Sarvodaya (Ghandian social thought) entails the idea of welfare for all. Modern economics supposedly has the same goal. However, from the Sarvodayan perspective, modern economics fails miserably in achieving the desired ends. Harsh criticisms are levelled against modern economic thought, pointing out specific areas in which it fails to achieve intended goals. Tied in with the idea of Sarvodayan economics is the village republic. Village republics have their own unique advantages, according to Sarvodaya, that could stand to benefit everyone.
Modern economic thought claims to promote wealth for all. Yet the Sarvodayan critique does not agree with the claim. Instead modern economics appears to be centered completely around money. Wealth is the procurement of money, not having all needs provided for. The push in modern economics is to amass more money, or alternatively, material goods. At the same time, wealth is not something everyone can achieve in modern economics. There exists a broad gap between the "haves" and "have nots" with the wealthy being a small minority while the poor consist of the masses.
This wealthy minority then goes on to exploit the majority. The rich are concerned with increasing their wealth. In order to increase wealth, the masses are hired to work for the minority to achieve that end. The goal is profit. Basically, the idea of profit is to sell as much merchandise at as high a price as possible while, at the same time, spending as little as absolutely possible to produce the goods. Workers are given as low a wage as is possible which perpetuates the condition of poverty.
Yet here is also no guarantee that a worker will have the same job tomorrow. Modern economics pushes for mechanization. Workers are displaced so that the wealthy can save a little more money on their production expenses. It is unnecessary to pay people to do work when machines can do the same work cheaper and faster. More goods can be produced which in turn increases profits because the more goods available to sell allows tapping in to formerly untapped markets. In this process, however, the worker is left unemployed. Unemployment only further increases the worker's poverty level.
These goods which are produced often are not even necessary products for survival. They are luxury items or completely superfluous objects which serve no use to sustaining one's life. Rich and poor alike, though, in modern economics are both caught up in the pursuit of wanting these unneeded items. Saturated markets and advertising constantly reinforce in one's mind to buy this or that item. The pursuit to acquire does not stop with the purchase of that item. Attaining the item does not satisfy the hunger for more. The newly acquired object may seem pleasing for a short time, but after a while its novelty dulls. The only way to alleviate the boredom is to acquire something new. It becomes a vicious cycle of acquiring, becoming bored, acquiring more which is unsatiable. It is a process which seems absurd because the items involved have nothing to do at all with the things necessary for survival.
There is also the matter of morality to consider in modern economics. It is not possible to know how a particular good came about in terms of morality. Is the owner of a company earning his money ethically? Were the workers in a sweat shop or in a legitimate job position? How many workers became unemployed due to machines installed to do the work instead? Not just the manufacture of the item must be considered, but distribution and point of sale as well. Buying a particular good may be supporting moral efficacy. Then again, it may not. There is no way to know without thorough research. Yet in modern economics, the push to acquire may completely obviate the need or care of how something arrived at the point of purchase from the point of origin. As long as the consumer can buy it to satisfy want and the seller makes a profit, the purpose is considered fulfilled.
Modern economics also displays another aspect which Sarvodaya finds a need to criticize. Although it declares being concerned with the welfare of all, it is actually concerned with the one. Each individual is worried about himself. Are his needs fulfilled? Are his wants fulfilled? It becomes a matter of taking care of one's own self often seemingly at the cost of others. There is little regard for how fulfilling one's own desires will impact another. An altruistic motive may only be superficially so. Behind it may lie the hidden agenda of the one to serve his own desires. Other times fulfilling one's desires may incorporate stepping on as many toes as possible with a complete disregard for whom may get hurt by it. Whatever the means, they are justified so long as the desires of the one are fulfilled.
The Sarvodayan view of modern economics is that it is unnecessarily complicated. It does not promote the welfare of all, rather the welfare of a few elite members. The vast majority are left in poverty to be exploited by the rich. The main purpose is to accumulate money and material goods while what is truly necessary for survival is given little attention. There is no job security. Concern is for the one and not for all. This complexity boils down to being for nothing else but the sake of profit of the wealthy minority. There is a simpler way of life that Sarvodaya proposes. This simple way of living is the village republic.
The village republic poses a striking contrast to modern economics. It is a true concern for the welfare of all as opposed to being just a facade behind which to hide. It involves the entire community to provide for all. Each individual in the village republic may do his own work, but in the end it is for the benefit of the entire community. The point is not the pursuit of more. The point is to have all needs provided for.
In fact, the pursuit of more or profit becomes obsolete in the village republic. Non-possession is one aspect put forth as something worth cultivating in Sarvodaya. It does not mean that one necessarily gives up possessions completely. The idea is to give up possessions that one does not truly need to survive. Removing the idea of ownership removes the idea of wanting to acquire. The viscous cycle of acquiring comes to a halt. What possessions there are in the village do not belong to one, but to all. The village is a community so ownership is more of a communal utility.
One also does not work for the sake of making profit for another. One works for himself and the community. The work is not for the production of superfluous goods either. Work is engaged in for the sake of producing needed items. The village republic is a subsistence culture. Food, clothing, and other needed items are produced by everyone for the benefit of the community.
This subsistence living has another benefit to it. It helps to release the clutches of modern economics on the village. Goods no longer need to be brought in from outside markets. The village produces everything it needs and since, with the practice of nonpossession, want is eradicated, there is no need for superfluous items to be marketed. Self-sufficiency is the rule, whereas, in modern economics, self-sufficiency is nearly a lost art.
Producing its own goods, the village republic can also trade with other village republics as needed. One needed item may be in short supply for a particular reason, for example, the crops were blighted creating a food shortage. A neighboring village may have a surplus of food. The first village may have a surplus of some other need that the second village is lacking. A trade can be made which provides both villages with what they need. At the same time, however, a surplus is diminished which brings the economics of both villages back into balance. This type of balance between shortage and surplus definitely strikes an interesting image compared to the over-saturated markets of modern economics.
Exploitation of the worker is removed. There can be no exploitation when there is no wealth or poverty as exists within modern economics. Everyone's needs are provided for making everyone equally wealthy in the village republic. There is also job security in the village republic. Although simple machines may be utilized, they are only to assist people in their work, not to displace them. Unemployment disappears as all able-bodied people work for the subsistence of the community without being displaced by machines to do the work faster or more efficiently. There is no need to have machines to do faster work since the need to have increased production is removed. Increased production is only necessary to provide more goods for more markets. The subsistence community is not interested in producing more food or more cloth to export. It is ony interested in producing enough for itself.
The village republic has more advantages beyond just economic lines. It also has political advantages as well. Another concern of Sarvodaya is the removal of a centralized government. A centralized government has too much power and control. In addition, most of these forms of government involve the use of violence whether it be to remain in power or for the sake of self-defense should its power be undermined somehow. Violence is a clear violation of the beliefs of Sarvodaya. The village republic is a step towards dissolution of centralized government.
Being a communal environment, wholly self-sufficient, the village republic begins to rely on itself to handle matters normally handled by government. The entire community comes together to make decisions for what is best for the community. A centralized government that makes decisions may or may not make those decisions based on the best interests of the people. In many cases it is just a majority vote that decides how to handle a particular issue. Yet that majority decision is taken as being in the best interest of every single person. In addition, the chances are great that the members of the government did not go out and talk to every single person on thier view of the issue.
A centralized government cannot say it works in the interest of the people when it is really only working in the best interests of a majority of the people. This dilemma is removed in the village republic. The community is small enough that everyone can come together to discuss a particular issue. The majority does not necessarily win. More likely, a compromise will be made from all perspectives of an issue that is agreeable to everyone. The community makes its own decisions for itself instead of relying on a centralized government to take up a majority decision that is probably made by talking to a handful of people to begin with.
This decision making leads to other areas. Any kind of dispute that may arise can be handled within the community. Disputants can rely on the arbitration of their own community when they cannot come to a settlement between themselves. Settling disputes within the community removes dependence on law courts which further promote centralized government. It also prevents an outsider deciding what is the best settlement when he has absolutely no understanding of the operations of the village republic. Settling disputes within the community also lessens the importance and burden on law courts which are intricately tied in to the centralized government, further undermining the centralized authority.
The village republic basically becomes an autonomous entity, free from the grip of centralized government. It is a political advantage of communal living. Communal living also provides decided economic advantages, particularly in comparison to modern economics. Modern economics looks more like a disease through the eyes of Sarvodaya. Its welfare for all can be exposed for the fraud it is when set aside the Sarvodayan ideal of welfare for all. It seems that Sarvodaya has a good reason to level its criticisms against modern economic thought, especially when it can espouse numerous advantages with the village republic.
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