I welcome you to spend your time discussing a traditionally dull, scary, and intimidating topic to some. My joke about it is that if you want to spoil a party, just tell them that you’re interested in economics and watch people run away fast. So what we are going to do is try to discuss the role of morality in economics. Traditional economics and its theories are all there in the books. There are very few references to economics’s moral or spiritual side, so I started my website and put all the related materials in one place.
Economics is difficult to understand and very technical, so I will try to simplify it and not use economic terms. It will be an informal sharing of my heart and the ideas that I have learned from the Baha’i Writings. I will also try to make it a little bit lively by sharing pictures of the flowers from my garden along with the quotations. Hopefully, that makes it a little more interesting
I am convinced that a better world cannot be built without a humane economy which is so important for the lives of people and the poor that we all need to be concerned. Economics is supposed to serve humanity, and unfortunately, I feel that humanity is serving economics and humanity is being sacrificed to make the economic system work, which is wrong.
We are going on a journey about understanding economics. What it is. Where did it start, and where is it going? What are its problems and crises, and what could be its solutions? So, to begin with, I guess we have to find its definition. Some of the definitions are long and full of terms such as consumption, production, equilibrium, scarce resources. By the time you finish reading the definition, you’re more confused. Hence, I chose a very simple one, and it conveys a message to me:
“The English word economics is derived from the ancient Greek word Oikonomia, meaning the management of a family or a household.”
I love the meaning and root of the word “economics” and its purpose because it says its origin and what it is supposed to be. It is supposed to help you manage your household; this household could be an individual, a family, a town, a country, or an international, so this definition clearly explains it.
When I wanted to find out the history of economics to see when it started, I went so far back that I ended up in heaven. You know this story of Adam and Eve and the serpent. There was no economic transaction in heaven because everything was provided and free, but certain rules must be followed. One of the rules was not to eat from the forbidden tree. But the serpent somehow managed to convince Eve to eat the apple. The serpent failed to mention its side effects.
I think that was the first false advertisement that happened even before the start of human history, and the consequences, of course, were grave, and Adam and Eve were kicked out of heaven, leading to where we are now.
This story underlines the important point that one has to be very careful about advertisement because the way they present it is – your wants are your needs.
The basic needs are shelter and food, but yours wants to become your needs the way they present them. Adam and Eve did not need the apple, but the way it was presented to them was that they really needed it, and it was essential for their survival.
Not much has changed since then, because even today, you look at the advertisement, they present things in such a way that you feel like yes, I need them. You need to go from point A to B, you can do that by walking, or you can do it by bus or bicycle, but the commercial tells you that you need the latest model of car to do that and that is the only way to travel.
That goes for almost everything. These kinds of advertising have grave consequences, as you may recall what happened with the tobacco industry. Not mentioning the side effects of cigarettes or roundup or other products led to massive harm to the millions of users and were the cause of great human tragedies in the society. They were the result of false advertisements. One has to be careful about them and read between the lines.
Anyway, now that we’ve covered the part of haven, we can come back to earth. The first transaction that happened that we can say was economic occurred in the Stone Age. As you know, we were hunters and gatherers in the Stone Age, we would go hunting for food, and sometimes we were the food for some other animals. When we succeeded in hunting a specific animal, we became good at it. The hunter probably got tired of eating the same kill every day, and when he saw the other hunter had a different kill, he somehow explained to the other hunter I give you my kill, and you give me yours.
That was the first transaction, which was the start of the Barter Economy. Later on, many items were used as a means of exchange, such as bones, feathers and then came metal coins and currency.
From that point, humanity learned agriculture and domestication of the animals and started settling down and making communities. Soon they realized that not everybody could make their own tools and things such as shoes, so the division of labour began.
This process went on for a long time, and economic life consisted of a landlord who owned the land and the farmers who worked on the land for them. There was no industry, only the war industry, because in those days like now, countries had the habit of attacking each other, and they needed soldiers. The farmers were used as soldiers and taxed to finance the wars.
Nothing much was changed with this agriculture economics. Life was hard but simple. This simple economic system continued until the Industrial Revolution.