“Buddhist Economics”: A Sophomore Class at UC-Berkeley

Image via UC-Berkeley Public Affairs.

The UC-Berkeley News Center has just issued a new story about a sophomore seminar being offered this term at the institution that is called “Buddhist Economics.”

[UC Berkeley economist Clair Brown] said she created the one-unit Buddhist Economics course after students in her Introductory Economics (Econ 1) class expressed frustration with the relentless Madison Avenue message that more is better, economic growth paves the path to a better life and “retail therapy” is a quick trip to nirvana…

Brown said she mulled over her students’ unease in light of her experiences as an economics professor for more than 30 years and her research on poverty, the U.S. standard of living over time and today’s high-tech workers. Also taking into consideration her experience as a practicing Buddhist for the past six years, she asked herself, “How would Buddha teach Econ 1?”

The idea of Buddhist economics appears nowhere in standard economic textbooks, and Brown could find no such course offering in other top economics departments in the United States.

So she relied on recent innovative and broader approaches in economics, including models based on human development and freedom and the exploration of the psychological underpinnings of economic choices. She also looked at ecological models based on sustainability to develop her new course, which is being offered separately from Econ 1.

Some aspects of the course and ideas here sound really interesting, and I can imagine that others might inspire questions and/or quibbles in the comments. Bearing in mind that a news release is more limited in its presentation than a syllabus or instructor’s statement, what do you think?

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  • sethedwards

    I hadn’t realized that E. F Schumacher had done work on this. I always assumed this would be inextricably tied to ethics, such as the Sarvodaya Shramadana movement in Sri Lanka. Good idea though, the class.