Category Archives: Planning

The Farther Reaches of Progressive Policy-making; CLA

(PROUT Globe, 14 June, 2013) – Have you ever marveled at how fantastically good great art is at depicting the manifold realities of our life? Or how deep a dream can be, so magnificently powerful that you only wished it was real? How about powerful symbols, do you sometimes feel they are of relevance to and even affect your life? Is there still space for that old mysticism in your life outside of — or perhaps inside — the ordinary and trivial? (Continued below the video.)

As opposed to that, how do you feel about politicians' routine wrangling, backbiting, mudslinging — the endless dry debating and power mongering of policy makers? Don't you sometimes feel they have become one-dimensional enough and could do with some more perspective — depths and heights — in their work processes?

To the rescue comes Causal Layered Analysis (CLA), the brainchild of futurist and Proutist thinker Sohail Inayatullah (see video above). Think bureaucrats meet radicals meet day dreamers meet depth psychology and you may have your CLA. Then again, you may not — take yourself out of the box, feel deeply, take in some more, and envision even more differently!

CLA explores four levels of being:

  1. The litany, the official unquestioned view of reality, such as "Capitalism works!" "Socialism is good!" etc.
  2. Social causes, the systemic perspective that explains and questions the data of the litany. For instance, "What are the causes of the financial crisis?" "Why are so many people poor?" etc.
  3. Discourse/worldview, where deeper, unconsciously held ideological, worldview and discursive assumptions are unpacked, such as "Capitalism is individualistic, short term oriented, corporatist," "Socialism is state oriented, bureaucratic run, collectivist," etc.
  4. Myth/metaphor, the unconscious emotive dimensions of the issue: "Capitalism is like an all-devouring bloodthirsty demon that only cares for itself," "Socialism is like an over-possessive mother that only thinks about keeping everyone and everything close to herself and never actually think for the freedom of others," etc.

The challenge, Inayatullah says, is to conduct research that moves up and down these layers of analysis and thus is inclusive of different ways of knowing. Doing this allows for the creation of authentic alternative futures and integrated transformation. CLA begins and ends by questioning the future.

The notion of reality as vertically constructed is far more appropriate than the poststructural notion of alternative horizontal discourses, Inayatullah holds. This perspective is derived from Indian philosophical thought — best developed by PROUT founder P. R. Sarkar — which asserts that the mind is constituted in shells or kosas. Moving up and down the shells is a process of moral and spiritual enlightenment. Going deeper into the mind is an inward process through which truths are realized.

"Like all genuinely spiritually oriented systems, Causal Layered Analysis takes not one but several spheres of reality into account when determining a future course. The method opens up for individual and collective synthesis across several levels of existence. As such CLA is in harmony with PROUT and lends itself well to helping evolve sound socio-economic and other policies among other things," PROUT Globe editor and Psychosynthesis lecturer Trond Overland comments.

As a method, the utility of CLA is not in predicting the future but in creating transformative spaces for the creation of alternative futures. As a theory it seeks to integrate empiricist, interpretive, critical, and action learning modes of knowing, an introductory paper informs us.

For example, while a doctoral student may use the method to organise different sorts of ‘data’ — quantitative, qualitative, and critical, for example — a company may use it to develop different sorts of products and services, or to rethink its purpose. An institution may use it to articulate its strategy for different audiences (for example, students, professors, the community, the government, various boards) with different temporal expectations (immediate needs, mid­term needs, long term needs). A social movement may use it to challenge conventional policy formulations by states and corporation.

"Its versatility is astounding," Overland says. "CLA is a natural, simple approach to making life more meaningful and truly productive. It has the power to transform your, my and our life again and again."

CLA has developed through doing. Through numerous uses in a variety of settings and countries — international organisations, universities, associations, non­governmental organisations, and business — the method has evolved, and has been refined in the process.

Dr. Sohail Inayatullah, a political scientist, is Professor at the Graduate Institute of Futures Studies, Tamkang University, Taipei; Adjunct Professor, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of the Sunshine Coast, Maroochydore; and Visiting Academic at Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane. In 1999, he held the UNESCO Chair at the Centre for European Studies, University of Trier, Germany. Inayatullah is co­editor of the Journal of Futures Studies and associate editor of New Renaissance.

Inayatullah has written and co­edited a dozen books. His books related to PROUT include Situating Sarkar: Transcending Boundaries and
Understanding Sarkar: The Indian Episteme, Macrohistory and Transformative Knowledge. The Sarkar Game is another great transformational tool close to Inayatullah's heart. He can be contacted via www.metafuture.org.

Cooperative Production – 2

By P.R. Sarkar

(16 May 1988, Calcutta) – Sharecroppers do not own land, but cultivate other people’s land for a share of the produce. Land usually is given to sharecroppers because it is too small for the landowner to make sufficient income from it. A sharecropper may arrange several hundred acres of land from different landowners. This system was first introduced seven hundred years ago. Sharecroppers are called bargadar or bhagcáśi in Bengali.

“Economic planning should be done on the basis of each block. The present boundaries of blocks should be reorganized or readjusted according to the fertility of the land and other factors such as topography and the similarities of the region.”

The cooperative system is far better than the sharecropping system. It can readily overcome the defects of the sharecropping system by properly utilizing agricultural land, increasing agricultural production and using modern technology. Cooperative members should elect a board of directors which will be able to supervise every aspect of production, thus increasing the out-turn. The maxim of agricultural cooperatives should be: “More production, more dividends and more bonuses.” Labourers will earn wages and bonuses. Wages will be earned according to the amount of labour done by the labourer, while bonuses should be paid on the basis of the net per annum profit of the cooperative according to the amount of a labourer’s net wage.

The sharecropping system may be replaced by different systems – at one pole is the commune system and at the other pole is the cooperative system. In the commune system there are no incentives at all. This system is worse than the sharecropping system. Lack of incentives is the reason why the state run communes have failed in China and the Soviet Union. Even today these countries have to import food grains from capitalist countries like Canada, the USA and Australia. But in the cooperative system there are incentives and a feeling of oneness with the job. Through their own initiative, cooperatives can take large loans from a bank or the government to purchase modern equipment and construct dams, barrages and shift or lift irrigation facilities to increase production. This never happens in the commune system. Thus, the cooperative system is the best system while the commune system is the worst. The commune system is detrimental to anything and everything that is human.

Economic planning should be done on the basis of each block. The present boundaries of blocks should be reorganized or readjusted according to the fertility of the land and other factors such as topography and the similarities of the region. For example, if most of the agricultural land in one block is fertile and the land in the adjacent block is mostly infertile, then the boundaries of these two blocks should be adjusted so that all the infertile land comes within one block. Planning can then be done for that block on the basis of the infertility of the land. A block-level programme can be easily taken to increase the productivity of the land, or to establish suitable agro-industries or agrico-industries for economic development.

In certain parts of India farmers do not cultivate fodder or keep land for rearing cattle, and this adversely affects the health of the cattle and decreases milk production. In the cooperative system a portion of the land may be kept for this purpose. Napier grass, which is fast growing, millet, jawar and non-poisonous khesári pulse can be grown for the cattle.

The varieties of khesári that are presently cultivated in India are very nutritious but contain poisonous alkaloids which cause paralysis in the lower limbs of both cattle and human beings. These poisonous alkaloids reside between the skin and the outer portion of the pulse. They can be easily eliminated if the pulse is soaked in water overnight and the following morning the outer skin is removed by rubbing the pulses together. The inner portion of the pulse can be safely eaten by both cattle and human beings.

Copyright Ananda Marga Publications 2012

Block-level Planning

P.R.Sarkar
PROUT advocates a planned economy for the establishment of progressive socialism. Such an economy, with its quadro-divisional system (that is, people’s economy, general economy, psycho-economy and commercial economy), aims to achieve all-round development and welfare of the human society in a progressive manner. PROUT wants to ensure a balanced economy through a multi-leveled, decentralized system of planning.

Four Guiding Principles of Planning

The leading economists, working in different level planning bodies, should keep in mind the following basic guiding principles:

  • Cost of production
  • Productivity
  • Purchasing capacity
  • Collective necessity

Let us discuss these points briefly.

Cost of Production

It is a traditional practice in rural economies that the farmers, with their other family members, work in the fields and produce crops. At the time of fixing the price of their crops they produce, they do not calculate how much labour was engaged in the cultivation. They do not pay wages to their family members, nor do they count the expenses incurred in cultivating their own lands, or the cost of the machines or tools they use in the fields. So they fail to scientifically calculate the real cost of the per unit production. Thus they incur losses and perpetually get low prices.

To determine the cost of the per unit production of agricultural commodities correctly, this sector of the economy must be reorganised and established on the same basis as industry through the co-operative system. According to PROUT, agriculture should be treated as an organised industry. Only then will the per unit cost of production be scientifically determined and the poverty of the farmers ended. They will get proper prices, and stability in the agricultural sector will be achieved.

Another aspect of this point is to follow the principle that every industry must see that the cost of production of a particular commodity should not exceed its market value. Every economic unit must be commercially viable.

Productivity

The economy should be organised in such a way that it has its own innate power to produce more and more. Money should be reinvested, money should be rolling rather than hoarded, and purchasing capacity and the wealth of society should be increased.

This principle guides planners in setting up the structure of a PROUT economy in such a way that first, maximum production can be made according to the collective need. This means supporting increased production based on a consumption motive and a full employment policy. As a consequence, purchasing capacity will increase. Secondly, under-utilization of any productive unit may not exist. Thirdly, maximum productive capacity of the whole economy can provide congenial conditions for more investment, more industrialisation, more employment, increased wealth, increased purchasing capacity, and increased capital formation in an ever-progressive manner.

If people are guided by the needs and potentialities of their socio-economic unit, the law of productivity is benign. Products should be developed wherever raw materials are available.

Purchasing Capacity

Another basic objective of planning is to enhance the purchasing capacity of each person. PROUT does not support the existing practice of considering the per capita income as the true index of people’s economic standard. Per capital income is a misleading, deceptive and defective measure of collective wealth popularised by capitalist economists to fool people and cover their exploitation. Instead, PROUT advocates that the advancement of the people’s economic standard should be measured on the basis of purchasing capacity.

To increase the purchasing capacity of the people, the following measures must be ensured: there must be availability of commodities according to the collective needs; the price levels should remain stable; no inflation should occur; there should be progressive, periodic increases in wages and salaries; and the collective wealth should be increased.

In PROUT’s economy there will be no limit to purchasing capacity; that is, the responsibility of planners will be to make purchasing capacity ever-increasing. The minimum requirements must be guaranteed, and always be increased according to time, space and person. Thus PROUT’s aim is to continuously increase the purchasing capacity of the people in conjunction with the economic development of the concerning economic unit.

Collective Necessity

Planners should consider the existing collective needs as well ad the future needs of the society. Accordingly they should chalk out their developmental programmes. In India, for example, many industries have been established but the production of electricity has not been increased. Through lack of proper planning, power production has lagged behind industrial development. This is especially evident in Bengal and Bihar. There is a lack of proper equipoise and equilibrium (prama’ in Sanskrit), in the development of collective necessities.

Planning Machinery

PROUT’s planning machinery will function at the central, state, district and block levels (and also at the global level after the formation of the World Government). The block level planning body is the lowest level planning unit in a Proutist economy. For the decentralisation of economic power, the devolution of planning is a necessary pre-condition.

The areas of a block as they are currently formed are mostly demarcated on the basis of political considerations. PROUT does not support such a division. These present divisions should be reorganized depending upon the following factors–the physical features of the area (including river valleys, varying climatic conditions, topography, the nature of the soil, the type of flora and fauna, etc.), the socio-economic requirements and problems of the people, and the different physico-psychic aspirations of the people. This scientific and systematic block demarcation should be the basis for efficient decentralised economic planning.

When planning is prepared for the all-round growth of a single block exclusively, such an attempt is called intra-block planning. In PROUT’s system, each block will have its own developmental planning, adjusting with the overall planning of a particular economic zone at its various levels.

Inter-block planning

However, there are problems which spill over the block boundaries and thus cannot be tackled or solved by one single block, like flood control, river valley projects, communication systems, higher educational institutions, afforestation projects, the environmental impact of development, the establishment of key industries, the erosion of soil, the supply of water, the generation of electricity, the establishment of an organised market system, etc. These problems cannot be solved by one block alone, so inter-block planning is necessary. Inter-block planning is an economic venture into some selected fields to harmonise and organise socio-economic development in a few adjoining blocks through mutual coordination and cooperation. In PROUT’s system, block level bodies will be constitutionally recognized.

Take the example of the Punjab and the Cauvery Valley. Will the planning for the Punjab and the Cauvery Valley be the same? The planning cannot be the same for three main reasons.

First, the Punjab rivers Jehlam, Chenab, Ravi, Beas and Sutlej are all of Himalayan origin. The provide a perennial source of water because they are ice-fed. But the rivers of the Cauvery Valley–Tungabhadra and Cauvery–are of Ghat origin (Eastern Ghat and Western Ghat). They depend upon seasonal rainfall. There are two rainy seasons in a year in the Cauvery Valley area, but they are not a perennial source of water because they are not ice-fed. Thus no hydro-electricity can be generated from the Cauvery Valley rivers, because of the uncertainty of water. But hydroelectricity can be generated in the case of the Punjab rivers because there is a supply of water throughout the year, as in the case of Bhakhra-Nangal dam. The Punjab rivers maintain their existence with the help of melted ice.

Secondly, the Cauvery Valley, being nearer the equator, has an extreme climate. Even the Punjab has an extreme climate but this is due to the different winds coming from the northwest and the east. The Cauvery Valley does not depend on any winds.

Thirdly, the central portion of the Cauvery Valley consists of wavy, laterite soil and is called the Deccan Plateau. There is a small slice of land situated between the hills and the sea that is alluvial soil and is a plain. Only a small portion of the Deccan plateau is of alluvial soil. The Punjab is plain. The Deccan peninsula consists of four coasts–first, the Utkal coast, stretching from the Mahanadi to Godavari; secondly, the Coromandal Coast, from Godavari to Cape Comerin; thirdly, the Malabar Coast, from Cape Comerin to Goa; fourthly, the Konkan Coast, from Goa to Gujrat. These coastal areas are not composed of wavy land. These coastal areas are known as the granaries of India, whereas in the Tilangana area in the Deccan plateau there is a chronic shortage of food. In the Cauvery Valley, the eastern coastal area, the Coromandal area, should chalk out a developmental programme. The Deccan Plateau can have only palmyra trees but no coconut trees, whereas the coastal areas can have both.

A proper approach to planning will take into account all the relevant factors before the developmental programme is implemented.

There are many benefits to block-level planning. Some of these benefits include the following–it is small enough for the planners to understand all the major and minor problems of the area; local leadership can come forward to solve the problems according to their own priorities; planning will be more practical and effective and will give quick, positive results; local socio-cultural bodies can play an active role in mobilising human and material resources; the unemployment problem will be easily solved; the purchasing capacity of village people will be enhanced; and a base for a balanced economy will be established.

Establishing proper equipoise and equilibrium (prama’)

Such a balanced growth will ensure a congenial condition for all the people of the society. It will provide full security to each and every person of the society since all their basic needs (food, shelter, clothing, medical care and education) will be met. This will help maintain proper equipoise and equilibrium–in the physical level by adjusting various sub-triangles in the socio-economic field.

In industry, agriculture, trade, commerce, energy and water supply, capital investment, production, distribution, supply and demand, etc. there should be a balance. In each and every sub-stratum of the economy, as well as in inter- strata relationships, prama’ should prevail.

In the physical level such balance can be established only when the following four points are achieved. First, the physical demand of the day and the physical demands of the foreseeable future are to be assessed and organised. Secondly, the physical supply of the day and the physical supply of the foreseeable future are to be organised and ensured. Thirdly, there should be maximum utilization of land. Finally, socio-economic development should occur according to the five fundamental principles of PROUT .

If these points are correctly followed and implemented in the society, prama’ in the physical level will surely be established. Then proper equipoise and equilibrium in the psychic level and in the spiritual level will be easier to attain.

Published with permission of Ananda Marga Publications. Copyright 2011. All rights reserved

Strategies to Eradicate Poverty: An Integral Approach To Development – I

Roar Bjonnes

1. Introduction

Poverty has many causes and expressions– including political, environmental, educational, cultural, and spiritual–economic reform is therefore not a panacea. To eradicate poverty, we must instead develop a multidimensional set of remedies. Most importantly, we must realize that economic growth is not an end in itself, it is simply the means by which civilization can advance and sustain the cultural and spiritual values of individual and society.

Despite tremendous advances in technology, economic development, and an increase in global wealth, the economic disparity between rich and poor has grown dramatically over the past 30 years. Growing numbers of people, primarily in the Southern hemisphere, do not have adequate access to life’s basic necessities–food, water, shelter, education, healthcare and employment. But economic poverty is not the only form of affliction that bankrupts human life. For among the affluent fifth of humanity–the car drivers, the internet surfers, and the throwaway buyers; in short, all who have access to the fruits of the global economy–another form of poverty is on the rise: the poverty of affluence, the poverty of the spirit. And, in an ironic twist of fate–the more the global economy tries to feed the social, psychological and spiritual hungers of the affluent with an ever-increasing array of material goods, the more the poor people of the South are effected, the more the environment suffers.

Therefore, to many of those who are concerned about the fate of humanity and the earth, the issue that looms larger and larger is this: how can we create a society that is free from poverty–both material and spiritual–and how can we do this without destroying the earth we live on in the process? In other words, since the dominant neo-liberal economy has failed us so utterly in eradicating poverty, what can we replace it with?

The influential, UN sponsored Brundtland Report, issued in 1987, declared that the answer is “sustainable development.” Now, more than a decade later–as both material and spiritual poverty has increased dramatically–it has become evident that deeper solutions are needed. Because, as sustainable development has become increasingly part of the global discourse, it has also maintained the fatal flaws of the neo-liberal development paradigm.

We need to move “beyond sustainable development” toward a spirit-centered vision of progress and economic prosperity. We need a development model that is life-centered rather than matter-centered; one that grows from local communities, that is cooperative rather than competitive, one that shares wealth equitably, maintains harmony with the earth, protects local markets, vitalizes local cultures, and makes spirituality the defining context of progress.

2. Global Poverty and Inequality

2.1 Poverty: A Rising Tide
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services.” Despite the growing globalization of economic and political affairs, for most of humanity today, these rights have become increasingly inaccessible.

Indeed, the combined accumulated wealth of the three richest individuals is greater than the combined gross national product (GNP) of the 48 poorest countries, or a quarter of the world’s nations.

Despite promises of greater equality by many politicians and economists, there has instead been a tremendous increase in economic inequality over the last 30 years. According to the UN’s Human Development Report (1998), in 1960, the income of the richest countries was 30 times greater than that of the world’s poorest countries. By 1995 this income disparity had increased to 84 times. In over 70 countries, per capita income is lower today than it was 20 years ago. And according to World Bank sources in 1999, almost three billion people–half the world’s population, live on less than two dollars a day.

Despite the conventional belief that the world’s economy has experienced soaring economic outputs during the past 30 years, the ranks of the world’s poor has continued to increase dramatically. Some 1.5 billion people now meet Robert McNamara’s 1978 definition of absolute poverty: ” a condition of life so limited by malnutrition, illiteracy, disease, squalid surroundings, high infant mortality, and low life expectancy as to be beneath any reasonable definition of human decency.”

The dismal reality of global poverty and hunger is even more disquieting when considering that goods and foods are more abundant than ever before. Yet the number of people without adequate shelter and enough purchasing capacity to buy decent food is growing. Clean drinking water is another growing problem. According to the Institute for Food and Development Policy, it is estimated that almost a third of all people in developing countries lack sufficient drinking water. A fifth of all children receive insufficient intake of calories and protein, and two billion people–a third of the human race–are suffering from anemia.

Although 30 million people die of hunger each year and 800 million suffer from malnutrition, the world’s food supply is abundantly high. “In fact,” writes Ignacio Ramonet in the French newspaper Le Monde Diplomatique, “food products have never been so abundant.” Indeed, according to the Institute for Food and Development Policy, there is enough food produced in the world today to supply each citizen with at least 2,700 calories per day. Millions of people, however, do not have the ability to purchase and consume enough food to avoid malnutrition and hunger.

Poverty and economic inequality are not just problems faced by poor nations. Amid the food bounty of the world’s richest nation–the United States–millions of children’s growth is stunted by malnutrition. With its unparalleled industrial and service economy, there are millions of unemployed and homeless people in the United States. Millions more work full time jobs while still remaining in poverty.

Economic inequality and material poverty are global problems facing people in both industrial and pre-industrial countries. Only in some countries, such as Sweden, Norway, Iceland, and a few other countries, where economic rights are seen as integral parts of democracy, has abject poverty been eradicated.

3. Toward A Broader Definition of Poverty

3.1 Beyond Facts and Statistics
To further understand the daunting economic inequality in the world, let us look at a few staggering facts gathered from the United Nation’s Human Development Report in 1998 and 1999. This data illustrate the growing inequity between rich and poor, between the North and the South.

An analysis of long-term trends shows that the economic disparity between the richest and poorest countries was about:

3 to 1 in 1820
11 to 1 in 1913
35 to 1 in 1950
44 to 1 in 1973
72 to 1 in 1992
84 to 1 in 1998

  • The 48 poorest countries in the Southern hemisphere account for less than 0.4 per cent of global exports.
  • The combined wealth of the world’s 200 richest people hit $1 trillion in 1999; the combined incomes of the 582 million people living in the 43 least developed countries is $146 billion
  • According to an Oxfam report, the lives of 1.7 million children will be needlessly lost this year [2000] because of failure to increase the standard of living of poor people.

As important as these economic facts are in illustrating the disparity between rich and poor people today, it is important to understand that poverty does not simply signify a threat to one’s physical existence (subsistence poverty), but, rather, the failure to achieve the standard of living that is usual in one’s own society. In other words, as Godfried Engbersen, professor of sociology at the Erasmus University, Rotterdam, writes: “[I]f we define those in the bottom 10 or 20 percent income bracket as poor, then there will always be poor people. But the bottom 10 or 20 percent in a very rich country can be prosperous. The term does not only denote the relative disadvantage of one group compared with others, it implies a threshold.”

Poverty, in other words, is a relative term that cannot be exclusively quantified through an economic framework. A farmer in the state of Kerala, India ( known for its high literacy and employment rates, its low birth rates, and its environmental awareness) is considered poor by Western standards. Because of relatively easy access to healthcare and education, however, the farmer can be considered “rich” compared to the landless, slum-dwellers of Bombay. Similarly, a Mexican, migrant farm worker in California may consider himself fortunate compared to his poverty-stricken relatives living in a shantytown across the border.

If we compare the Indian farmer with the Mexican farm worker, strictly on the basis of per capita income, the Mexican farmer comes out ahead. However, if we use the broader definition of poverty as described above, the Kerala farmer is better off. Although he may never be able to afford, or even need a car, by the standards of Kerala, he has all the basic requirements in order to lead a relatively healthy and fulfilling life, including a supportive community and family. Yet, while the Mexican farm worker drives a car and earns many times more than the Kerala farmer, by the standards of America, he is simply “a poor, migrant farm worker.” His work is seasonal; his home is a shack shared with five other men; he has no health benefits; he is illiterate; he cannot afford to rent an apartment or a house. Most importantly–as an economic refugee–he is separated from his family and his community. In short, his life has all the trademarks of poverty.

By thus broadening the definition of poverty, a household can be considered poor when its income is below a certain level depriving its members of material and other conditions necessary for proper participation in their society.

3.2 Impoverishment of People and Culture
Current development practices often creates poverty where there was virtually none before. Ladakh, or “Little Tibet,” is a case in point. When Swedish linguist Helena Nordberg-Hodge was introduced to a remote Ladakhi village by a young man named Tsewang in 1975, she was surprised to see that all the houses in the village were both large and beautiful. She therefore asked Tsewang where the poor people lived. “We don’t have any poor people here,” he said, even though, according to Western, capitalist development standards, the village would be considered “poor.” Almost a decade later, however–after Ladakh had received its share of Western- style development– Nordberg-Hodge overheard the same man talking to some tourists. “If you could only help us Ladahkis,” Tsewang said, “we’re so poor.”

In fact, over a period of two decades, Ladakh had indeed become poor in various ways. The people had become psychologically impoverished by feeling inferior to the newly introduced Western lifestyle after being invaded by the messengers of development–tourism, film, and advertisements. The new cash economy undermined their traditional barter system, which in turn, for the first time, created unemployment and a widening gap between rich and poor. The sudden introduction to pesticides, hybrid seeds and new growing methods, caused the precarious ecology of this arid area to become imbalanced. According to Nordberg-Hodge: “I have watched the appearance of unemployment and inflation and a dramatic rise in crime; I have watched population levels soar, fueled by a variety of economic and psychological pressures; I have watched the disintegration of families and communities; and I have watched people become separated from the land; as self-sufficiency is gradually replaced by economic dependence on the outside world.”

During the past 30 years, the South’s complex, cultural diversity has systematically been assaulted and impoverished by a new, commercial and global monoculture based on pop-music, violent films and seductive advertisements. “Westernized Indian films have,” according to Nordberg-Hodge, “had a profound impact on young Ladakhis, making them feel ashamed of their own traditions and values.”

This sudden imposition of a foreign culture upon another has become quite extensive through the globalization of the corporate economy. The newly adopted “pseudo-culture” often makes the indigenous peoples believe that their own culture is “inferior.” Thus they become easy prey for economic exploitation. P. R. Sarkar, propounder of the Progressive Utilization Theory (PROUT), terms this form of economic bondage “psycho-economic exploitation.”

The eradication of poverty must therefore be seen in a larger, cultural context. That is, to maintain and strengthen local culture, language, and indigenous values is integral to the struggle against hunger, unemployment and loss of natural resources.

3.3 Child Labor: Beyond the Myths
The International Labor organization’s “aim is to work towards the progressive elimination of child labor by strengthening national capacities to address child labor, and by creating a worldwide movement to combat it.” Most people in the North would agree that this is a noble goal. However, a closer look will show that people in the South do not all agree, especially not the poor children and parents involved. Just ask Khalid. You can meet him at the website of Save the Children Fund (www.oneworld.org/scf). Here he’ll tell you that “most people in my village stitch footballs. If there was a ban on child labor, most of [us…] would go hungry.”

Prompted by recent campaigns against child labor that backfired badly, Save the Children Fund (SCF) have had to rethink their strategy. In 1994 the US threatened to boycott garments made by children in Bangladesh where 50,000 children consequently lost their jobs only to end up as beggars and prostitutes. According to Rachel Marcus of SCF, the boycott had good intentions but “in Bangladesh it was seen as a case of Westerners selectively applying universal principles to a situation they did not understand.”

What organizations such as SCF is starting to understand is that “child labor,” in which children are exploited by multinational corporations, is merely a symptom of an unjust economic system that profits on the labor of the poor. In the words of an Indian NGO: “Only a total destruction of the monstrous economic system that dominates the earth today will help us put an end to child labor and starvation. This is what all well-wishers and friends of children in India should strive for.”

Recent statistics have revealed that only five percent of all the world’s child laborers are involved in sweatshops run by multinationals. The rest are working in the rice fields in India, in small artisanal businesses in Nepal, as herders in Africa, or as apprentices in Pakistan, in businesses which their families have run for generations. Thus many researchers and activists are now claiming that to ban such work is to destroy local cultures and economies, which would then simply facilitate the growth of the global market.

The issue of child labor thus illustrates the complex tapestry of reality we call “poverty.” It forces us to forego our Westernized assumptions and to ask questions such as: What is culture? What is a local economy? What is the role of children in a local culture and economy? What is work and what is education? For Nordberg-Hodge these questions are important, because the issue cannot be simply defined: “There is a blanket assumption that wherever children work, it is an abuse. But working with the family and community helps to shape their identity, gives them a vital role in life and a feeling of responsibility and belonging.”

4. Two Economic Myths

4.1 The Myth of GNP
Today the most widely used indicator of a country’s economic health is the gross national product (GNP). It is almost universally accepted that a climbing GNP means that a country’s people are becoming better off. But is this really true?

When Ladakh was a “poor,” sustainable subsistence economy, with a very low GNP, its frugal, yet culturally advanced inhabitants lived more in accord with the United Nations’s declaration of human rights than in the years since Western development arrived. In other words, an increased GNP caused by Western-style development did not, according to Nordberg-Hodge, increase the overall well-being of the Ladakhi people. Neighboring Bhutan is also an example of the limits of describing a society’s standard of living in strictly economic terms. In this Buddhist nation, people provide their own basic needs and live a life of relative leisure, which enable them to produce great art and music. The World Bank, however, describes Bhutan as one of the poorest countries in the world, simply because its gross national product (GNP) is one of the lowest in the world.

Another limiting factor of using GNP as a gauge is that it does not account for the environmental deterioration caused by development. As forests are cut and rivers polluted, no loss appears in the national accounting of GNP.

The predominant development paradigm’s one-dimensional view of progress hails that the regular and eternal improvement of the human condition can largely take place through the exploitation of nature and the acquisition of material goods. This view–widely favored by economists and development experts–often masks the negative economic, environmental, social, and cultural impacts of industrial growth. Moreover, the industrial nations’ rhetoric, as often expressed by the World Bank and the International Monetary fund (IMF)—that increased, capitalist development is the only solution to eradicate poverty–has often proven to be false. As the examples and facts above have shown, development programs may have increased a country’s GNP, but at the same time lowered the standard of living for a large percentage of the population, as well as increased the impoverishment of both environment and culture.

4.2 The Myth of Per Capita Income
In the United States per capita income is currently $48,000–the highest in the world. However, this national average income conceals the rampant disparity between rich and poor Americans. It conceals that about half of all American households earn less than $35,000 a year–not enough money for most people to buy a home. It conceals that millions of American households earn less than $12,000 a year. It conceals that nearly 40 million Americans do not have medical insurance. It conceals that Second Harvest, the largest hunger relief organization in the country, serves more than 25 million people annually. An increase in per capita income is, therefore, not sufficiently reliable as a scientific index to determine the standard and progress of a particular country.

Instead, suggests Sarkar, a person’s purchasing capacity is a far better index for how one’s economic needs are met. “Per capita income,” writes Sarkar, “is not a proper indication of the increase in the standard of living…because, while people may have very high incomes they may not be able to purchase the necessities of life. If per capita income is low, and people have great purchasing capacity, they are much better off. So, purchasing capacity and not per capita income is the true measure of economic prosperity. Everyone’s requirements should be within their pecuniary periphery or purchasing capacity.”

5. The Limits of the Development Paradigm

5.1 The Development Partition
The rationale behind the linear model of development, as implemented through economic liberalism today, was first advanced by U.S. President Harry Truman in his inauguration speech before Congress in 1949. In his address, Truman spoke emphatically about the deplorable conditions of the poorer countries, and he defined them for the first time as “underdeveloped areas.” In one grand, rhetorical sweep, Truman had created a concept that soon would divide a diverse world into three neat categories–developed, underdeveloped, and undeveloped nations–that could effectively further a new worldview. According to this new vision, all the people of the world were climbing up the same economic ladder, some slow, some faster, but all toward the same material goal. On top of this ladder were the Northern countries, most particularly the United States, and at the bottom were the countries of the South, with their hopelessly low GNP’s.

5.2 The Failure of Economism
The worldview that Truman so successfully articulated, and which now has become an accepted and entrenched development model, may be termed economism. According to this worldview, a country’s level of civilization is based on its ability to produce material goods–that is, to increase its GNP. To the societies in the South, who had, for centuries, advanced a more or less sustainable agricultural economy and advanced some of the world’s most sophisticated cultures, this model appeared to have little meaning. Yet, according to the Truman doctrine, these Southern countries were from now on to be recognized as poor, struggling nations, whose main goal was to copy the North by climbing to the top of the ladder of material progress.

Thus economic values superseded all other societal values. According to Wolfgang Sachs of the German Wuppertal Institute, a society no longer had an economy, society simply was the economy. However, this materialistic and one-dimensional ethos was not always embraced by the countries of the South. Instead society included a tapestry of functions, ideals, modes of knowing and cultural legacies that were often diametrically opposed to a society driven by the streamlined dictates of maximum economic output.

Consequently, over the past 40 years, the North’s development strategies have caused tremendous cultural upheaval. Thousands of local or indigenous subsistence cultures have been decimated during the forced process of joining the global race toward economism. However, the gap between the so-called underdeveloped and developed countries has not been closed. To the contrary, it has widened. In the process, millions of people have become uprooted from their local environment to join the poor day laborers or unemployed struggling to eke out a living in dilapidated and burgeoning shanty-towns from Mexico City to Calcutta. In short, modern development practices have been, for the most part, detrimental to both local economies and local cultures.

5.3 Economic Development and the Pooring of the Environment
The myth that the global economy can continue along the path it has been following since Truman’s speech in 1949 stems in part from the narrow worldview of economism. According to the business weeklies and forecasts by economists, the world’s economy is relatively healthy and long term economic growth prospects are promising. That is, relatively healthy for those countries with an advanced industrial or post-industrial economy, fueled, in part, by cheap labor and raw materials from the South. In Africa and Asia, for example, the economic prospects for most people are not promising. But more to the point, when it comes to relate economic demand levels to the health of the natural world, economic planners are at a loss. In fact, economic planning, guided as it is by economic indicators and basing its future predictions on past performances, have worried little about its impact or relation to the environment. Economism, in other words, often do not see the intricate relationship between economic output and its effect on the global ecosystem. This shortsightedness has had disastrous environmental consequences with often equally calamitous consequences to people, their culture and livelihood.

Some examples of the impoverishment of people and environment caused by modern development practices:

–It is estimated that almost half of all the rivers in the Philippines are biologically dead due to mining operations and deforestation by multinational corporations. In this country, with an annual per capita income of $680, millions of indigenous farmers and hunter gatherers have become landless due to erosion and loss of habitat caused by deforestation. Most of the wood harvested is exported to other Asian countries, such as Japan where it is used to make furniture, tooth picks and chop sticks. Most tropical countries in the world, which incidentally are the countries with the world’s richest biodiversity, experience problems similar to the Philippines.

–Deforestation is a worldwide phenomenon that has displaced and impoverished numerous indigenous peoples. “When a timber company moves into the forest, it doesn’t consult us or pay us any compensation. It has no respect for our holy places or burial grounds,” says Anderson Mutang Urud, leader of the Malaysian Indigenous People’s struggle Against the Destruction of the Sarawak Rainforest. By the late ’80s, the world’s forests were shrinking by an estimated 17 million hectares each year. As the need for cropland increased–in order to feed the world’s growing hunger for meat, paper, firewood and lumber–deforestation, dislocation of people, and poverty in these areas have also increased.

–A typical example of so-called Third World development is a World Bank funded coal-mining project in the Indian state of Bihar. This project has caused destruction of tribal people’s land and now threatens the remaining tiger habitats of India. Massive amounts of foreign capital has flowed into this area and caused a rapid growth of Mafia activities and further deteriorated the life of the local people.

–About 70 percent of the 5.2 billion hectares of dry land used for agriculture around the world is at risk of being turned into deserts due to the Green Revolution’s excessive use of pesticides, artificial fertilizers, etc. More than one billion people in 135 countries depend on this land for their survival.

–Initiated in the late 60’s, the Green Revolution’s goal was to increase grain yields, and, thereby, to end world hunger in a few decades. While the Green Revolution indeed has delivered its promise of higher yields, it has failed to alleviate hunger. According to the Institute for Food and Development Policy, there is now more food in the world but also more hunger. A narrow focus on increasing production–as the Green Revolution does–cannot alleviate hunger, because it fails to alter the tightly concentrated distribution of economic power, especially access to land and purchasing power.

Global development, spearheaded by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization, too often serve the interests of transnational corporate interests over those of national and local economies, cultures and environments. This type of development has, in the name of growth and profit, more often than not, increased the gap between rich and poor and furthered the deterioration of the planet’s precarious ecology.

5.4 Five Reasons Why Development Has Not Eradicated Poverty
The dominant neo-liberal development model has failed to deliver its promise of eradicating poverty in the world. Here is a summary of the five main reasons:

1. It has failed to bring economic equity. Economists Herman Daly and John Cobb maintain that development itself contributes directly to the growth of global poverty: “On the whole,…development policies in the Third world have made many landless, filled the vast slums surrounding Third World cities, and added to the problem of hunger.”

2. It has failed to integrate economic and ecological concerns. Too often we are consuming and destroying our biosystems instead of living in harmony with them. More to the point, the materially rich Northern countries extract natural resources from the biologically rich Southern hemisphere, thereby causing both economic and environmental breakdown in the
so-called Third World.

3. It has failed to protect local cultures and communities. Multinational companies generally do not ask the local people for permission to profit from its extraction of resources from an area. A typical example is the Choco region of Ecuador were oil and other natural resource companies have built a destructive network of roads, colonized and destroyed half of the country’s rainforest, and devastated the lives of thousands of native peoples.

4. It has failed to establish a global, human security policy, to bring about human rights, peace and justice. According to Michael Renner of the Worldwatch Institute: “A human security policy [must] include…redistribution of wealth, debt relief, job creation, technology development , more democratic and accountable governance, and the strengthening of civil
society.”

5. It has failed to provide depth of meaning. Official development policies have expanded the money economy ever more deeply into every sphere of human life. The increasing hunger for more material goods and profits has created a world of inequity, but also an impoverished global culture lacking in deep, human and spiritual values.

6. Toward Sustainable Economics

6.1 Questioning Current Economic Assumptions
The most basic tenets of free market capitalism or economic liberalism, which is the predominant economic model today, can, according to David C. Korten, be described as follows:

  • Sustained economic growth, measured by Gross National Product, is the foundation of human progress and essential to alleviate poverty
  • Free markets are the most efficient and socially optimal way to allocate resources
  • Economic globalization–the free flow of goods, irrespective of national borders, in an increasingly integrated world market–is beneficial for all
  • Local economies should abandon goals of self-sufficiency and instead attract outside investors in order to become internationally competitive

“These tenets,” according to Korten, “have become so deeply embedded within our institutions and popular culture that they are accepted by most people without question… To question them openly has become virtual heresy and invokes the risk of professional censure and career damage in most institutions of business, government, and academia.”

Moreover, the philosophical underpinnings upon which economic liberalism rests are rarely questioned. Briefly, according to Korten, these are: 1) humans are motivated by self-interest; 2) the action that yields the most profit is the most beneficial to individual and society; 3) competition is more beneficial than cooperation; 4) human progress is best measured in consumption, i.e…. those who consume the most contribute more to progress.

“The moral perversity of economic liberalism,” according to Korten, “is perhaps most evident in what it views as economic success in a world in which more than a billion people live in absolute deprivation, go to bed hungry each night, and live without the minimum of adequate shelter and clothing.” This moral perversity is even more appalling in light of the mounting evidence that the recent years increase in poverty and deprivation is a direct result of economic liberalism’s monopolistic domination of the Third World.

6.2 The Need For New Models of Development
Central to the question of how to eradicate poverty is the question of which type of development is best suited for the task. According to the dominant model of development that arose during the post-War era, economic growth is seen as the best way to eradicate poverty. Furthermore, economic growth is best promoted by privatizing community assets, deregulating markets, removing barriers to free-trade and investment, and protecting intellectual property rights. However, this model, as promoted by the so-called developed nations, has so far failed to eradicate economic inequality, human oppression, environmental imbalance, and the destruction of local cultures. In other words, development has failed to curb the underlying causes of global poverty. Consequently, new development models have arisen as alternatives to the dominant model. These new models are often referred to as “sustainable development.”

6.3 Two forms of Sustainable Development

1. As mentioned earlier, the sustainable development paradigm was first defined by the UN’s Brundtland report as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Development is defined as “a progressive transformation of economy and society.” Said another way, sustainable development involves balancing the environmental demands of human economic activities with the regenerative capacity of earth’s eco-systems. While sustainable development calls for substantial reforms in the functioning of the global economy, it does so–in most of its variants–within the context of the neo-liberal, free-market economy dominated by transnational corporations, the IMF and the World Bank.

2. Herman Daly and John Cobb, Jr. advanced a concept often termed “Strong Sustainability.” Their analysis starts out by pointing out that the Brundtland version leaves the definition of sustainable development vague in several respects: (1) development and growth are not clearly distinguished; (2) needs are not distinguished from luxuries; (3) the standard of assuring “the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” assumes that the future generations’ needs can be assessed by the present generation. To give an operational definition to sustainability, they advocate a system of capital accounting in which natural capital, and in which a portion of the income generated through exploitation of non-renewable resources are invested in developing comparable renewable resources. These renewable resources would be available for use by future generations.

6.4 Alternative Development Models
These development models–which also are referred to as sustainable–call into question some of the core institutions and ideological foundations of the world economy, such as growth, centralized economies, unprotected local markets, private domination of resources, and material increase as the sole measure of progress.

Post-development–holds the view that development theory is riddled with the fundamentally flawed assumptions of Western, industrialized civilization. This very notion of development is inherently intertwined with the free market conception of growth as economic expansion, with the acceptance of sovereign nation-states, with the privileging of commercial interests over civil society, and with the alienation of society from nature. As a result, it cannot possibly give a workable framework for solving the global poverty crisis.

The discourse of development theory must be abandoned, and new models must be formulated, informed by the traditions of indigenous peoples, spiritual values, and authentic regional cultures. Post-development supports the critique that, as expressed by Vandana Shiva, “development devalued people by declaring them underdeveloped.” Thus, development promotes a perception of “the Other,”–in this case, the global poor–instead of asserting humanity’s inherent unity.

Sustainable society–holds the view that sustainable development as held by the Brundtland Report is inherently unsustainable, as it calls for dramatic growth in the world economy in order to eliminate poverty. Gowth on such a scale, according to founders Justin Lowe and David Brower of Earth Island Institute, would be “attainable only with cataclysmic costs to the Earth and the future.” At the same time, it recognizes that the growing income gap between rich and poor societies is a fundamental problem. To create global equity, while protecting the planet, will require curtailing overconsumption by the affluent nations and controlling the exploding population in poor nations. As “sustainable growth is a contradiction in terms,” humanity’s goal should be a sustainable society, in which the emphasis is not focused on growth, but on policies that “redefine prosperity, alleviate poverty, assure justice, give priority to compassion, and recognize that these goals can only be achieved on a living planet.”

Balanced Development–proposed by social theorist Sohail Inayatullah, and others. This theory attempts to move away from the language of development theory by using the ideas of P. R. Sarkar and his PROUT theory. It calls for a dynamically balanced use of physical, mental and spiritual resources for the development of individual and society, and within the context of a strong ecological ethic. Development is not only balanced and dynamic, but is progressive; progress being conceptualized as movement toward spiritual enlightenment.

Grass-roots development–term coined by the New Internationalist magazine to signify a decentralist approach to sustainable development in which individuals and local communities take increasing control over their economic and social destinies, with a corresponding elimination of the influence of big business and, for the most part, big governments. This view has close affinities with the agenda of the bio-regionalists, who would add the need for local control over culture as well.

People-centered development–popularized by David C. Korten of the People-Centered Development Forum. Attempts to advance the emergence of “an awakening civil society,” particularly as it is seeking expression by progressive citizens organizations. Suggests that truly sustainable development can only occur where culture and the institutions of civil society are strong, local communities exercise economic self-determination, ecological systems remain vital, and societies are just and economies equitable. Also asserts that sustainability must be grounded in the realization that all life has a single spiritual unity, and that instead of pursuit of material wealth, we should actualize our spiritual awakening.

Natural Capitalism–proposed by Paul Hawken. Advocates socially responsible business practices in order to reverse global environmental and social degradation. This “double bottom line approach” to economics holds that commercial activity should generate both financial and social dividends. Economic reform will occur by holding corporations responsible for their actions through green taxes and external cost accountability. The task of this “capitalism with a green face” is to create new industrial and market designs that are “self-actuating as opposed to regulated or morally mandated.”

Emerging from these alternative models of development is the need for a comprehensive theory of development, one which must address, in integrated fashion, economy, ecology, society, and spirituality. To establish this new concept of development in practice, however, that will require a fifth element–the political. All these five elements are today to be found in the dialogue on sustainability and development. But how can they be brought together in an integral fashion? This can, in part, be achieved through the large scale integration of political action with the creation of model community-based socio-economic development projects. These locally based, small scale model development projects can spearhead a development movement that can counter the top-down planning characterized by today’s global economy. Nothing less, it appears, will suffice if we are to replace the world-wide dichotomy of affluence and poverty with a more equitable, humane, and ecological economy.

7. Economics As If All Living Beings Mattered

7.1 Toward New Economic Values
What will be the underlying values of the new economy? David C. Korten claims that “a sustainable society needs a spiritual foundation. Why? Because spirituality, not materialism, is the ultimate foundation of life. Economic liberalism has partly failed, he claims, because of its denial of the human quest for inner meaning and meaningful relations. The late British economist E. F. Schumacher concurs. In his seminal book, Small is Beautiful, he warned against the unsustainable nature of capitalism’s rampant materialism: “Economy as the content of life is a deadly illness, because infinite growth does not fit into a finite world. That economy should not be the content of life, has been told to mankind by all its teachers; that it cannot be, is evident today… If the spiritual value of inner man is neglected, then selfishness, like capitalism, fits the orientation better than a system of love for one’s fellow beings.”

Here Schumacher points out a central dogma in current economic thinking: that it is possible, even desirable, to fulfill infinite human longings with finite things. This materialist philosophy forms the underlying economic doctrine of today’s market capitalism, of our system of unlimited control over productive property. Put bluntly, it supports the dictum that selfishness and greed are good, even necessary fuels for the capitalist engine of growth.

This paradoxical philosophy has resulted in a market system in which land, food, and intellectual ideas are bought and sold without restrictions. As we have seen above, this “free market system” has created an economy of disparity, of unequal buying power, and of a deep schism between rich and poor. More specifically, this philosophy grants the concept of “the divine right of kings” to corporations. In other words, corporate owners are ultimately only responsible to themselves and their shareholders, not to their employees, nor to the environment, nor to the human community at large. Finally, this philosophy grants that unlimited accumulation of wealth is both positive and a basic human right.

Today it is widely accepted that unlimited exploitation of the globe’s finite natural resources is unsustainable. There is little support, however, for the idea that an economy based on unlimited accumulation of wealth, or unlimited control over private property, may be the direct cause of today’s economic and environmental problems.

Nevertheless, the accelerated accumulation of wealth in the hands of the few, has caused both economic disparity and environmental degradation. In short, while there has been an increase in the unbridled accumulation of wealth–which has resulted in an increase in GNP and per capita income, particularly in the Northern countries–there has also been an increase in the spread of poverty–both in the North, and, particularly, in the South.

As long as the basic tenet of unlimited hoarding of wealth remains fundamental to our economy, economic disparity and environmental degradation will continue. We will continue to accept as fair and inevitable that economic growth creates concentration of wealth, on the one hand, and unemployment, displacement of people and poverty, on the other. Without a fundamental rethinking of the current economic dogma of private property rights as an absolute right above all other values, and that human progress is best measured as increased material consumption, we cannot create an environmentally sustainable and poverty-free society.

7.2 Cosmic Inheritance
Economist E. F. Schumacher wrote that “no system or machinery or economic doctrine or theory stands on its own two feet: it is variably built on a metaphysical foundation, that is to say, upon our basic outlook on life, its meaning and its purpose.” The “metaphysical foundation” of economic liberalism is motivated by self-interest, individual property rights, and the fulfillment of our material or economic needs.

What, then, should be the basic outlook on life of the new economy? The spiritual conception of wealth, as described by Sarkar, expresses a common sentiment among many alternative development thinkers: “This universe is created in the imagination of the Supreme Entity, so the ownership of this universe does not belong to any particular individual; everything is the patrimony of us all. Every living being can utilize their rightful share of this property…This whole animate world is a large joint family in which nature has not assigned any property to any particular individual.” Sarkar termed this concept of wealth “cosmic inheritance,” and made clear its implications for economic theory: “The system of individual ownership cannot be accepted as absolute, hence [economic liberalism] too cannot be supported.” With a spiritual worldview as the basis for a new economy, the psychology of greed and selfishness is replaced with the psychology of collective welfare and cooperation.

7.3 Spiritual Progress
If the purpose of development–as presently conceived–is to increase material amenities, then sustainable development will certainly help us to continue to consume, but it will not help us attain inner fulfillment. Therefore, sustainable spirituality–the idea that true progress is movement toward inner fulfillment, toward self-realization– must be embraced by the sustainable development program. Spiritual progress subsumes material development, as people cannot pursue spiritual growth without adequate basic necessities such as employment, food, shelter, education, and medical care. So, the purpose of development, guided by a sense of spiritual progress, is to help us pursue personal and social pursuits that foster inner growth and communion with people and nature. Activities such as sports, art, music, theater, yoga, meditation, hiking, etc., do not simply fill our lives with more material things, instead they fill our lives with enjoyment, purpose and meaning.

7.4 Neo-humanism
Reverence for nature, for all non-human creatures is a natural extension of such concepts as cosmic inheritance and spiritual progress. “Our universe,” according to Sarkar, “is not only the universe of humans, but the universe of all; it is for all created entities.” Economic activity, therefore, must take into account the existential rights of other species. This outlook is an integral aspect of what Sarkar terms neo-humanism–the view that expands humanism to include a common, unified consciousness behind the diversity of nature. This outlook, this spiritual ethic, is growing amongst many seeking an alternative to the disparities of the global economy. According to Nordberg-Hodge, “we are talking about a spiritual awakening that comes form making a connection to others and to nature. This requires us to see the world within us, to experience more consciously the great interdependent web of life, of which we ourselves are among the strands.” Thus, neo-humanism–in essence a fusion of spirituality and humanist rationality–is based on principles of love and respect for all beings, sharing, cooperation and spiritual progress. This is in stark contrast to economic liberalism’s idea that the most conspicuous human motives are self-interest, competition, and hoarding of wealth.

8. Beyond Poverty: Two Strategies Toward Eradicating Poverty

8.1 Short Term Strategy
The fluctuating stock markets in the Makati business district in the Philippines means little for the thousands of poor searching the dumps nearby for food and salable trash. From Moscow to Manila, millions of scavengers are oblivious to the economic decisions made by wealthy CEO’s of multinational corporations. While billions of dollars circle the globe in daily electronic transactions, it is estimated that four-fifths of the world’s 6.1 billion people barely scrape by. For them, high-sounding phrases such as cosmic property and spiritual progress are meaningless. Instead, they are in dire need of a global Marshall plan that can rapidly turn their lives around. Such a plan, however, is not likely to arrive on the global horizon before world economic and political leaders embrace a neo-humanist vision and a strong, moral impetus for change. Meanwhile, is there any hope for the poverty-stricken captives at ground zero? Is there any hope to increase their welfare and purchasing power? There is. Here are some short term strategies that can eradicate poverty from the bottom up:

Debt relief: Poor countries “would be better able to marshall resources for human security purposes if their foreign debt burden were substantially lighter,” writes Michael Renner of the Worldwatch Institute. Without a more determined debt relief strategy, many countries–particularly the most severely indebted low-income countries–will be unable to rise up from poverty and dependence.

Land reform: It is a common myth that to take land away from big producers will lower food output and therefore increase poverty and hunger. But in reality, smaller farms produce more per acre than larger farms. Moreover, wealthy landowners utilize only part of their land. In Brazil, for example, landowners cultivate only 11.3 percent of their land. While incomes in Sao Paulo are double the national average, half of the city’s 12 million inhabitants live in squalid favelas (slums). If land is made available for small family farms and cooperatives, the growing exodus from rural to urban areas in countries such as Brazil could be reduced dramatically. While many half-hearted land-reform efforts have given this anti-poverty strategy a bad name, genuine redistribution of land has shown great benefits in productivity, efficiency, and alleviation of poverty. In Kerala, India, for example, over 2 million acres have been redistributed since 1969, and given ownership to 1,5 million farmers.

Land titles: Millions of poor people all over the world are squatters on government or private land. According to Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto, many of them are entrepreneurial, but they need economic support to either start or expand a business. The key to this, he claims, lies in giving them property rights. With such rights, a land title can be leveraged with a mortgage, used as collateral for a bank loan, or sold. With this money, poor families can pull themselves out of an otherwise doomed future. Furthermore, combined with a system of land titles, micro-lending would be less risky. De Soto has initiated such programs with great success in Lima, Peru and is currently consulting with several governments in South East Asia.

Land plot cooperatives: There are millions of acres of uneconomical land plots in rural areas throughout the world. These plots can be brought under immediate cooperative management. By merging many small plots of land together, the owners of these landholdings can join as members of a cooperative. According to Sarkar, “In cases where the landowners employ labor for cultivation, fifty percent of the net profit will go to the landowners and fifty percent to the laborers who work in the cooperatives.”

Subsidies for small farmers: Agricultural subsidies now favor large scale agribusinesses. Shifting a portion of those subsidies to small-scale farming will revitalize poverty-stricken rural areas by promoting employment, diversified agriculture, healthier soils, and reduce the exodus to city slums.

Low interest loans to farmers: The World Bank and the IMF could initiate a “Marshall plan” based on low interest micro-loans to poor farmers in the Third World. By directly lending to the poor farmers and sharecroppers–who often are enslaved in poverty for the rest of their lives due to exorbitant high interest loans from village loan sharks–local, rural communities could quickly be revitalized.

Eco-villages: Although most eco-villages are located in the affluent countries of the North, some also focus on helping poor, rural communities in the South achieve self-sufficiency. One such project is the Parque Ecologico Visao Futuro (Future Vision Ecological Park) in the interior of Sao Paulo state, Brazil. According to its founder, Didi Anandamitra, the goal of this project is “to provide a practical model for social and economic life that can be replicated in communities, especially rural communities, everywhere.” The eco-village features many projects that involve participation by the local community, including organic gardens, waste recycling, a sewing cooperative, a bakery, seminar programs, and plans for a low-cost, preventive healthcare facility. Integrated projects, such as these, can–in conjunction with aid agencies from both the North and the South–help reduce the exodus of poor people from rural villages to city slums.

Micro-lending: There are two types of micro-lending. 1) Micro-loans that consist of a support group of four or five peers, each of them receiving a loan for their business and each of them responsible for one another. Instead of material collateral, the system is based on honor and mutual dependence. This system is well suited for labor-intensive businesses that normally are unable to get a bank loan. 2) Micro-loans disbursed to small, already existing or start-up business enterprises and solo proprietors. Micro-lending, recently endorsed by the World Bank and other antipoverty agencies, has already helped thousands of businesses thrive in Europe, North and South America and Asia.

Selective trade protectionism: Since the global economy’s free trade policies have proven utterly ineffective in alleviating poverty in the South, it is in the immediate interest of local Third World governments to initiate a careful policy of using tarrifs to regulate the import of goods that instead could be produced locally.

Child-labor cooperatives: CREATE–an organization based in Ferozabad, India helps glass-bangle producing children form cooperatives and deal directly with company owners instead of middlemen. Through a combination of programs that include skills training for older children and education for younger children, CREATE is aiming to eradicate child labor in harmful operations such as welding. As direct bans on child labor have proven counterproductive, seed money from international aid agencies could instead duplicate CREATE-cooperatives in countries were child labor is an integral part of the local economy.

It is commonly believed that we must choose between globalized, more efficient production systems and less productive, more localized systems. This tradeoff is a myth. Greater equity, more fairness in economic production, and increased ownership of land can not only release untapped productive capabilities, it is the most effective way to create an economy free from poverty and hunger. Global poverty is a global malady that requires immediate attention. The sooner politicians, economists and scientists realize that this ailment can not be treated by increased globalization and centralization of the economy, the sooner these short term strategies can be implemented.

Continued in Part Two

Strategies to Eradicate Poverty: An Integral Approach To Development – II

Roar Bjonnes

8.2 Long Term Strategy
There are currently three explanations for why there are so many poor people in the Third World. One school of thought blames it on cultural factors. Something in the work or savings ethics, this theory hails, prevents them from developing like their Northern counterparts. The second theory claims that much of the world never learned to implement capitalism right. According to the third school, both these theories are condescending and plain wrong.

The third school looks at poverty as a chronic disease, as a systemic failure of the socio-economic organism caused by the cancer of greed and its manifestations throughout the economy. The cure for poverty, it claims, requires nothing less than an integral restoration of the whole organism. This long term, integral treatment consists, among others, of the following set of remedies: equitable distribution of wealth, justice through both political and economic democracy, a decentralized, ecological and self-sufficient economy, a balance between cooperation and competition, a constitutional right to life’s basic necessities, culturally appropriate education, a consumption-motivated rather than profit-motivated economy, agricultural reform, a philosophy of life that supports all being’s interests rather than self-interest, and a worldview that sees the spiritual unity of all life.

Economic decentralization: From sustainable development theorists to environmental activists, from bio-regionalists to natural capitalists, from Thomas Jefferson to P. R. Sarkar, increased economic decentralization is seen as the only panacea for the economic exploitation caused by centralized economies, whether capitalist or communist. Hawken’s natural capitalism speaks of the need to “replace nationally and internationally produced items with products created locally and regionally.” The main reason for this, according to Sarkar, is to avoid a policy of economic centralization that is merely an effective strategy to accumulate increasing capital in the hands of the few. There is, according to him, only one way to effectively stop economic exploitation and alleviate the plight of the common people, and that is to implement a policy of decentralization in all sectors of the economy. Economic decentralization is also more benign to the environment as less resources are used for transportation of goods and raw-materials, and because local people are less likely to pollute their own neighborhoods.

While a centralized economy’s focus is on its expanded markets, concentrated capital and increased profits, a decentralized economy concerns itself with its small-scale, localized units of cooperation. The goal of a decentralized economy is the welfare of all, but first and foremost to alter the plight of the poor. A decentralization strategy, therefore, attempts to raise a country’s or region’s poverty threshold from the bottom up–to immediately increase people’s purchasing capacity, even if that entails starting less profitable and labor intensive industries. In the long run, profitability cannot be ignored, of course, but it should not be the central rationale of the economy. The primary interest of decentralization is that all natural resources of any given area is controlled by local people. This principle is in stark contrast to today’s globalized economy where cheap labor and raw materials in one region are exploited by business owners from another, often causing great inequities and poverty.

Production for consumption, not profit: A consumption economy is an integral aspect of a decentralized economy and should not be confused with a profit-oriented consumer economy. A consumption economy is an economy where goods are produced as per people’s need. A consumer economy is an economy where goods are produced and sold solely for profit. A consumer economy, according to the famed retail analyst Victor Lebow, demands that we make consumption a way of life…that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction, in consumption…We need things consumed, burned up, worn out, replaced, and discarded at an ever-increasing rate.” A consumption oriented economy, on the other hand, produces goods not to be consumed and discarded but to satisfy the true needs of the local people. Such production will ensure economic stability, no capital flight, goods at affordable prices, and a continuous increase in people’s purchasing capacity. Finally, as the consumption economy’s main goal is to satisfy basic human needs, it also provides the economic security needed for people’s non-material sources of fulfilment–family, community, culture, and spirituality.

Cooperative enterprises: The Darwinian notion that competition promoted the evolutionary survival of the fittest individual is outdated. New research reveals that evolutionary success had more to do with the survival of the fittest community through interwoven cooperation. Dubos and other biologists argue that cooperation, teamwork, collaboration, and federation has been inbred in our genes over hundreds of thousands of years. Thus, many social observers argue that cooperation, not competition, will be the cornerstone of a more equitable economy.

Indeed, recent business management studies indicate that the most effective production incentives are profit-sharing, equity, and decision-making participation. In worker owned and managed cooperatives all three of these production incentives are maximized. Not to be confused with inefficient, unprofitable, Soviet-style communes, cooperatives are best suited to elicit the productive potentiality of workers, and should therefore be the predominant form of economic enterprise. Cooperatives also minimize worker alienation, promote equitable distribution of wealth, and support economic decentralization. Moreover, a cooperative economy is a natural extension of a spiritual worldview. According to Sarkar, “The wonts of the human heart are joy, pleasure, and beatitude. In the physical realm, the best expression of this human sweetness is the cooperative system.”

Small-scale private enterprises: Proponents of today’s free market capitalism seem to have forgotten that their mentor, Adam Smith, proposed a competitive market structure in which there were no corporate businesses with monopolistic powers. Similarly, Sarkar claims that excessive inequities can best be avoided if private enterprise consists mainly of small businesses such as restaurants, stores, artisan shops, service and cottage industries with no more than a few dozen employees. That is, small-scale, private capitalism stimulates the entrepreneurial spirit and purchasing power of individuals and families, yet avoids the gross disparity and poverty so often caused by unbridled concentration of wealth in the hands of corporate monopolies.

Economic democracy: Concentration of wealth and economic power corrupts the political process. In Third World countries, especially, money buys votes outright, and the moguls of capital maintain the ultimate veto power of capital flight: if government policies are enacted which threaten their financial interests, they can move their capital out of the local or national economy and wreak economic havoc. Economic power must therefore be dispersed–it must be extended beyond the political sphere and into the economic sphere.

Self-sufficient, regional economies: People can best collaborate in social and economic development if they work together within regional socio-economic units that are defined on the basis of uniform economic potentials, common economic problems, similar geographic features, ethnic similarity, and common sentimental legacy. For such locally sensitive development to take place, there needs to be regional autonomy in certain collective spheres of life. In particular, regional economies need to control their resources and capital and be totally free from any kind of domination by outside economic forces.

Culturally appropriate education: Illiteracy and poverty are often synonymous. Education is therefore an integral element of creating economic self-sufficiency and social harmony. Using essentially the same curriculum the world over, however, modern education is often training children to become “better servants” of the global economy. Promoting regional and local adaptation in the schools, instead, would be an essential part of the revitalization of local economies. Trade schools and higher education must adopt to local needs and conditions. “Training in locally adapted agriculture, architecture, artisan production (pottery, weaving, and so on), and appropriate technologies suited to the specifics of climate and local resources would,” according to Nordberg-Hodge, “further a real decentralization of production for basic needs.” Since one’s mother tongue is the most natural medium for the expression of ideas, primary education should be in the local language, but appropriate, secondary languages can be supplemented later.

Environmental balance. Over the past 30 years, we have seen how the environment suffers when people have either too much or too little. The rampant consumerism in the Northern countries has been remarkably effective in destroying the earth’s ecosystems. Yet the opposite extreme–poverty–is equally destructive, as hungry people in the South put forests ablaze and steep, erosion prone slopes to the plow. The ultimate solution to all environmental problems, however, lies not so much in finding so-called sustainable development solution, but, rather, in developing a world-centric consciousness (Wilber), a deep spiritual understanding for what nature is and how it operates. From this deep understanding of human psychology and spirituality, on the one hand, and the natural world, on the other, humanity can develop a genuine environmental ethics. In other words, develop a balanced socio-economic philosophy based on the dynamic interrelationship between the fields of ecology, economy and spirituality. At this point in history, this is one of humanity’s most urgent tasks.

Free trade: The giant globalization efforts by the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank is promoting “free trade” and “free markets” as a panacea for creating prosperity and sustainability. In reality, current economic globalization efforts have, for the most parts, delivered exactly the opposite of what has been promised. Today’s so-called free trade between rich and poor nations, between the North and the South, has widened the gap between the rich and the poor, as well as increased environmental degradation. In order to effectively reduce disparity and dependency on loans from outside sources, free trade should be discouraged until fair and free trade can be attained between self-sufficient and economically resourceful countries or regions.

Population balance: It is commonly believed that world hunger and poverty is caused by “too many mouths to feed.” According to the Institute for Food and Development Policy, this is simply a myth. Rapid population growth is not the root cause of hunger and poverty. Rather, both increased population growth and poverty is caused by economic inequity. The real challenge, then, is to bring human population into balance with economic resources and the environment through decentralized, economic planning.

Cultural vitality: The irony of material development is that it has created what Paul Wactel calls “the poverty of affluence.” While consumerism has enticed people in the North into gorging on material things, it has failed to provide a sense of inner fulfillment. This lifestyle, whose “bottom line” is “looking out for number one,” has created a superficial culture of fame, wealth and success that justifies selfishness and breeds alienation and loneliness. Yet the opposite extreme–material poverty–is also devastating to the human spirit. Not having enough creates hopelessness and forces many into lives of beggary, prostitution, and thievery. Both these extreme conditions signify a loss of the deep sense of belonging and inner beauty a vibrant culture has to offer, including non-material treasures such as sharing, service, friendship, family, community, meaningful work, artistic creativity, and spiritual communion. Restoring a community’s non-material treasures and cultural roots is an integral part of overcoming poverty–whether spiritual or material.

Sustainable globalism: Decentralization, self-sufficiency, and smaller scale industries does not mean neglecting a global agenda. But, while contemplating globalism’s new information technology and the liberal capitalist, multinational economy, it is important to remember that most planetary citizens do not yet have a telephone, let alone a computer, nor do they need, nor can they afford, the foods served by Burger King or the running shoes advertised by Nike. Today’s economic globalism is not in the service of the poor, and it has little relevance to their cultural, economic and spiritual aspirations. Instead, the world’s poor need a global movement with two, separate, yet integrated goals: 1) a strengthening of the global polity through the UN, combined with a gradual movement toward a global federation, or world-government that can safeguard the needs and rights of people and the environment, and 2) the formation of self-sufficient, socioeconomic regions of free trade zones–that is, a global grid of sustainable and self-sufficient trading partners.

Spiritual globalism: Environmental destruction, due to ignorance, is nothing new in human history. According to biologist Rene Dubos: “All over the globe and at all times, men have pillaged nature and disturbed the ecological equilibrium, usually out of ignorance, but also because they have always been more concerned with immediate advantages than with long-range goals.” What is new, however, is the presence of more dangerous means to destroy the environment. In return, there is increased public interest in saving our planetary home. But how? The solution, according to Wilber, is not to “reactivate the tribal form of ecological ignorance (take away our means), nor to continue the modern form of that ignorance (the free market will save us), but rather to evolve and develop into an integrative mode of awareness that will–also for the first time in history–integrate the biosphere [nature] and noosphere [spiritual] in a higher and deeper union.”

9. Conclusion

A truly sustainable development program–and thus the solution to eradicate global poverty–will only emerge in coalition with sustainable spirituality. From this union a more equitable and environmentally sound globalism can emerge. From this source, a newly fed, a newly bountiful, and a newly awakened family of global citizens will draw its present and future inspiration.

Glossary

basic necessities–human needs required for survival, i.e. clothing, shelter, medical care, food, education, and employment

consumer economy–economy based on production of material goods according to the human desire for economic profit

consumption economy–economy based on production of material goods according to human needs rather than economic profit

decentralized economy–the opposite of a centralized economy, it signifies a small-scale, localized economy designed for the welfare of both people and environment

economic liberalism–economic paradigm that promotes free markets and globalization to the detriment of local economies, belief that sustained economic growth is the foundation of human progress; also termed neo-liberalism

economism–a worldview that defines progress in material terms only, i.e. a country’s level of civilization is determined based on its ability to produce material goods

material poverty–lack of basic human needs usually required for survival within one’s society

material progress–a gradual increase in the production and consumption of material goods; an increase in the quality of material goods, often with detrimental side-effects to human culture and the natural world

neo-humanism–spiritual philosophy that expands humanism to include the welfare and existential rights of animals and plants; sees all of existence as bound together in an ecology of consciousness

PROUT–socio-economic theory that calls for a society’s dynamic and balanced use of material, mental and spiritual resources within the context of a strong ecological ethic

psycho-economic exploitation–when the use of advertisement or other propaganda makes indigenous populations believe their own culture, dress, food, or language is inferior and thus become easy prey for economic exploitation by outsiders

purchasing capacity–an individual’s economic capacity to purchase material goods in one’s society

spiritual poverty–a psychological state, generally among the affluent, expressed as a constant hunger for more material things; a sense of alienation, loneliness, and spiritual emptiness

spiritual progress–a gradual increase in inner well-being, peace and harmony that culminates in a state of enlightenment and bliss

Bibliography

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Anderson, Mutang (1995) Voice of the Sarawak Rainforest, interview in Common Future magazine, pp 38, issue No 1, Ashland, Oregon. Describes indigenous peoples struggle against destruction of Malaysian rainforest]

Brown, Lester (1991) Saving the Planet: How to Shape an Environmentally Sustainable Global Economy, pp121-122, New York: W.W. Norton & Company. [Describes how to create a world economy that does not destroy the ecosystem on which it is based]

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Dolan, Kerry A. (2000) Waking Dead Capital, pp 99-112, article in Forbes magazine, May 15, New York. [Describes economist Hernado de Soto’s efforts to grant land titles to the poor in Manila, Philippines]

Durning, Alan (1992) How Much is Enough?, pp1-150, New York: W. W. Norton & Company. [Describes the devastating effect consumerism has on people, culture and environment]

Ignacio, Ramonet (1998) The Politics of Hunger, article in Le Monde Diplomatique, France. [Examines the underlying political and economic reasons for hunger]

Korten, David C. (1996) The Mythic Victory of Market Capitalism, pp 184, essay in The Case Against the Global Economy, edited by Jerry Mander and Edward Goldsmith, San Francisco: Sierra Club Books. [Argues that the original ideas of Adam Smith have been distorted beyond recognition by right-wing economic ideologues]

Logan, Ron (1995) A Brief Survey of Concepts of Development, pp 27, article in Common Future magazine, No 2, Ashland, Oregon. [Describes various forms of sustainable development models]

______. (1995 Frontwords, pp 2, editorial in Common Future magazine, No 2, Ashland, Oregon. [Five reasons why neo-liberalism has failed to achieve a sustainable society]

Moore Lappe, Frances (1998) World Hunger: Twelve Myths, pp1-178, New York: Grove Press. [Examines the economic and political causes of hunger and poverty]

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McNamara, Robert S., (1981) The McNamara Years at the World Bank: Major Policy Addresses of Robert S. McNamara 1968-1981, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Nordberg-Hodge, Helena (1991) Ancient Futures: Learning from Ladakh, pp1-192, San Francisco: Sierra Club Books. [Describes the effect Western development has had on the culture, economy and people of Ladakh]

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Copyright The author 2011

A New Vision of Development

Roar Bjonnes
The rationale behind the current model of global development was first advanced by U.S. President Harry Truman in his inauguration speech before Congress in 1949. In his address, Truman spoke emphatically about the deplorable conditions of the poorer countries. He defined them for the first time as “underdeveloped areas.” In one grand, rhetorical sweep, Truman had created a concept that soon would divide a diverse world into three neat categories–developed, underdeveloped, and undeveloped nations. According to this new vision, all the people of the world were climbing up the same economic ladder, some slow, some faster, but all toward the same material goal. On top of this ladder were the Northern countries, most particularly the United States, and at the bottom were the countries of the South, with their hopelessly low Gross National Products (GNP).

The Failure of Economism

The worldview that Truman so successfully articulated has been termed economism by the German author and green activist Wolfgang Sachs. According to this worldview, a country’s level of civilization is based on its ability to produce material goods–that is, to increase its GNP. To the society’s in the South, who had, for centuries, advanced a more or less sustainable agricultural economy and advanced some of the world’s most sophisticated cultures, this model appeared to have little meaning. Yet, according to the Truman doctrine, these Southern countries were from now on to be recognized as poor, struggling nations, whose main goal was to copy the North by climbing to the top of the ladder of material progress.

Thus economic values superseded all other societal values. According to Sachs, a society no longer had an economy, society simply was the economy. However, this materialistic and one-dimensional ethos was not always embraced by the countries of the South. For them, society included a tapestry of functions, ideals, modes of knowing and cultural legacies that were often diametrically opposed to a society driven by the streamlined dictates of maximum economic output.

Consequently, over the past 40 years, the North’s development strategies have caused tremendous cultural upheaval. Thousands of local or indigenous subsistence cultures have been decimated during the forced process of joining the global race toward economism. However, the gap between the so-called underdeveloped and developed countries has not been closed. To the contrary, it has widened. In the process, millions of people have become uprooted from their local environment to join the poor day laborers or unemployed struggling to eke out a living in dilapidated and burgeoning shanty-towns from Mexico City to Calcutta. In short, modern development practices have been, for the most part, detrimental to both local economies and local cultures.

Economic Development and the Destruction of the Environment

The myth that the global economy can continue along the path it has been following since Truman’s speech in 1949 stems in part from the narrow worldview of economism. According to the business weeklies and forecasts by economists, the world’s economy is relatively healthy and long term economic growth prospects are promising. That is, relatively healthy for those countries with an advanced industrial or post-industrial economy, fueled, in part, by cheap labor and raw materials from the South. In Africa and Asia, for example, the economic prospects for most people are not promising. But more to the point, when it comes to relate economic demand levels to the health of the natural world, economic planners are at a loss. In fact, economic planning, guided as it is by economic indicators and basing its future predictions on past performances, have worried little about its impact or relation to the environment. Economism, in other words, often do not see the intricate relationship between economic output and its effect on the global ecosystem. This shortsightedness has had disastrous environmental consequences with often equally calamitous consequences to people, their culture and livelihood.

Five Reasons Why Development Has Not Eradicated Poverty

The dominant neo-liberal development model has also failed to deliver its promise of eradicating poverty in the world. Here is a summary of the the five main reasons:

1. It has failed to bring economic equity. Economists Herman Daly and John Cobb maintain that development itself contributes directly to the growth of global poverty: “On the whole,…development policies in the Third world have made many landless, filled the vast slums surrounding Third World cities, and added to the problem of hunger.”

2. It has failed to integrate economic and ecological concerns. Too often we are consuming and destroying our biosystems instead of living in harmony with them. More to the point, the materially rich Northern countries extract natural resources from the biologically rich Southern hemisphere, thereby causing both economic and environmental breakdown in the so-called Third World.

3. It has failed to protect local cultures and communities. Multinational companies generally do not ask the local people for permission to profit from its extraction of resources from an area. A typical example is the Choco region of Ecuador were oil and other natural resource companies have built a destructive network of roads, colonized and destroyed half of the country’s rainforest, and devastated the lives of thousands of native peoples.

4. It has failed to establish a global, human security policy, to bring about human rights, peace and justice. According to Michael Renner of the Worldwatch Institute: “A human security policy [must] include…redistribution of wealth, debt relief, job creation, technology development , more democratic and accountable governance, and the strengthening of civil society.”

5. It has failed to provide depth of meaning. Official development policies has expanded the money economy ever more deeply into every sphere of human life. The increasing hunger for more material goods and profits has created a world of inequity, but also an impoverished global culture lacking in deep, human and spiritual values.

Toward Sustainable Economics

The most basic tenets of free market capitalism or economic liberalism, which is the predominant economic model today, can, according to author David C. Korten, be described as follows:

  • Sustained economic growth, measured by Gross National Product, is the foundation of human progress and essential to alleviate poverty
  • Free markets are the most efficient and socially optimal way to allocate resources
  • Economic globalization–the free flow of goods, irrespective of national borders, in an increasingly integrated world market–is beneficial for all
  • Local economies should abandon goals of self-sufficiency and instead attract outside investors in order to become internationally competitive

“These tenets,” according to Korten, “have become so deeply embedded within our institutions and popular culture that they are accepted by most people without question… To question them openly has become virtual heresy and invokes the risk of professional censure and career damage in most institutions of business, government, and academia.”

Moreover, the philosophical underpinnings upon which economic liberalism rests are rarely questioned. Briefly, according to Korten, these are: 1) humans are motivated by self-interest; 2) the action that yields the most profit is the most beneficial to individual and society; 3) competition is more beneficial than cooperation; 4) human progress is best measured in consumption, i.e…. those who consume the most contribute more to progress.

“The moral perversity of economic liberalism,” according to Korten, “is perhaps most evident in what it views as economic success in a world in which more than a billion people live in absolute deprivation, go to bed hungry each night, and live without the minimum of adequate shelter and clothing.” This moral perversity is even more appalling in light of the mounting evidence that the recent years increase in poverty and deprivation is a direct result of economic liberalism’s monopolistic domination of the Third World.

The Need For New Models of Development

Central to the question of how to eradicate poverty is the question of which type of development is best suited for the task. According to the dominant model of development that arose during the post-War era, economic growth is seen as the best way to eradicate poverty. Furthermore, economic growth is best promoted by privatizing community assets, deregulating markets, removing barriers to free-trade and investment, and protecting intellectual property rights. However, this model, as promoted by the so-called developed nations, has so far failed to eradicate economic inequality, human oppression, environmental imbalance, and the destruction of local cultures. In other words, development has failed to curb the underlying causes of global poverty. Consequently, new development models have arisen as alternatives to the dominant model. These new models are often referred to as “sustainable development.”

Sustainable Development

The sustainable development paradigm was first defined by the UN’s Brundtland report as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Development is defined as “a progressive transformation of economy and society.” Said another way, sustainable development involves balancing the environmental demands of human economic activities with the regenerative capacity of earth’s eco-systems. While sustainable development calls for substantial reforms in the functioning of the global economy, it does so–in most of its variants–within the context of the neo-liberal, free-market economy dominated by transnational corporations, the IMF and the World Bank.

Alternative Development Models

These development models–which also are referred to as sustainable–call into question some of the core institutions and ideological foundations of the world economy, such as growth, centralized economies, unprotected local markets, private domination of resources, and material increase as the sole measure of progress.

Post-development–holds the view that development theory is riddled with the fundamentally flawed assumptions of Western, industrialized civilization. The discourse of development theory must be abandoned, and new models must be formulated, informed by the traditions of indigenous peoples, spiritual values, and authentic regional cultures. Post-development supports the critique that, as expressed by Vandana Shiva, “development devalued people by declaring them underdeveloped.” Thus, development promotes a perception of “the Other,”–in this case, the global poor–instead of asserting humanity’s inherent unity.

Sustainable society–holds the view that sustainable development as held by the Brundtland Report is inherently unsustainable, as it calls for dramatic growth in the world economy in order to eliminate poverty. Gowth on such a scale, according to founders Justin Lowe and David Brower of Earth Island Institute, would be “attainable only with cataclysmic costs to the Earth and the future.”

Grass-roots development--a term coined by the New Internationalist magazine to signify a decentralist approach to sustainable development in which individuals and local communities take increasing control over their economic and social destinies, with a corresponding elimination of the influence of big business and, for the most part, big governments. This view has close affinities with the agenda of the bio-regionalists, who would add the need for local control over culture as well.

People-centered development–popularized by David C. Korten of the People-Centered Development Forum. Attempts to advance the emergence of “an awakening civil society,” particularly as it is seeking expression by progressive citizens organizations. Suggests that truly sustainable development can only occur where culture and the institutions of civil
society are strong, local communities exercise economic self-determination, ecological systems remain vital, and societies are just and economies equitable.

Natural Capitalism–proposed by Paul Hawken. Advocates socially responsible business practices in order to reverse global environmental and social degradation. This “double bottom line approach” to economics holds that commercial activity should generate both financial and social dividends. Economic reform will occur by holding corporations responsible for their actions through green taxes and external cost accountability. The task of this “capitalism with a green face” is to create new industrial and market designs that are “self-actuating as opposed to regulated or morally mandated.”

Balanced Development–proposed by social theorist Sohail Inayatullah, and others, attempts to move away from the language of development theory by using the ideas of P. R. Sarkar and his PROUT theory (Progressive Utilization Theory). PROUT calls for a dynamically balanced use of physical, mental and spiritual resources for the development of individual and society, and within the context of a strong ecological ethic. Development is not only balanced and dynamic, but it is progressive; progress being conceptualized as movement toward spiritual enlightenment. Central to PROUT’s vision of a more balanced society are decentralized economics, economic democracy, cooperative enterprises, self-sufficiency, and both a minimum and maximum income.

Emerging from these alternative models of development is the need for a comprehensive theory of development, one which must address, in integrated fashion, economy, ecology, society, and spirituality. To establish this new concept of development in practice, however, will require a fifth element–the political. All these five elements are today to be found in the dialog on sustainability and development. But how can they be brought together in an integral fashion? Through the large scale integration of political action with the creation of model community-based socio-economic development projects. These locally-based, small scale model development projects can spearhead a development movent that can counter the top-down planning characterized by today’s global economy. Nothing less, it appears, will suffice if we are to replace the world-wide dichotomy of affluence and poverty with a more equitable, humane, and ecological economy.

Economics As If All Living Beings Mattered

What will be the underlying values of the new economy? David C. Korten claims that “a sustainable society needs a spiritual foundation. Why? Because spirituality, not materialism, is the ultimate foundation of life. Economic liberalism has partly failed, he claims, because of its denial of the human quest for inner meaning and meaningful relations. The late British economist E. F. Schumacher concurs. In his seminal book, Small is Beautiful, he warned against the unsustainable nature of capitalism’s rampant materialism: “Economy as the content of life is a deadly illness, because infinite growth does not fit into a finite world. That economy should not be the content of life, has been told to mankind by all its teachers; that it cannot be, is evident today… If the spiritual value of inner man is neglected, then selfishness, like capitalism, fits the orientation better than a system of love for one’s fellow beings.”

Here Schumacher points out a central dogma in current economic thinking: that it is possible, even desirable, to fulfill infinite human longings with finite things. This materialist philosophy forms the underlying economic doctrine of today’s market capitalism, of our system of unlimited control over productive property. Put bluntly, it supports the dictum that selfishness and greed are good, even necessary fuels for the capitalist engine of growth.

This paradoxical philosophy has resulted in a market system in which land, food, and intellectual ideas are bought and sold without restrictions. As we have seen above, this “free market system” has created an economy of disparity, of unequal buying power, and of a deep schism between rich and poor. More specifically, this philosophy grants the concept of “the divine right of kings” to corporations. In other words, that corporate owners are ultimately only responsible to themselves and their shareholders, not to their employees, nor to the environment, nor to the human community at large. Finally, this philosophy grants that unlimited accumulation of wealth is both positive and a basic human right.

Today it is widely accepted that unlimited exploitation of the globe’s finite natural resources is unsustainable. There is little support, however, for the idea that an economy based on unlimited accumulation of wealth, or unlimited control over private property, may be the direct cause of today’s economic and environmental problems.

Nevertheless, the accelerated accumulation of wealth in the hands of the few, has caused both economic disparity and environmental degradation. In short, while there has been an increase in the unbridled accumulation of wealth–which has resulted in an increase in GNP and per capita income, particularly in the Northern countries–there has also been an increase in the spread of poverty–both in the North, and, particularly, in the South.

As long as the basic tenet of unlimited hoarding of wealth remains fundamental to our economy, economic disparity and environmental degradation will continue. We will continue to accept as fair and inevitable that economic growth creates concentration of wealth, on the one hand, and unemployment, displacement of people and poverty, on the other. Without a fundamental rethinking of the current economic dogma of private property rights as an absolute right above all other values, and that human progress is best measured as increased material consumption, we cannot create an environmentally sustainable and poverty-free society.

Cosmic Inheritance

Economist E. F. Schumacher wrote that “no system or machinery or economic doctrine or theory stands on its own two feet: it is variably built on a metaphysical foundation, that is to say, upon our basic outlook on life, its meaning and its purpose.” The “metaphysical foundation” of economic liberalism is motivated by self-interest, individual property rights,
and the fulfillment of our material or economic needs.

What, then, should be the basic outlook on life of the new economy? The spiritual conception of wealth, as described by Sarkar, expresses a common sentiment among many alternative development thinkers: “This universe is created in the imagination of the Supreme Entity, so the ownership of this universe does not belong to any particular individual; everything is the patrimony of us all. Every living being can utilize their rightful share of this property…This whole animate world is a large joint family in which nature has not assigned any property to any particular individual.” Sarkar termed this concept of wealth “cosmic inheritance,” and made clear its implications for economic theory: “The system of individual ownership cannot be accepted as absolute, hence [economic liberalism] too cannot be supported.” With a spiritual worldview as the basis for a new economy, the psychology of greed and selfishness is replaced with the psychology of collective welfare and cooperation.

Sustainable Spirituality

If the purpose of development–as presently conceived–is to increase material amenities, then sustainable development will certainly help us to continue to consume, but it will not help us attain inner fulfillment. Therefore, sustainable spirituality–the idea that true progress is movement toward inner fulfillment, toward self-realization– must be embraced by the sustainable development program. Spiritual progress subsumes material development, as people cannot pursue spiritual growth without adequate basic necessities such as employment, food, shelter, education, and medical care. So, the purpose of development, guided by a sense of spiritual progress, is to help us pursue personal and social pursuits that foster inner growth and communion with people and nature. Activities such as sports, art, music, theater, yoga, meditation, hiking, etc., do not simply fill our lives with more material things, instead they fill our lives with enjoyment, purpose and meaning.

Neohumanism
Reverence for nature, for all non-human creatures, is a natural extension of such concepts as cosmic inheritance and spiritual progress. “Our universe,” according to Sarkar, “is not only the universe of humans, but the universe of all; it is for all created entities.” Economic activity, therefore, must take into account the existential rights of other species. This outlook is an integral aspect of what Sarkar terms neohumanism–the view that expands humanism to include a common, unified consciousness behind the diversity of nature. This outlook, this spiritual ethic, is growing amongst many seeking an alternative to the disparities of the global economy. According to activist Helena Nordberg-Hodge, “we are talking about a spiritual awakening that comes form making a connection to others and to nature. This requires us to see the world within us, to experience more consciously the great interdependent web of life, of which we ourselves are among the strands.” Thus, neohumanism–in essence a fusion of spirituality and humanist rationality–is based on principles of love and respect for all beings, sharing, cooperation and spiritual progress. A stark contrast to economic liberalism’s idea that the most conspicuous human motives are self-interest, competition and hoarding of wealth.

Copyright The Author 2003

Some Aspects of Socio-Economic Planning

P.R. Sarkar
According to PROUT human society is one and indivisible. Human society is just like a garland which is made of different types of flowers, woven together by one common thread. The overall beauty of the garland is dependent upon the beauty of each flower. Likewise, each strata of society must be equally strengthened if we are to maintain the unity and solidarity of society.

“The first step to decentralized planning is to make an economic plan according to the needs of the lowest level.”

To establish a well-built social order in any country three fundamental factors are essential. The first is discipline. Patainjali began his Yoga Sutra with the aphorism:

Atha yoganusha´sanam.
“Now I am going to explain Yoga as a school of self-discipline.”

Similarly, to build a well-knit social order discipline is an essential prerequisite. Some countries of the world are fast losing their power because there is no discipline in individual or collective life. The second requisite factor is that there must be proper ideological inspiration for all-round individual and collective progress. Thirdly, there must be economic stability. The economy of a country must be sound.

All-round progress and advancement also requires specific principles. When these principles are given a practical shape they become a fundamental part of the socio-economic structure of society. Socio-economic development thus entails proper plans and programmes. As socio-economic factors vary from place to place socio-economic potentialities also vary. Factors like the fertility of the land, the availability of labour, etc. may be diametrically opposite in two different parts of a region, so if need be there should be separate planning for each part. For example, the northeast and southeast districts of Bihar suffer from surplus and deficit labour problems. Hence it is nothing but foolishness to prescribe the same planning for both areas. Experiments in centralized planning have been made to try and solve such problems, But they have inevitably failed. Those powers which directly concern economic decentralization should be in the hands of the states or concerning lower level governments. If this is not done, it is not possible for them to materialize the economic programmes that are vested in them by decentralization.

The first step to decentralized planning is to make an economic plan according to the needs of the lowest level. Block-wise planning should be the most basic level of planning. The aim of the planners should be to make each block economically sound so that the entire socio-economic unit will be self-sufficient. Only then will a county or federation become economically strong and developed in the real sense. This approach to planning is the special, unique feature of PROUT’s economic decentralization.

The question is, how can decentralization be implemented? What exactly will be the procedure or basis for creating socio-economic units? According to PROUT self-sufficient socio-economic zones or units should be established throughout the world. These units should be formed on the basis of the following factors – same economic problems, uniform economic potentiality, ethnic similarity, same sentimental legacy, and similar geographical features. Based on these factors, the whole of India and the entire world can be reorganized into socio-economic units. These units would not merely be geographical areas but also socio-economic areas. The basic consideration is social, cultural and economic and not religious or linguistic. This concept of establishing strong, self-sufficient socio-economic units is an important aspect of applied PROUT.

The justification for establishing socio-economic units throughout the world lies in the fact that any attempt to develop an area economically must start at the grass-roots level. That is, the direction of economic development should be from the bottom to the top, not from the top to the bottom. The latter approach is impractical and a utopian myth.

Each socio-economic unit should prepare its own developmental programme and for this several factors need to be considered. These include natural resources, topography, river systems, cultural conditions, communication and industrial and developmental schemes or projects. These factors will enable a unit to facilitate proper planning and development to become economically self-sufficient.

Up until now no serious effort has been made by the rulers of India for the economic development of the country, either in the pre-independence period or in the post-independence period. The post-independence period can be divided into three main phases – the Nehru era, the Gandhi era and the Janata government. All these three eras came within the jurisdiction of capitalist rule and they all had one thing in common – they had a soft state policy towards the capitalists. The Janata government represented a counter movement within the capitalist age. It was neither an intellectual revolution nor an intellectual counter-evolution, but simply a movement of capitalist mentality. It was an intellectual reformist approach motivated by capitalist interests. To strengthen its position it tried to give the capitalists better scope to chew the bones and marrow of the laborers, warrior-minded and intellectuals. As it was a counter movement it was short-lived and brought laborer revolution nearer. Consequently, there was no economic development during that period. Hence, for the Proutists there was no alternative but to form socio-economic groups.

As far as India is concerned, about 44 socio-economic groups may be formed. In addition many socio-economic groups may be formed al over the world. In most cases each socio-economic group would form one socio-economic unit, but in some cases one unit may consist of more than one socio-economic group. These groups represent a collection of human beings who want to move together, and all the people in these groups are our brothers and sisters. Thus such groupifications can never be ultravires to humanity. Any human being or non-human being who wants to break the solidarity of society must be opposed, and you will have to fight against such elements. When you have to fight antisocial and anti-human forces in Asia, Europe, the world or the entire universe, you must fight as a single unified entity. That is, whenever you have to fight against inhuman forces all the socio-economic groups of the world are one, and in this fight you must fight for the oppressed and suppressed people of the globe.

Some vested interests may try and brand PROUT’s applied approach as parochial, but is this justified? The three bases of PROUT’s socio-economic groups are cultural, social and economic. Culture denotes all sorts of human expressions. The best possible means of communicating these human expressions is through one’s mother tongue as this is most natural. If people’s natural expression through their mother tongue is hampered then inferiority complexes will grow in their minds. This will encourage a defeatist mentality which ultimately leads to psycho-economic exploitation. An example is the imposition of the Hindi language by a section of Indian leaders as the national language of India. Hindi is not the natural language of the people in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, etc. There are many local dialects in these regions which need immediate encouragement. To utilize the sentimental legacy of the people, people must raise their socio-economic consciousness, know who their exploiters are, expose psycho-economic exploitation and become imbued with fighting spirit. While you should encourage the use of all tongues, this does not imply opposing the study of other languages. Language in itself is of secondary importance; of primary importance is the cultural and socio-economic consequences of linguistic imperialism.

A language usually changes every 1000 years and a script every 2000 years. There was no script at the time of the Vedas. The composition of the Rk Veda started 15,000 years ago and ended 5,000 years ago, thus the entire composition was done over 10,000 years. In those days people used to write on the skin of sheep. Later people started to write on papyrus, and still later papyrus became paper. Bangla was written with wooden pens and Oriya with iron pens. To save the paper from being cut by the iron pens, Oriya letters became round.

The seed of expression of all languages is the same. Geo-racial differences were responsible for the emergence of the different races. The different races have developed numerous languages. The four races in the world are the Austrics who originated from Asia, the Negroids who originated from Africa, the Mongoloids who originated from Mongolia, and the Aryans who originated from central Asia. The original home of the Aryans was southern Russian, east of the Ural Mountains, now known as the Caucasus. The Muslim land of the USSR includes Uzbekistan, Tazakiestan, Azarbaizan, etc. Today Aryans can be divided into three groups – Nordic, Alpine and Mediterranean. Nordic Aryans belong to Scandinavian countries and they have red complexions and golden hair. Alpine Aryans belong to Germany and the surrounding areas. They have a reddish-white complexion, blackish-blue hair and blue eyes. Mediterranean Aryans belong to southern Europe and have white complexion, black hair and black eyes. Geo-racial conditions may produce changes in the vocal cords and other centres or plexi. Consequently, the entire pronunciation and other items of language may change. Hence, language alone is not a sound basis upon which to integrate society or demarcate socio-economic units.

To ensure the social-economic development of a region, several additional problems must be considered and include the following. The first concerns those problems arising from the inconvenience faced by the many people who have to travel to other regions to find employment. There should be no need for people to leave their own area to find employment as there is enough scope for creating employment in every region. Furthermore, when people travel to other regions there is the unnecessary economic burden of maintaining two establishments.

Secondly, to ensure the socio-economic development of each unit, the drainage of money from one region to another must be checked. If the drainage of money is not checked, the per capita income in a socio-economic unit cannot increase. For this reason every socio-economic group should demand the cent percent utilization of state or central revenue raised in its area till the per capita income comes on par with the most developed area in the country. Stopping the drainage of money from a region is the most practical and courageous approach to uprooting exploitation. However, present leaders will never dare to adopt this approach.

Thirdly, to fulfil the mutual needs between regions, PROUT encourages the barter system in preference to the export system. The export system ultimately becomes commercial and competitive and leads to exploitation.

Another measure that PROUT advocates is the abolition of income tax. If income tax is abolished and excise duty on excisable commodities is increased by only 10%, there will be no loss of government revenue. When there is no income tax, nobody will try to accumulate black money. All money will be white money and as a result there will be economic solidarity, an increase in trade and commerce, more investment, more employment and an improvement in the position of foreign revenue. Intellectuals should take up the demand for the abolition of income tax.

In addition, there should be free education for all students up to the highest degree, guaranteed employment for all youth, irrigation facilities for all farmers, and cheap rations – that is, cheaper than the present ration rate for all essential commodities like rice, pulse, flour, sugar, vegetable oil and cooking oil – for all labourers.

PROUT’s fundamental policy is that it is against small states as these become taxing and burdensome to the citizens. Socio-economic units should demand separate development projects, and in order to materialize this they may also demand the separate allocation of resources in the budget. However, if any unit finds that obstacles are being created from some quarters in materializing its development projects, that unit will have no alternative but to demand the formation of a separate unit

The size of PROUT’s socio-economic units is ever-expanding. Smaller units will merge together to form bigger ones. A day may come when the entire South-East Asia will become one unit. The following four factors provide the basis for socio-economic units to merge together in the future – diminishing economic disparity amongst the units, the development of science and communications, administrative efficiency and socio-cultural mixing.

Finally, geo-psychological characteristics are another important aspect of socio-economic planning. For example, people living in an east-wet area are weak and lethargic, while those living in a west-dry area are strong and active. This may be called the “east-wet Theory”. These characteristics are not due to individual strengths or weaknesses but are the result of geo-psychological factors. In India for example, the Punjabis live in a dry western region and are physically strong and hard working. The Assamese, who live in a wet eastern region, are physically weak and lethargic. Such factors should be given proper consideration when formulating socio-economic plans.

Thus, it is crystal-clear that the applied side of PROUT is based on humanistic patriotism and not geo-political patriotism like other theories and philosophies. While other theories only encourage enmity and rivalry, in PROUT’s socio-economic groups all sit together and coordinate and cooperate with each other. Hence, PROUT’s applied approach can never be justifiably branded as parochial.

Now let us discuss some concrete examples. Some examples of how decentralization can benefit particular industries include the following. First, take the jute industry. In Bengal many jute factories were closed after the British left. This was a disaster for jute farmers as they were then at the mercy of the buyers because they had to sell their raw jute immediately. The main problem of the jute industry was to eliminate these middlemen. To salvage the jute industry, jute producers should establish producer cooperatives to manufacture and supply jute thread from raw jute. Spinning mills should purchase jute thread directly from the jute producers and manufacture bags, coarse cloth, etc. for consumers cooperatives.

Tobacco is grown in the north of India, processed in the south, and again taken back to the north. Farmers in the north should have the facilities to convert raw tobacco into chopped tobacco; that is, there is no need to send it to the south of India for processing. This will lead to more employment and a drop in the price of tobacco.

The match industry was functioning successfully through cooperative production. However, the government undermined this industry as it came to the assistance of big manufacturers when they were being undersold.

The tea that is grown in southern India should be replaced by rubber plantations. Although both require much rain, rubber is more useful and profitable than tea. A product should have both usefulness and a market.

In addition, hydro-electric plants should be built in North Bengal where there is much rain; pineapple leaf fibre can be used for the manufacture of cloth; limestone from Purulia can be used for making cement; stone chips from Bankura district can be used for roads; molasses and mung dal can be produced from Nadia district; abundant fish can be grown by developing aquaculture in Biirbhum district; and sugar cane pulp can be used in the paper industry in West Uttar Pradesh and Punjab.

Now let us take the examples of Angadesh and Jammu and Kashmir to see how proper planning might apply to specific socio-economic areas of India.

Angadesh

In Angadesh the indigenous population is being exploited by outsiders. The Aunga people are poor and destitute, and most of them depend on agriculture for their livelihood. Their lot can only be improved when some progressive farming methods are adopted. For example, those parts of Purnia, Katihar, Madhepura and northern Bhogalpura which extend up to six miles from the southern bank of the Ganges River could grow selected cash crop successfully. A new system for growing cash crops in this area is outlined below.

1) Kerala hybrid variety of coconuts. Before planting each sapling, a three-foot deep hole should be dug and five kilos of salt should be put into the bottom of the hole. The salt should be covered with a layer of sand and then the sapling should be planted erect and compacted with more sand to fill the hole. A pyramid of sand should be made above the level of the soil around the base of the sapling. Leaf mould should be placed at the top of the pyramid. This will be gradually absorbed into the soil. In the event of a shortage of rainfall the saplings should be irrigated by a sprinkler system which will create a natural environment of rain for the plants. The plants will thus grow in a natural way.

2) Black-pepper farming. This will not require any further land if black-peppers are planted beside coconut trees as the black-peppers will climb on the trees. Black-peppers do not need any fertilizers other than leaf mould and cow dung manure.

3) Arecanut cultivation of Cooch Bihar variety. This can be cultivated very successfully on the same land. Cow dung manure should be administered once a year before the rainy season starts. All the old dead leaves of the arecanut plants should be removed and the plant should be cleaned in the months of September and October.

4) Pineapple or ananas. A good harvest of pineapples can be gained in those fields of Purnia, Katihar and Madhepura districts where the rainfall is more than six inches. In salty soil also there can be good harvests. In Purnia, Siliguri variety will produce a good harvest, and in Katihar and Madhepura, Baruipur (Calcutta) variety is suitable.

5) Red pepper and green chilli. In the northern portion of Aun?ga red pepper and in southern Aun?ga green chillies of Kalana (Burdwan) variety will yield good harvests as seasonal cash crops of second grade. Green chilli of Ba´vagi (Sowa) variety will be better in South Aun?ga. Manure should be mustard cakes, custard cakes and baranj cakes – that is, the residue of these seeds after the oil has been extracted.

6) Mangoes. The Malda district of North Aun?ga will grow good crops of fajali, langara, a´sina, swajpuri, laksmanbhog etc. – in fact all varieties of mangoes. Where there is a scarcity of land, these varieties can be grown in large earthen pots. The manure should be a mixture of 25% cow dung compost, 25% leaf mould compost, 25% bone fertilizer and 25% crushed bricks. Dead lime can replace bone fertilizer.

In southern Aunga grapes will be a very good seasonal crop. Jackfruit of Bankura variety and blackberries of red Jammu variety are also very good. In the hilly land of southern Aunga, the following can be produced – cloth, carpets, mats etc. from the fibres of sisal variety of bamboo (Ram bamboo); sericulture and silk from custard plant cultivation; and mulberry and mulberry silkworms. In addition, in South Aunga papaya can be grown and from this papane can be produced. Rice bran oil and cement can also be manufactured from rice husks. In north Aun?ga jute cultivation can be used to produce match sticks and paper can be produced from the residue of sugar cane and maize or corn cobs.

In the red soil of Aunga, Hyderabad variety of grapes, Bankura or Ananda Nagar variety of papaya, cashew nuts and jackfruits of Bankura variety, blackberries of Red Jammu variety, and mangoes of Rarhi Bombay and Rarhi Madhukalkali varieties will grow very well.

Elections are very costly. In India money for elections comes from capitalists – both local capitalists and foreign agencies. Exploitation exists in each and every sphere of life – social, economic, cultural, psychic, etc. Exploiters do not care whether an area is a surplus or deficit labour area. Bhojpuri is a surplus labour area while parts of Bengal and Assam are deficit labour areas. All of these areas are exploited by exploiters. Angadesh and Assam are the worst affected areas. In Angadesh Bhagalpur and Monghyr are the only cities and in these two cities outside exploiters dominate. They have no sympathy for the local people, their language or their sentimental legacy. Ranchi is also controlled by outside exploiters while in Orissa land and assets are in the hands of outsiders.

Jammu and Kashmir

The three portions of Jammu and Kashmir are Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. Jammu is known as Dvigartbhumi in Sam´skrta. It consists of hills and plateaus – not valleys. In plateau areas autumn rice can be grown and in the low land areas winter rice can be grown. Maize can be grown in the hilly areas by the terrace system. The climate is good for cattle, especially the Gujurat variety of buffalo. The land is also suitable for rapeseed and mustard seed cultivation. It is not suitable for summer paddy, although autumn and pre-winter paddy can be grown. Medicinal herbs can be produced. Agro-industries should be established throughout the region.

Kathua, a district in Jammu, falls within the Shivalik ranges. The land is very good for oil seeds. In the time when the mythological epic the Ramayana was written it was know as Kastoka. Kast means wood, and since the place was famous for wood, it was called Kastaka. Ground nut and paddy can be grown to earn foreign exchange. The shell of the groundnuts can be used to manufacture coarse paper.

In Jammu coffee can be grown and in Kashmir tea can be grown. In the highlands of Jammu peas and Arhar pulses can be grown. In the low land Bengal gram and black gram can be grown. Lentil pulse can be grown with wheat as a companion crop. Sugar beet can be grown in upper Jammu, and seeds can be grown in Doda. The main problem is irrigation. This can be solved by small river projects and lift pumping.

Kashmir is a land in the upper Himalayas consisting of valleys and hills. In Varamula district some part is valley land and some is snow-covered hilly land. In Srinagar the major portion is valley, and some portion is snow covered. In Kashmir paddy crops can be grown in autumn and pre-winter but the land is not good for growing wheat because of the extreme cold.

The people of Kashmir belong to the Mediterranean group of Aryans. The Kash were the original people of Kashmir which is why the region was called Kashmir. Kashmiri was derived from Pashcataya Prakrta like the languages Uzbeki and Tazaki.

Ladakhi is part of the Tibetan group of Pashcatya Prakrta. The Majhari community of Ladakh know Urdu while the upper class know English. The prevalent script is Tibetan. Southeast Ladakh is dominated by Mahayani Buddhism. Kargil is the largest city in Ladakh. Ladakh is a snow-desert – the Sahara is a hot desert. In the northwest of Ladakh people do not know Urdu. In Baluchistan the majority of the people do not speak Urdu. From Baramulla to Anantnag districts of Kashmir, Kashmiri is the spoken language.

Shia Muslims are predominant in the northwest of Ladakh, and they speak Ladakhi sprinkled with Urdu. Kashmiri is spoken in Muzaffarabad, Baramulla, Anantnag, Srinagar and Doda. In Muzaffarabad the language is a blending of Kashmiri and the language spoken in west Punjab. People in the southern portion of Doda speak Dogri while in northern portion they speak Bhabrawahi. 550 years ago the people of Kashmir were Hindus, but due to political pressure from Rani Didda the people became Muslims. This region has a colourful history and great socio-economic potential.

Copyright Ananda Marga Publications 2011

Developmental Planning

P.R. Sarkar
According to PROUT, human society is one and indivisible. Human society is like a garland which is made of different types of flowers, linked by one common thread. The overall beauty of the garland is dependent upon the beauty of each flower. Similarly, every facet of society is linked together. To maintain the unity and solidarity of the social structure, all spheres of social life must be strengthened and developed.

To establish a well-built social order in any country, three factors are essential. First, there must be proper ideological inspiration for individual and collective progress. All-round progress and advancement can be achieved when society is based on universal principles which are given practical shape so that they become a fundamental part of the socio-economic structure of society. The second factor is discipline. Some countries of the world are fast losing their power because there is no discipline in individual or collective life. To build a well-knit social order, discipline is an essential prerequisite. Thirdly, there must be economic stability. The economy of a country must be sound.

A sound economy entails proper plans and programmes. As socio-economic factors vary from place to place, socio-economic potentialities also vary. Factors such as the fertility of the land and the availability of labour may be diametrically opposite in different regions, so there should be separate planning for each region. For example, the northeast and southeast districts of Bihar suffer from the problems of surplus and deficit labour respectively, hence it is foolish to prescribe the same planning for both areas. Experiments in centralized planning tried to solve such problems, but they inevitably failed. The only alternative is to adopt decentralized economic planning.

Decentralized Planning

Proutistic economic planning is based on the ideal of the welfare of all. This guiding ideal will illuminate the path of socio-economic liberation for human beings. Capitalist planning is not based on collective welfare but on individual or group interests. A principal characteristic of capitalist exploitation is that capitalists gain control over the raw materials in a region in the pursuit of profit. This should not be allowed to continue. Rather, available resources must be utilized for the socio-economic development of local people.

In Proutistic economic planning, every section of society will come within the scope of planning. Not only will it be possible to fulfil the economic hopes and aspirations of the local people, but individual, group or party interests will get no scope to control the economy. Through this approach, it is possible to effect the all-round growth of individuals and the collectivity. The formation of such a socio-economic environment will not only fulfil the material needs of human beings, but will also provide a firm foundation for their psychic and spiritual elevation.

Those powers which directly relate to economic decentralization should be in the hands of the states or the concerned lower level bodies. If this is not done, it will not be possible for them to materialize the economic programmes that are vested in them by decentralization. So the first step in decentralized planning is to make an economic plan according to the needs of the lowest level.

Economic plans and programmes should never be imposed from the top. On the contrary, there must be adequate scope for them to emerge from the grass roots. Each and every economic plan should be prepared in the concerned local area. For example, the economic planning for Pundibari in the Coochbehar district of Bengal cannot be formulated sitting at Begunbari in Jalpaiguri district. The developmental plan for Pundibari must be prepared in Pundibari itself on the basis of the intelligence, expertise and resources within the locality. While formulating economic plans and programmes, the hopes and aspirations of the local people must be taken into consideration.

Thus, to develop an area economically, planning must start at the grass roots level – the direction of economic development should be from the bottom to the top, not from the top to the bottom. The latter approach is impractical and a utopian myth.

In drafting the economic plan of a particular region, local engineers, economists, scientists, professionals, technicians, farmers, industrial labourers, intellectuals and other specialists should be consulted, but the responsibility for implementing the economic plan should be in the hands of local moralists. They will have to play the leading role. The duty for materializing each and every item of planning should be vested in those established in morality and spirituality.

Proutistic economic planning will reorganize the structure of the population on a scientific basis from the very outset. A floating population will have to either merge its individual socio-economic interests with the interests of the region or return to its own region. Those who share a similar cultural legacy and uniform socio-economic potential will then be well-established in each region. In every region, socio-economic problems can be solved by the maximum utilization and rational distribution of the resources and potentialities in that region.

Until now, no serious effort has been made by the leaders of India, either in the pre-independence period or in the post- independence period, to bring about the economic development of the country. The post-independence period can be divided into three main phases – the Nehru era, the Gandhi era and the Janata government. All these eras came within the jurisdiction of the Vaeshya Era or capitalist rule, and they all had one thing in common – they had a soft state policy towards the capitalists. The Janata government represented a counter movement within the Vaeshya Era. It was neither an intellectual revolution nor an intellectual counter-evolution, but simply a movement of capitalist mentality. It was a reformist intellectual approach motivated by capitalist interests. To strengthen its position, the government tried to give the capitalists better scope to chew the bones and marrow of the shu´dras, ks´atriyas and vipras. As it was a counter movement, it was short-lived and brought shu´dra revolution nearer, hence there was no economic development during that period. Consequently, there is no alternative for Proutists but to form socio-economic units.

Socio-Economic Units

Socio-economic units should be formed throughout the world on the basis of the same economic problems, uniform economic potentialities, ethnic similarities, common sentimental legacy and similar geographical features. The whole of India and the entire world can be reorganized into socio-economic units based on these factors. These units should not merely be geographical areas but self-sufficient socio-economic groupifications. The fundamental basis of these groupifications is social, cultural and economic, and not religious or linguistic. Socio-economic units will have to adopt economic decentralization so that the local people will be able to obtain all the requirements necessary for their physical, psychic and spiritual progress. This concept is an important aspect of applied PROUT.

Economic planning will aim to make each socio-economic unit self-sufficient. Information should be collected to facilitate the maximum utilization of the local potentialities such as the geographical resources of the area, including the capacity of the rivers, lakes and canals, and the location of the hills and mountains; the location and amount of mineral, forest and aquatic resources; the agricultural and industrial resources, including the possibilities for agro-industries and agrico-industries; the demography, including the labour skills, health and psychology of the people; the agrarian potential, including the distribution of land for collective needs; and communication. Planning for economic self-sufficiency will have to proceed on the basis of implementing the principles of PROUT by making proper use of this data and information.

In India, as a first step, forty-four socio-economic units may be formed. Many socio-economic units may also be formed all over the world. In most cases, each socio-economic unit will correspond to one political unit, but in some cases more than one socio-economic unit may form one political unit. Each socio-economic unit represents a collection of human beings who want to move together, hence all the people in these units should feel that they are brothers and sisters. Such groupifications can never be ultravires to humanity.

Any non-human or human being who wants to break the solidarity of society must be opposed. You will have to fight against such elements. You will have to fight all antisocial and anti-human forces in Asia, Europe, the world and the entire universe, and you must fight as a single entity. Whenever you fight against inhuman forces, all socio-economic units will fight as one. In this fight, you must fight for all the suppressed and oppressed people of the world.

Cultural Expression

Socio-economic units will not only have to fulfil people?s social and economic needs, but also their cultural aspirations. Culture denotes all sorts of human expressions. Culture is the same for all humanity, though there are differences in cultural expression.

The best means of communicating human expressions is through one?s mother tongue, as this is most natural. If people?s natural expression through their mother tongue is suppressed, inferiority complexes will grow in their minds, encouraging a defeatist mentality and ultimately leading to psycho-economic exploitation. Thus, no mother tongue should be suppressed.

The imposition of the Hindi language as the national language of India by a section of Indian leaders is an example of linguistic suppression. Hindi is not the natural language of the people in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and other parts of North India. There are many local languages in these regions which are suppressed and need immediate encouragement. To arouse the cultural legacy of the people in these areas and raise their socio-economic consciousness, they must be made aware of who the exploiters are and the nature of psycho-economic exploitation so that they become imbued with fighting spirit.

All languages must be encouraged, but this does not mean opposing the languages spoken by others. In this context, language in itself is of secondary importance. Of primary importance is the negative cultural and socio-economic consequences of linguistic imperialism.

A language usually changes every 1,000 years and a script every 2,000 years. There was no script in the time of the Vedas. The composition of the Vedas started 15,000 years ago and ended 5,000 years ago, thus the entire composition was done over 10,000 years. Script in India was invented about 5,000 years ago. In those days, people used to write on the skin of sheep. Later they started to write on papyrus, and still later papyrus became paper. Bengali was written with wooden pens and Oriya with iron pens. To prevent the paper from being cut by the iron pens, Oriya letters became round.

The seed of expression of all languages is the same. Geo-racial differences were responsible for the emergence of different races which developed numerous languages. The four races in the world are the Austrics, Negroids, Mongolians and Aryans.

The original home of the Aryans was southern Russia, east of the Ural Mountains, now known as the Caucasus. The Muslim region of the Soviet Union includes Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan, etc. Today the Aryans can be divided into three groups – Nordic, Alpine and Mediterranean. Nordic Aryans come from Scandinavian countries and they have a reddish white complexion and red or golden hair. Alpine Aryans come from Germany and the surrounding area. They have a white complexion, blackish blue hair and blue eyes. Mediterranean Aryans come from southern Europe and have a fair complexion, black hair and black eyes.

The Mongolians have yellowish skin and little hair on their bodies. They can be divided into five groups – the Nipponese, who have big faces and big bodies; the Chinese, who have flat noses and slanting eyes; the Malays, who have small bodies and flat noses; the Indo-Burmese, who have flat noses and comparatively big bodies; and the Indo-Tibetans, who have flat noses and are good-looking.

The Austrics have medium-sized bodies and mud black skin, while the Negroids have black skin, kinky hair and are often quite tall.

Geo-racial conditions produce changes in the vocal cords and other centres or plexi, and consequently the entire pronunciation and other items of language change. Thus, while no language should be suppressed and cultural expression must always be encouraged, language alone is not a sound basis upon which to demarcate socio-economic units or build an integrated society.

Socio-Economic Development

To ensure socio-economic development, several additional points will also have be considered in the course of economic planning. For example, people who have to travel to other regions to find employment face various difficulties. Often they have to travel long distances, involving considerable expenditure, and there is the unnecessary burden of maintaining two establishments. Generally, it is preferable if people do not leave their own area to find employment. There is enough scope for creating full employment in every socio-economic unit.

The drainage of money from one region to another must also be checked, otherwise the per capita income in a socio-economic unit cannot increase. Every socio-economic unit should demand the cent per cent utilization of state or central revenue raised in its area till the per capita income is on par with the most developed area in the country. Stopping the drainage of money from a socio-economic unit is the most practical and courageous approach to uprooting exploitation. However, the present leaders will never dare adopt this approach.

To fulfil the mutual needs among socio-economic units, the barter system should be encouraged. For undeveloped and developing countries, the export system may encourage unfair competition, drain scarce resources and lead to exploitation.

PROUT advocates the abolition of income tax. In India today if income tax is abolished and excise duty on excisable commodities is increased by only ten percent, there will be no loss of government revenue. When there is no income tax, nobody will try to accumulate black money. All money will be white money. As a result there will be economic solidarity, an increase in trade and commerce, more investment, more employment and an improvement in the position of foreign exchange. Intellectuals should demand the abolition of income tax.

In addition, there should be free education for all students up to the highest degree, guaranteed employment for all youth, irrigation facilities for all farmers, and cheap rations for all labourers – that is, rations which are cheaper than the present ration rate for all essential commodities such as rice, pulse, flour, sugar and cooking oil.

PROUT’s fundamental policy is that it is against small states because they become taxing and burdensome to the citizens, but in certain circumstances the formation of small states may be justified. For example, a state in a federal system which is not self-sufficient urgently needs developmental programmes, and to materialize these, it may demand a separate allocation of funds in the federal budget. If any state finds that obstacles are being created from some quarter in materializing its developmental programmes, it will have no other alternative but to demand the formation of a separate state.

The sizes of PROUT’s socio-economic units are ever expanding. Smaller units will merge together to form bigger ones. A day may come when all of Southeast Asia will become one unit. The following factors provide the basis for socio-economic units to merge together – economic parity, cultural mixing, communication facilities and administrative efficiency.

Lastly, geo-psychological characteristics should also be considered in socio-economic planning. For example, in India people living in east wet areas tend to be weak and lethargic, while those living in west dry areas tend to be strong and active. This may be called the “East Wet Theory”. Such characteristics are not caused by individual strengths or weaknesses but are the result of geo-psychological factors. The Punjabis live in a dry western region and are physically strong and hard working. The Assamese live in a wet eastern region and are physically weak and lethargic. Such factors should be given due consideration when formulating socio-economic plans.

The applied side of PROUT is based on universal sentiments and not geo-political patriotism, as are other theories and philosophies.

While such theories encourage enmity and rivalry, PROUT?s socio-economic units will all work together and cooperate with each other.

Some Examples

Finally, let us discuss a few examples of how decentralized planning can benefit particular industries. First, take the jute industry. In Bengal, many jute factories were closed after the British left India. This was a disaster for jute farmers as they were then at the mercy of middlemen because they had to sell their jute crops immediately. The main problem of the jute industry at that time was to eliminate these middlemen. To salvage the jute industry today, jute growers should establish producers cooperatives to manufacture and supply jute thread from raw jute. Spinning mills should purchase jute thread directly from the jute producers and manufacture items such as bags, coarse cloth, jackets and coats for consumers cooperatives.

Tobacco is grown in the north of India, processed in the south, and then taken back to the north and sold. Farmers in the north should have the facilities to convert raw tobacco into chopped tobacco. There should be no need to send it to South India for processing. This will lead to more employment.

The match industry was functioning successfully through cooperative production. However, the government undermined this industry by coming to the assistance of big manufacturers when they were being undersold.

The tea that is grown in South India should be replaced by rubber plantations. Although both require much rain, rubber is more useful and profitable than tea. A product should have both usefulness and a ready market.

In Bengal, pineapple leaf fibre can be used for the manufacture of cloth; limestone from Purulia district can be used for making cement; stone chips from Bankura district can be used for roads; raw sugar and mung dhal can be produced from Nadia district; abundant fish can be bred through pisciculture in Birbhum district; and hydroelectric plants can be built in North Bengal where there is much rain. In west Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, sugar cane pulp can be used in the paper industry.

Copyright Ananda Marga Publications 2011

Population Growth and Control

P.R. Sarkar
The socio-economic environment of society today is extremely restless and disturbed. In this abnormal environment population growth has been projected as a menacing threat to the existence of human society, but in fact this sort of propaganda is nothing but an evil conspiracy engineered by vested interests. No problem is greater than the human capacity to solve it. Like all problems confronting humanity, the problem of population growth should be tackled and solved in a proper way.

In the natural course of evolution, birth and death maintain the continuity of the never ending flow of creation. Every day, with the birth of babies, the parents and the other family members naturally enjoy great happiness. But it is a matter of sorrow that there are some people in the government or other spheres of public life who consider the increase in the birth rate a curse on the society. This negative attitude is definitely a blot on the human race, which has achieved a degree of intellectual development and scientific knowledge.

Population Growth

Is the population problem really a natural problem? The population problem should be considered in the context of two vital factors – the availability of food and the availability of space. Today human beings have sufficient means to manage their food. The earth is abundant enough in food resources to feed many times more than the present population. Due to lack of coordinated cooperation, collective effort, a proper ideology and sound planning, society has been fragmented into many belligerent groups and sub-groups, and rich and poor nations have been created. As a result of this fissiparous tendency, society is presently incapable of producing enough food to meet human requirements. The tragedy is that even though there are enough resources to supply nutritious food to all the human beings on the planet, due to the defective socio-economic systems, an efficient method of distribution has not been developed.

Moreover, there is no shortage of living space on the planet if the existing space is properly utilized. Because the earth has been balkanized due to so many arbitrary social, economic and political restrictions and the pervasive influence of evil dogma, people are unable to tackle problems in a natural way. If there were maximum utilization and rational distribution of all natural resources, pressing socio-economic problems could be easily solved.

It is a law of nature that a mother is provided with sufficient breast milk to feed her newly born baby. In the same way nature has generously provided sufficient resources to meet the food and other essential requirements of all human beings. People need to utilize these natural resources in a proper way. Shortages of food or space cannot be blamed on nature. These problems are essentially the results of the mistakes made by human beings.

It is a fact that the population of the world is rapidly increasing, and consequently many people have become frightened. In capitalist countries there are sufficient reasons for such fear. In these countries an increase in the population means a corresponding increase in the poverty of the people. But there is no reason for such fear in a collective economic system. In the event of shortages in food and accommodation people will collectively convert barren land into arable land, increase agricultural production by scientific methods and produce food by chemical processes using the potentiality of earth, water and air. And if this earth loses its productivity, then human beings will migrate to other planets and satellites and settle there.

If people living in capitalist countries voluntarily adopt birth control methods to avoid economic hardship, perhaps we should not criticize them. But it should be mentioned here that using birth control methods which deform the bodies of men and women or destroy their reproductive powers forever cannot be supported, because this may cause a violent mental reaction at any moment.

PROUT’s Solution

Under the present socio-economic conditions, PROUT advocates a comprehensive, clear-cut policy to tackle the population problem. According to PROUT, population growth will automatically find a natural level if the following four factors exist in society:

  1. There should be economic liberty in society so that people may get a nutritious diet. In Scandinavia, for example, the purchasing capacity of the people is high and they enjoy a good standard of living. Because of this they do not face the problem of overpopulation.
  2. Everybody should have the right to enjoy sound health. If people have a healthy body and mind their glandular system will remain balanced, and they can easily transform their physical energy into psychic energy and their psychic energy into spiritual energy. Through this effort of channelizing the mind in a spiritual direction, the baser mental propensities are easily controlled.
  3. People should be free from unnecessary mental worries and anxieties. When one suffers from mental agonies continually, the mind naturally indulges in baser physical enjoyment to get rid of that unwanted condition. When mental agonies disappear, human beings will enjoy peace of mind and be able to assimilate subtle ideas.
  4. The intellectual standard of humanity will have to be elevated. With intellectual advancement human beings will develop their all-round psychic potentiality and can easily evolve their psycho-spiritual potentiality. Through continuous effort human beings will be able to attain the supreme stance, merging their individual unit existence into Cosmic existence.

Thus, the population problem is not just an economic problem – it includes economic, biological, psychological and intellectual aspects.

Today people give more importance to the political than to the bio-psychological and economic aspects of population growth.

The theory that population increases at a geometric rate while food production increases at an arithmetic rate is completely defective. Such a situation can only occur in an imbalanced economic system. In a progressive and balanced economic system no such problem will exist.

Collective Economy

It is completely wrong to propagate the idea that a rapidly increasing population will affect the collective economic structure. Today capitalists are trying to check population growth by propagating birth control because an increasing population is detrimental to capitalism. In a collective economic structure there will be no need to support birth control. Rather, an increasing population will help in the production of the essential commodities.

Good varieties of seed, fertile land, adequate nourishment, light, air and water are all essential for good reproduction in both the plant and animal kingdoms. In this respect human beings are no different from other creatures. In human society the selection of suitable males and females is desirable for reproduction of a high order. Until human beings are produced in scientific laboratories, it will be detrimental to society if this matter is neglected.

If people of sublime intelligence and brilliance reproduce more offspring, it will be very beneficial for society. The responsibility for nurturing and bringing up these children will have to be taken by the society or the government. Similarly, it will be harmful for society if mentally deficient, naturally delinquent or insane persons produce many children. In fact, society will be benefited by the permanent destruction of their reproductive capacity, providing this does not cause any harmful reaction.

Science has reached such a stage that it can usher in a new era. It can produce synthetic food in the form of tablets to help solve the food problems of the world. A single food tablet can be sufficient to provide sustenance for a whole day, so we need not fear population increases. Future generations will spend more of their time and energy on subtle psychic and spiritual activities, so their demand for physical food will decrease.

Through oceanographic research abundant food resources have been discovered within the ocean and on the sea bed. With the application of science and technology we can harness these resources to meet the challenge of the food problem. The crisis faced by society today indicates that humanity is not encouraging the maximum utilization and rational distribution of the world?s potentialities. Science today is being used to develop increasingly destructive weapons of war rather than for benevolent and constructive purposes.

Society will have to adopt a collective economic system for maximum production and economic security in order to control accumulation; ensure the rational distribution of collective wealth through a well-knit cooperative system; implement decentralized socio-economic planning; and secure the maximum utilization of all types of mundane, supramundane and spiritual potentialities. So far society has not adopted such an approach so it has been unable to solve the food problem.

Instead, certain inhuman birth control practices have been forcibly promoted. Not only are such practices detrimental to a healthy human body and mind, they cause physical deformity, disturbances and misunderstandings in family life, and mental derangement and debility. Those inflicted with such psychic ailments lose the courage to face adversity in life and the power to fight for social justice.

Imposing a fear of population growth is nothing but a cunning conspiracy by vested interests to misguide people and exploit society. Optimistic people throughout the world will have to unite and raise their voices against such a heinous conspiracy, and work together to construct a just and benevolent society.

Copyright Ananda Marga Publications 2011

FAQ: Planning

How should PROUT socio-economic units be planned?
They should function at different levels such as block level (see below), district level, state level national level and global level. But block-level planning will be the basic level of planning. Block-level planning is essential for economic decentralization. As the quantity of natural and human resources will vary from block to block, so separate economic plans will have to be made for each block.

What will be the factors of planning in a decentralized economy?
The factors of planning in a decentralized economy are:

  1. Cost of production. Cost of production means that agriculture must be treated as an organized industry. Then the per unit cost of production will be systematically determined and the poverty of farmers will end.
  2. Productivity. Money should be invested and kept rolling rather than hoarded. In this way the collective wealth of society will be continually increased. This will also lead to maximum production and ever increasing production based on consumption and full employment for all local people. Maximum production will lead to a congenial environment for more investment, more industrialization, more employment, increasing purchasing capacity and increasing collective wealth.
  3. Purchasing capacity. PROUT does not view per capita income as the index of people’s economic standard. It is a deceptive and defective measure of collective wealth popularized by capitalist economists to fool people and cover their exploitation. The genuine measure of people’s economic advancement is increasing purchasing capacity. To guarantee purchasing capacity, there must be available of minimum requirements, stable prices, progressive, periodic increases in wages and salaries, and increasing collective wealth. In a Proutist economy, purchasing capacity will always be increasing. The greater the purchasing capacity of the people, the higher their standard of living.
  4. Collective necessity. Planners will have to consider the collective necessity of a socio-economic unit as well as future requirements of the people. Production of the minimum requirements of all must be planned for and ensured.

Other factors include (5) natural resources, (6) geographical features, (7) climate, (8) river systems, (9) transportation, (10) industrial potentialities, (11) cultural heritage, and (12) social conditions. Grandiose planning that is irrelevant to local economic conditions should not be imposed from outside. Rather, this will not be allowed in a PROUT economy.

What is block-level planning?
Block-level planning means decentralized planning within each socio-economic unit. Block-level planning boards will be the lowest level planning bodies, which will function at the block, district, state, national and global levels.

What are the benefits of block-level planning in the PROUT economic model?
Block-level refers to an area of no more than 100,000 people. The benefits of this localized planning are:

  1. The area of planning is small enough for planners to understand all the problems of the area.
  2. Local leadership will be able to solve the problems according to local priorities.
  3. Planning will be more practical and effective and will give quick, positive results.
  4. Local socio-cultural bodies can play an active role in mobilizing human and material resources.
  5. Unemployment will be easily solved.
  6. Purchasing capacity of the local people will be enhanced.
  7. A base for a balanced economy will be established.
  8. The development of local (block-level) industries will provide immediate economic benefits.

How should blocks be organized?
There should be a block-level planning board in every block. This body will prepare a plan for the development of the block. Above the block level there will be a district-level planning board. Thus from the block level upwards there will be planning boards to prepare and implement the local plans and programs. Planning therefore should be of ascending order, starting at the block-level – we can also say, starting at the bottom, at the grassroots level.

How will blocks be created? What factors will come into play?
They will be organized based on physical features of the area (such as river valleys, climatic conditions, topography, soil, flora and fauna), the socio-economic requirements and problems of the people, and the physico-intellectual aspirations of the people. Thus blocks should be scientifically and systematically created so as to be the healthy basis for efficient, decentralized economic planning. Each block should become economically self-sufficient and developed. Here is the unique feature of PROUT’s decentralized economic planning.

How would inter-block problems be solved?
Inter-block problems would include flood control, river valley projects, communication systems, higher educational institutions, afforestation projects, environmental issues, establishment of key industries, soil erosion, water supply, power generation, establishment of an organized market system. Hence coordinated cooperation among adjacent blocks is essential. This is called “inter-block planning.”

What should be the immediate goals of short-term and long-term block-level planning?
Short-term (six-month) planning and long-term (three-year) planning should both focus on the immediate goal of ensuring the minimum requirements for all the local people, eliminating unemployment, increasing purchasing capacity, and making that block/ socio-economic unit completely self-sufficient.

What is the most important sector of the economy?
Agriculture is the most important, because people need food first. Hence agricultural cooperatives should be formed first.

How many people should be engaged in agriculture in any particular region?
No more than 45 percent of the population should be employed in agriculture. Agro-industries and agrico-industries should be developed in the towns and villages, to create employment for the inhabitants. Most important, agriculture should be given the same status as industry, so that agricultural workers will understand the importance and value of their labor.

According to PROUT, how should economic holdings be reorganized?
An economic holding means a holding where output exceeds input. It is not possible to predetermine the size of such a holding.

What will happen in the Proutist economic system?
In a Proutist economic structure, there will not be import or export duties on consumable commodities. Once this is carried out, the earth will become golden everywhere. If there is overproduction, goods should not be exported. Rather raw materials should be converted immediately into manufactured goods. Once this is done, people who were once impoverished will begin to lead comfortable, affluent lives.

What factors affect the socio-economic potentialities of a region?
The fertility of the land, the availability of labor affect a region’s potentialities.

Does PROUT support modernization?
PROUT supports maximum modernization in industry and agriculture, while taking care that it does not lead to unemployment. In PROUT’s collective economic system, full employment will be maintained by progressively reducing working hours for everyone as technology increases production. This scenario is not possible in capitalism, which is driven by ever greater profits rather than welfare of the people.

How should the practical implementation of a decentralized economy take place?
Decentralization should be based on the formation of socio-economic units or regions, based on common factors, such as:

  • Common economic problems
  • Uniform economic potentialities
  • Ethnic similarities
  • Common geographical features
  • People’s sentimental legacy, arising from common socio-cultural ties like language and cultural expression.

Each of these units or regions will be free to chalk out its own economic plans and the implementation of those plans.

What ideal is PROUT economic planning based on?
It is based on the welfare of all people. This ideal will lead to the socio-economic liberation of all human beings. Capitalism is not based on collective welfare but rather on individual or group interests. Capitalists gain control over raw materials and thereby make their profits. This must not be allowed to happen in a Proutist economy. Rather, raw materials will be used for the benefit of the local people. In a Proutist society, there will be a very stable socio-economic environment. This will provide a firm foundation for people to develop intellectually and spiritually.

What is the first step in developmental planning?
It is to make an economic plan according to the needs of the lowest level – the block level (see further below) or the grassroots level. Economic plans and programs must never be imposed from the top. Rather, they must emerge from the grass roots. Each economic plan must evolve from that particular area by the people of that area. While formulating those plans, the hopes and aspirations of the local people must be taken into consideration.

Who will be responsible for implementation of the local economic plans?
All people will contribute to the drafting of an economic plan. But it is the moralists in the society who will be responsible for its implementation. The duty of materializing economic plans should be vested in those persons established in both morality and spirituality.

How will local socio-economic problems be solved?
By the maximum utilization and rational distribution of the resources and potentialities of that region. Therefore information will be collected such as the geographical resources of an area, including the capacity of the rivers, lakes and canals and the location of the hills and mountains, location and amount of mineral, forest and aquatic resources; the agricultural and industrial resources, the demography, including the labor skills, health and psychology of the people; the agrarian potential, and communication.

What factors are to be considered for determining the optimum size of an economic unit?
Factors like the fertility of the soil, climatic conditions and availability of water must be considered.

Does it matter whether agricultural land holdings are large or small?
No. The important question is whether these holdings are economically viable.

How will the growth of large, exploitative cultivators be prevented?
The minimum and maximum size of an economic landholding will be determined and followed. The minimum size of an economic holding will vary from place to place. The maximum size of a landholding will depend upon the soil fertility, overall production, and the expertise of the management. Economic holdings will comprise land of the same topography having adequate irrigation and other agricultural facilities.

Will distributing land to the people solve the problems of the people?
No, it will not solve their problems. The ownership of the land is not important. What matters is the production from the land.

How should economic decentralization be created as far as agriculture is concerned?
Agricultural land should be managed through the cooperative system. However, all land should not suddenly be turned over to cooperative management. Cooperatives evolve gradually out of the collective labor and wisdom of the people, of the community. Hence the community must develop an integrated economic environment, common economic needs, and a ready market for its cooperatively produced goods.

What is PROUT’s concept of agrarian revolution?
In the first phase, private ownership of land within the cooperative system will be recognized. People can have the right to employ labor for cultivation, but 50 percent of the produce should be distributed as wages to the laborers who work in the cooperative, and the owners will get the remaining 50 percent. This ratio must never decrease – rather it should increase in favor of the agricultural laborers.

What will happen in the second phase of agrarian revolution?
All people should be encouraged to join the cooperative system. The net profit will be increased in favor of laborers working in the cooperatives, so that 25 percent of profits will go to the landowners and 75 percent of profits will go to the laborers. In this phase there must be rapid and large-scale establishment of agrico-industries and agro-industries so that the rural population will depend more on industry than on agriculture for employment. There should be continual educational outreach to convince the people of the benefits of the cooperative system. In this phase, production for consumption will increase the standard of living, and the basic criteria of social security.

What will happen in the third phase of agrarian revolution?
There should be rational distribution of land and redetermination of ownership. In the third phase, as less time will be spent on physical labor, people will be encouraged to spend more time on intellectual and spiritual endeavours. Also, 100 percent of profits will go to the cooperative members.

What are the two factors that will determine the rational distribution of land?
First, the minimum holding of land required to maintain a family, and second, the capacity of the farmer to utilize the land. In this phase, landowners will not be able to employ laborers for land cultivation. Hence it will be more beneficial for landowners to participate fully in the cooperative system.

What will happen in the fourth phase of implementing the cooperative agricultural system?
There will be no conflict over the ownership of land. The problems of every village will be solved. All arrangements regarding food, clothing, h ousing, education and medical treatment will be easily provided to the people. There will be maximum utilization of the collective physical, psychic and spiritual wealth of every village.

In the PROUT agricultural system, will intermediaries have a role to play?
There will be no scope for intermediaries in the PROUT economic system. Those who engage others in labor to earn a profit are capitalists. Capitalists thrive on the blood of agricultural (and industrial) laborers.