbc.com/2017/11/14/richest-1-percent-now-own-half-the-worlds-wealth.html  https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/what_would_buddha_do_about_the_economy
Ed Gould is a UK-based journalist and freelance writer. He is a practitioner of Reiki.
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