Human Development through Sufficiency Economy

Lessons from Various National Economic and Social Development Plans
  Human Development through Sufficiency Economy   Lessons from Various National Economic and Social Development Plans   The Eight National Economic and Social Development Plan (1997-2001) was the first of its kind that focused on human centered development. The main reason for such significant shift in the national development plan from the past was made during the brain-storming session to formulate the Eight Plan in the middle of the Seventh Plan (1992-1996), the consensus was reached from the experiences of the past seven development plans (1961-1994) that Thailand had a “sound economic performance but with severe social problems leading to unsustainable development.” This phrase actually summarizes the past development efforts of the Thai government. The sound performance of the economy reflected from the continual growth of GDP as well as per capita income as a result of well developed both physical and social infra-structure, consisting of energy, communication and tele-communication as well as increasing both quantity and quality of educational and health services. All these factors contributed to rapid increase in material growth, the situation supporting the claim of  “sound economic performance”.   Such economic achievement was also accompanied by many social problems at the same time. The problem began from the collapse of family institution and communal life in the rural area, resulting from out migration to cities for better job opportunities. Urban communities of the poor or slum areas, in big cities expanded very rapidly. As a result, these areas become the breading ground for all social problems, such as drugs, social problem based of communicable disease like HIV AIDS, followed by sexual harassment and sexual abuse to the weaker ones in the communities as well as increasing criminal problems. All these social problems resulted from rapid material development while the fruits were not evenly distributed. They concentrated in the few hands who had strong economic, political, and social power, resulting in all kinds of gap ranging from economic, educational, technological as well as social and political. The end result was that the majority of the poor must struggle for their daily survival on their own. In the process, they tried to look for remaining limited resources that they could have access to, resulting in rapid dwindling of natural resources, the cause for “unsustainable development.”   For the reasons discussed above, the Eighth Plan (1997-2001) was shifted from growth oriented to people centered instead. Under this Plan, it was anticipated that implying that majority of the people should benefit from the national economic growth more equitably. Through human development, each can improve his/her ability  to produce in such a way that more would be received according to increased productivity contributed by each individual. This approach would yield better equitable distribution than the redistributive scheme organized by the government..   Such scheme normally required additional conditions that could hardly be realized. The most important one is that the government must act on behave of the majority of the people, apart from that the government must also be able to collect progressive tax rather efficiently. Finally, it must have efficient mechanism for income redistribution in such a way that schemes are the most reasonable means for such redistributive purpose.       The King and His Role on Human Development   Human development in traditional meaning usually stresses on education and occupational development as well as the development of health and sanitation, security in life and property as well as security in human settlement. These outcomes can only be achieved under the condition that the government has a clear understanding of the problems at their root causes as well as has its vision on long term national development  together with certain degree of political stability. The said conditions have never been achieved by any government in the past up to presently. Under such political environment, it will not be possible to have a completed process of human development based on the government’s initiative only. King Bhumibol has long recognized this limitation, he has tried in his various projects in order to apply his concept of “Sufficiency Economy” in various forms explained verbally for the first time in 1974.   In 1994, he introduced the “New Theory” as a human development tool for small farmers to be self-reliance under the condition that external support cannot be anticipated. The concept had been continually tested to the point that it could be announced publically.   The “New Theory” stresses on self-reliance instead of depending on external factors especially “external markets”. While the “old theory” emphasizes on specialization on producing one specific product, and subsequently exchanging it through external markets for overall improvement in productivity, the “New Theory” explains that for a small land holder whose bargaining power is usually lower than the average in general, the market will not be efficient for such a person. The transaction cost consisting of transportation, management, and entrepreneurial profit, especially the last item tends to be too high for them, the small land holder. Therefore, in order to achieve maximum efficiency for such a farmer for both consumption and production, each of them must produce everything for a person’s or a family’s consumption. In other word, the person must be a producer and a consumer at the same time, known as a “prosumer”. Under this condition the concept of “santosa” in Buddhism or contentment, the same as “sufficiency” is needed. The most important pre-requisite for any human being is to achieve happiness (peace and tranquility) in a person’s life, or having the life with the least possible pain or no pain at all. This kind of life cannot be achieved through more consumption of material things only. The more desire for consumption, the more “dhukha” or pain will be the result. For example, more consumption of food than necessary will cause a problem to the digestive system that can result in a person’s health problem. At the same time, the body will try to save excessive amount of food nutrient in term of fat, the cause for a long term health problems. Likewise, more accumulation of materials than needed will result in accumulation of cravings, the main cause for dhukha or pain.     The “New Theory” of King Bhumibol is an approach to human development holistically. As each small land holder must produce to satisfy his/her family’s needs for their own consumption, variety of crops and plants must be grown and various kind of animals must be raised for household consumption without much reliance on external sources. Such method of production requires various forms of knowledge. It is necessary for the farmer to improve his/her knowledge and skills in order to improve production continuously. It is also a process for the development of mind of the farmer and his/her family. In order to live happily with minimum amount of material, they must also understand the concepts of happiness or “sukha”, pain or “dhukha” and contentment or “santosa”, from a Buddhist point of view very well. The fact that the King concentrated more on problems of a small land holder, because he knew very well that most social problems both in cities and rural areas, were caused by the collapse of the family institution in the rural areas. As small land holdes are still a majority of people in Thailand, focusing on this group of people will solve both their personal problems as well as to reduce social problems in the cities, at the same time.   It is evident that this form of human development does not require significant improvement in quality of formal education. Security in lives for most families in the rural areas results from the ability to satisfy the four basic needs (food, clothes, medicine and shelter) required by the families. Such needs and how to satisfy them, are within the control of the families themselves. External supports are not needed. Working in the field with labor and brain simultaneously in a natural environment regularly will result in good physical and mental health. The mental health is also resulting from continual learning process. Many successful cases are now existed in Thailand from the families of small land holders who follow the “New Theory” and live their lives according to the principle of “santosa” or “sufficiency”, the method for holistic development of human beings. Apart from contributing to reduce social problems, the approach also result in rehabilitation of resource and environment as well.   The King’s, “New Theory” does not end at the first stage, namely, a farmer should produce everything for a family’s consumption first. The surplus can be sold in the market for additional cash income. The second stage of the New theory proposes that after each farmer is able to satisfy the family’s consumption needed. The farmer should form into a group with the othersto sell the surplus of their products or to transform their primary products into processed ones. The formation into a cooperative will enhance their bargaining power. This way marketing inefficiency caused by weak bargaining power of each individual farmer will be reduced. However, if their produces have been processed first before selling as primary products or raw materials, their bargaining power will be enhanced further. The processed products can last longer in the markets than the primary products. At the same time, value added and employment will be generated more from the additional production process. This way, collective bargaining power of the farmers will be improved to the new status and the farmers themselves will also be transported to manufacturing producers.   The third stage of the “New Theory” suggests that after the group has worked together and developed into a very strong cooperative, they will be manufacturing producers with good quality of products. At this new level, their bargaining power will enhance further. They can seek cooperation with major national businesses in order to export their products overseas directly.   It can we seen clearly that “Sufficiency Economy” does not negate economic globalization. However, it stresses more on step by step development process with strong emphasis on continual acquisition of skills and knowledge as well as increasing development of “mind” simultaneously. As a result, Sufficiency Economy is a balance and complete forms of human development.   The 1994 coincided with the Seventh National Economic and Social Development Plan (1992-1997), The Thai economy then expanded at a very rapid rate. Unfortunately, it was also the time that all forms of gap were also on the increasing side within the Thai society. Consequently, social problems also increased rather significantly with clear tendency for unsustainable development. The King sensed clearly the coming of a national crisis. This year, he started explaining his concept of the New Theory publically for the first time. In 1995 he reiterated by warning the Thai people to increasingly apply the New Theory as a tool to reduce the risk from possible economic crisis that become more evidence then. In 1996, he gave even a stronger warning of the new form of danger caused by human greed embarking on high risk activities for high possible economic gain, especially from speculation of many Thai people in their investment based on the real baht value and the value officially pegged with the US dollar. This situation resulted in switching in speculation between the one in stock market and that in the real estate. Such activities resulted in what was latter known as a “bubble economy”.   Towards the end of 1996, the slow down of export performance in Thailand and the whole region provided a very clear signal that the Thai economy was heading for a very severe crisis. On July 2, 1997, the Thai government declared the managed float of the baht currency and subsequently requested the International Monetary Fund to come to rescue, eventually. It is evident that “Sufficiency Economy” is on the opposite end to “greed” that leads to “risk” loving behavior. Therefore, the first precondition for human development of Sufficiency Economy is to develop human mind away from unnecessary greed.   After the economic crisis in 1997, on December, 4, the King gave his yet another important speech for the Thai people to recognize the significance of Sufficiency Economy.   “It is not important whether we are a tiger or not. The most important thing is that we have enough to live on and live for. To live on and live for means  self-supporting for our own sufficiency. Sufficiency does not imply that every family must grow their own food make their own clothes. That way would be too much. However, in each village or a district, some things produced in surplus can be sold to the others but not in a far away place in order to save the transportation cost.”   His speech on that date marked the beginning of the realization of the true meaning of Sufficiency Economy for the majority of the Thai people, especially production and consumption must be completed within a reasonably short distant as within the area of a district. It is increasing important especially at the current hike of oil price.   It was well accepted towards the end of the 7th Plan (1992-1996) that “the Thai economy performed well but with severe social problems and unsustainable development”. The development theme was shifted to human development in the 8th plan (1997-2000). The theme was close to Sufficiency Economy as the solution for the existed problems. Nevertheless, the theme of human centered development is less in its dept than Sufficiency Economy, because the main stream approach of human development normally deals inadequately with the development of human mind. Even with the said shortcomings, the essence of the 8th Plan (1997-2001) was not implemented. The time was lost through various government attempts at maintaining strict financial disciplines as well as to stimulate the economy from slipping further into recession : There was only one portion assisted by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) with its emphasis on Social Investment Project (SIP). Through the said project, human development and Sufficiency Economy gained partial implementation. All in all, it can be generally concluded that human development approach, the approach that is close to Sufficiency Economy in the 8th Plan (1997-2001) actually receives inadequate attention.   During the Ninth Social and Economic Development Plan (2002-2006) that will be officially ended this year. It was actually designed under the theme of Sufficiency Eeconomy. Unfortunately, it only receives little attention from the Thai government. The Thai Rak Thai Party under the leadership of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawat emphasized on absolute control of his administrative power with populist policy and used money as the only tool to solve all conceivable problems. There has been complete negligence on the part of the mental development of Sufficiency Economy as past of human development holistically. Under such circumstance, there should be a review and revitalization of Sufficiency Economy in a deeper dimension than material development, skilled and knowledge development. The emphasis, this time should be more on mental development.     Mental Development: The Most Important Dimension of Human Development of Sufficiency Economy  

As long as a human being only understands that happiness can be derived from consumption or from acquisition only, the true meaning of sufficiency economy cannot be clearly understood. This is because the most important dimension of Sufficiency Economy on its part of human development is the development of mind. This specific aspect requires those who are interested in understanding Sufficiency Economy to seriously pay close attention to it.

  Mind in Its Scientific Status  

Almost all existing knowledge being implemented currently under the name of academic wisdom has its root from the influence of mechanic physics developed in 17th Century. There is a clear tendency for the change to better direction since the West begin to pay more attention to the Buddha Dharma (the teaching of Buddha) after increasingly find that life is still far from peace and tranquility, in spite of the fact that much more materials are currently available for consumption. This realization comes at the time of rapid spread of the concept of post-modernism among western scholars that makes the notion of absolute answer and absolute truth become meaningless. The dawn of modernization in the 17th Century in Europe emerged from Newtonian mechanistic physics. Under this paradigm, the whole world was consisted only with matter and energy. Human mind was nothing more than a brain, consisting of nervous system originated from specific combination of chemical and energy. Therefore, the mind was the functioning of the brain regulated by certain chemical component and the nervous system. To understand how the brain worked was subjected a set of scientific tests together with a set of mathematical logic. Statistics could also be used to test the validity of the hypotheses. Each problem or each question contained only one correct answer. The fact that there were more than one answer at any period of time was because insufficient knowledge to probe for the right answer or the method of searching for the answer was still incomplete.


This form of scientific quest for knowledge dominated the world view of all academic subjects in the West, as well as the so-called “social science”, subsequently. In the beginning when sciences differentiated itself from all other subjects, the knowledge related to human beings were explained to be based on a societal norm. It was the tool to explain or to search for new knowledge that was not subjected to any scientific proof. Such form of investigation can be referred to as a societal norm or a social convention since the time of Plato. Such norms were the truth, beauty and virtue. As a result social science has its status as a moral science. It is the subject that deal with human mind that could not be subjected to any accurate measurement. It was more of of a value judgment differently from natural sciences that can be recognized by seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and sensing from touching. It could also subject to accurate method of measurement. The proof could be made evident or explicit to all. The reason for sciences to be to explain in such manner was because the subject dealt with matter and energy only.


Economics is one of the subjects developed from the West. Like most subjects, it has also been dominated by scientific world view that does not have adequate understanding of the concept of the “mind” or it only understands the mind at the level of value judgment that cannot be explained the same way as physics. To elevate economics up to the same level of physics while the subject is mostly related to human activities, the only way that it can do in the most “scientific way” is through “observation”. It has been generally observed that all living things, human beings included, share one common characteristic that is “self-interest”. Economics begins by this one basic assumption that human beings normally follow their own selves-interest. Since following self-interest is part of a human nature, such act is considered as a rational behavior. The conclusion is therefore, following self-interest of any individual is rational. Unfortunately, such assumption is in opposition to the teaching of all major religion in the world. For example, Christianity teaches that greedy and selfishness are vice. A Christian emphasizes on love that implies giving. A person should give even his/her own life to the enemy for something greater than everything. That is God or the Greatest Mind. In Islam, although the focus is more on peace, as the word “Islam” actually means “peace”, peace can be attained only when sharing and caring are widely practiced. Caring and sharing have opposite meaning from greed and selfishness. Most strict Moslems will normally practice fasting during daylight in the month of Romdon, in order to understand the pain and hunger of those who do not have enough food for themselves. Such practice will result in the spirit of caring and sharing. Buddha Dharma emphasizes on  “dana” that means giving. The best form of giving is to give “paňňa”, the ability to understand everything at its own nature, since paňňa is the one and only most effective tool to help human beings to be able to relieve from all forms of pain.


The fact that all leading religions teach people not to be greedy or selfish, is due to human experiences though all empirical evidences that when people are greedy and selfish, there will be no peace in the society. Each individual as a member of that society will live continually in troubles and conflicts. Such knowledge is actually a scientific knowledge through infinite series of scientific testing. As a result, such knowledge and experiences have become the rule that forbidding people from practice it in all major religions.


As most religions are developed from believes or faith, while sciences are based on a scientific proof, sciences have been developed and been claimed for anti-religious believe or faith. Economics also makes such claim. It claims that although everyone tries to follow his/her own self-interest, collectively they have established the set of rules in such a way that no one can take the advantage of the others. Such mechanism is a market mechanism that works under perfect condition or better known as a perfect competition market. Unfortunately, in case of Thailand, the proposal of the “New Theory” or Sufficiency Economy is due precisely to market failure. It fails to function efficiently especially for those who have less bargaining power to correct the market mechanism in their favor in order to have it operated fairly for them. The most they can do is to do without such exploitative market by producing most things for their families’ consumption.


Apart from explaining that following self-interest is a rational behavior, economics dominated by materialism in response to human greed, assumes further that pleasure has opposite meaning to pain. Human beings normally try to embrace or to seek pleasure and avoid pain as much as possible. Human beings can increase their own pleasure through more consumption. Economics call such pleasure a utility. Therefore, the means to increase the level of utility for any individual is through more consumption eventhough there is a law of diminishing marginal utility for the same product being consumed more. However, the level of utility will still be improved as long as the marginal utility of such product is greater than zero. In fact, there is a better alternative for a person to achieve higher level of utility by switching to new products where their marginal utility is still high. Nevertheless, the ability to consume more is limited by the person’s income or wealth at any specific time.


It can be clearly seen that this kind of “preaching” encourages a person with self-centered to seek for maximum consumption of materials. This concept is in direct opposite to that of “santosa” or sufficiency. It can be seen clearly the preaching of economics is in opposition to the teaching of all major religions as well as that of sufficiency economy. As Thailand adopted development through modernization where economics provides theoretical back-up, the result was as concluded at the end of the 7th Plan, “the well performed economy, with sever social problems leading to unsustainable development.”


It is also evidence that development along the direction of modernization although it is consistent with a part of human behavior, it also creates new problems, especially severe social problems and unsustainablity. The problems that all major religious want to solve and can actually be solved.


The fact that the West understand the mind as the brain and nervous system controlled by composition of chemical components, although such explanation is not far from the truth, it is only a partial truth and not a complete one. Even the subject of psychology that supposes to deal with the “mind” systematically, it fails to understand the mind because it has also tried to be “scientific”, in a traditional meaning. The main failure is due to the fact that a traditional scientific analysis did not provide useful analytical tool to be able to study the mind systematically. It also lacks of a complete understanding that the mind can also be trained, hence it does not have sufficient tools for training method of the mind as well.


Nowadays, the empirical evidence of the concept of “emergence” is clearly understood in the West. Two units of hydrogen and one unit of oxygen can be combined and turned into a completely new thing, “water”. This new element called “water” has no property of being “gas” at all. It turns into the form of  liquid that has no trace of hydrogen and oxygen. Similarly each tree has its own unique property. As millions of trees form into a forest, there has been significant change in quality. The forest can absorb heat and cold. It can generate bio-diversity caused by the process of synergy. A human being is composed of all visible parts of a body known as “rupa”, a Pali’s word for physical parts of a human body. The combination of all parts results in the emergence of “mind” which is the abstract part of the body. It does not only consist of brain and nervous system only, but the whole composition of “life” itself having a body served as  a base. Without certain important parts of the body, for example if the heart is destroyed, so the “life” will also be destroyed. In that case, the “mind” is no longer a part of  “life”. The body becomes the one without life.


The most important part of life is the “mind”. This is because the mind actually controls any action of the body. The well trained mind apart from being able to control the body, it can also control the mind as well. That is when it controls the mind to be mindfulness with the right mind that can understand everything at its own nature. It is the mind with “pure” paňňa. However, if the mind is controlled by anger, the analogy of this case is the clear but boiled water. If the mind is controlled by delusion, the analogy of this case is still water is no longer clear but being contaminated by dusk, dirt, or other colors. The image form appeared through such quality of water in this case no longer represents its truth. If the mind is controlled by greed, it is as if we look through the clear and still water from usual angles. The image can be larger or smaller than the truthful one. Therefore, the most important activity for the mind is for it to be trained as a clear and still water all the time, so that the “pure” stage of  paňňa always exists in order to be able to understand everything at its own nature. This type of paňňa will generate new learning process all the time. With full understanding of everything at its own nature, the pain has no chance to exist.


At any specific time, a person’s mind can be controlled by various degree of anger, hatred, delusion, and greed. As a result, a person will perceive truth differently. At the same time, the mind can always be trained and developed. The mind being less controlled by anger, hatred, delusion, and greed will be able to understand things closer to their natural truthfulness. Moreover, different persons with the same level of development of mind will understand the truth in the same way as the others. This fact can be called sciences of mind or sciences based on mind.


If defilements or kilesa is defined as various combination of anger, hatred, delusion, and greed, the less kilesa one has, the less pain will be for that person’s life. In the West, less pain is not being encouraged. In stead, it always advocates for maximum pleasure. If pain can not be reduced, peace and tranquility can never be found. Similar analogy of this nature is one who does not have crystal clear paňňa. If one does not understand this point, one will never understand why life with “santosa” or sufficiency is the life that can achieve peace and tranquility much easier, than life with kilesa or defilements all the time craving. In Buddha Dharma, pain cannot be separate completely from peace and tranquility, the same way as pleasure and pain. Peace and tranquility is the quality caused by less pain, the condition that the mind has been controlled less by kilesa. Such situation, in part, results from certain degree of human development. The best form of human development is the development of human mind. This factual statement can be proven to varying degree of practice. The experience will reveal clearly to everyone who achieves the same level of development of his/her mind. Understanding the work of one’s mind this way, is as scientific as any scientific experiment, on matter and energy.


However, in other religions than Buddhism, the mind has not been explained this way. Therefore, the highest level of the development of mind is represented by God, the Greatest Mind.At least what every major religion has in common is that greed is vice. There have been many lessons learnt during the course of human history. Consequently, the pre-requisite for Sufficiency Economy is the development of mind, the best form of human development.


The fact that it has been already proven by all major religions that greed is evil and one should refrain from it, the proof has already been plentiful throughout human history. Sufficiency in its simplest meaning implies not to be too greedy. It can be concluded, therefore, that Sufficiency Economy has the core moral value of all major religions. It is also universal because the basic thought that denounces greed actually can be proven scientifically. All other religions can also explain the “mind” in a scientific way, the same as behavior science developed from the West. Every time, greed dominates the thought of human beings they will be without peace or having more pain.Hence, from western scientific method, one can always prove that greed is the cause for human pain. Reasonable person should avoid it completely. Non-greedy is a virtue that a human being should hold onto it. Non-greedy is in fact the core value of Sufficiency Economy.

  Sufficiency Economy as a Tool for The Development of Mind  

Economics as well as other academic subjects have also been dominated by scientific materialism, The general belief is that more materials available as products of scientific and technological progress are always desirable. Economics explains in addition that self-interest is normal behavior of all human being. Thus, seeking for a self –interest is a rational behavior. In addition to the explanation of pleasure or utility derived from more consumption, which is consistent with material progress resulted from science and technology, the goal of economic system is to continue with more production with increasing efficiency, so that everyone will receive more according to his/her own productivity.


Whatever left after consumption can be saved for more investment in the future. This type of explanation provides justification of capitalism, where capital is the mode of production. The return to capital for more accumulation in the future is profit. In order to accumulate capital as fast as possible, a capitalist must produce more and sell more. In order to sell more, more consumption is also required, although such consumption may not be needed. Unfortunately for the sake of more capital accumulation, more consumption must be stimulated by all kind of media, even though it is not needed. The stimulation of consumption that is actually not needed is known as consumerism. In order to keep the production process to continue on smoothly without any interruption, the whole production process must be free from any intervention from uncontrolled nature. Hence, the production process must only be arranged in the form of a factory process. It is a production process for industrialization. The emphasis on the industrialization for a production process is known as industrialism.


Therefore, capitalism, industrialism and consumerism must come together as one package. This package may not be much harmful if products are distributed justly. This situation can happen under the condition that there is not much difference in ability of most individuals involved. This assumption can hardly be realized in the real world. Additionally, there must be also another assumption that the world resources are not limited. This assumption can be also true in the long run when new technology is developed at rapid rate, in such a way unknown resources in the past can turn into useful resources in due time. Nevertheless, there always be limitation of resources in the short run. If resources are over used, they will have adverse repercussion on environment and eco-system that will not be conducive to human live. It can be concluded at this point that under the scientific materialism paradigm supported by the belief that following self-interest is a rational behavior which is the logical base of capitalism, industrialism, and consumerism. The world is now moving towards the direction for self-destruction of humankind. Under such scenario, human knowledge accumulated through out history of humankind will become useless.


The next question to be raised is when the end result is clearly dismal, why most countries in the world still cling on capitalism. The most easy and direct answer is that capitalism is the system that works in consistent with human nature of cravings. Consumerism will always stimulate human desire and greed for things increasingly all the time. It is part of human instinct, but not a complete human nature. Human beings have their mind ready to be trained and developed to the point of pure paňňa. The incentive for human beings to under-take such difficult training is to be able to live without pain. However, to do a way without pain by seeking maximum pleasure or try to consume as much as possible had already been proven scientifically through out human history that, it is not the way to rescue human beings from pain. The more accumulation undertaken, the more pain will be the result. The only practice that can really save human beings from pain is “santosa” or sufficiency.


Unfortunately, “santosa” or sufficiency cannot be achieved automatically. It must be attained through training only. The mind must be continuous trained to be “clean” through the practice of “sila” that is the mind must always thinks a virtuous thoughts that will reflect in good action or good conduct. The clean mind act as a clean water. The mind must be still with “samadhi” or concentration. A person with kind thoughts can achieve “smadhi” or concentration easily. The still and clean mind will result in the clear mind or paňňa that can understand everything at its own nature. This is the quality of mind that can rescue the person away from pain finally.


Scientific materialism usually lacks of effective tools for the analysis of mind systematically. Given the western framework under scientific materialism paradigm together with the average level of mind controlled by craving, it will be quite difficult to understand Sufficiency Economy in-depth. This way, we must try to understand Sufficiency Economy from within in order to understand its in-depth relationship with the mind. The middle path or middle way of Sufficiency Economy consists of three overlapping components of moderation, reasonableness, and self- immunity. First of all, the meaning of middle path must be clearly spelled out. It actually means that one should not embark on neither of the two extremes. One extreme is to be indulged with cravings, the same way as Buddha himself when he was Prince Sithatarata. The other extreme is to live a tortured life or a painful life the way Prince Sittharata did during his search for the ultimate truth. The two extremes are not conducive to enlightment through paňňa. Life in the middle path is the life full of awareness or enlightment or clearly understanding everything, or contemporarily known as knowledge based economy. Unfortunately, this concept is more shallow than that of the stage of enlightment. Such shallowness is due to the fact that the concept has been developed under scientific materialism paradigm.


In order to simplify the concept of the middle path, the analogy of food consumption that can be expanded to cover all forms of consumption can be used, as examples. If too small amount of food is taken, the body will not be able to function properly resulting in pain. Too much consumption will cause problems to body’s functions both in short and long run as already explained earlier. The middle path can be compared to concept in the West as the most appropriate spot or level of activity or the point of optimality. Having more or less than specific point, problems will result.


After the middle path is reasonably understood, each overlapping component can also be explained. Moderation has the close meaning to the middle path, the most appropriate action or point, the best that can be attained. More or less than that point can result in problems. Reasonableness has complete different meaning than “economic rational” that normally emphasizes on self-interest. The concept from Buddhist Dharma consists of the causes, other factors and the result. Every result that takes place presently has its origin from its causes and other factors. It is a law of causes and effects or impact. Under this law, undesirable outcome results from its causes and related factors. The only way to prevent such desirable outcome is to correct at its roof causes and other relevant factors. From the reasons explained above, the word reasonableness in Sufficiency Economy, actually means honesty, not taking the advantage from the others, caring and sharing, loving and kindness, and to be pleased with the other’s success or achievement. All the said actions will result in good causes. Good causes will yield good results. The whole society will achieve peace and tranquility. Each individual member of the society will also benefit from that situation. This concept is completely different from the word “rational” in mainstream economics. Following self-interest is not a reasonable act. If everyone seeks for his/her own interest without a fair redistribution mechanism, the society can result in a trouble conflict and contradiction. An individual living in such a society can hardly have peace and tranquility. The concept of reasonableness in Sufficiency Economy has much in-dept meaning than that of rational in mainstream economics.


Lastly but not least is the concept of self-immunization. It actually means to be fully aware or awaken all the time. Unnecessary risk should not be undertaken. Life without unnecessary risk will be more secured. Secured life will be more peaceful than the insecure one. If the concept of moderation is well understood, high risk for high gain will not be necessary. In addition self-immunization also means increasing ability for self-reliance. External shock unexpectedly cannot cause sever damage, or the ability to recover quickly or resilience. The said three components of moderation, reasonableness, and self-immunization should be the main guide line for a person to live the life, along the middle path according to Sufficiency Economy.

  Sufficiency Economy and Closely Related Western Thoughts

The last part of this paper will attempt to explain why Thailand and global societies should be increasingly paying intention to Sufficiency Economy. The paper has already made a clear comparison between capitalism and Sufficiency Economy. For Thailand, there is a special reason that the Thai society has its firm cultural root in Buddhism, derived from Buddha Dharma or the teaching of Buddha. It is therefore, not too difficult for the majority of Thais to understand Sufficiency Economy. The claim will also be true for Christians and Muslims who strictly follow their own believes. They can also well understand Sufficiency Economy from their own religious roots.


Capitalism has its focal pointin that it supports human greed. Unfortunately, its undesirable impact is that it could lead to the process of self-destruction of humankind. Sufficiency Economy serves as the way of living to help relieve a person from pain caused by insufficiency. At the same time Sufficiency Economy will also help develop human mind to higher level. A human mind that has been well developed, will lead that person to higher level of happiness. Such level of happiness does really exist but cannot be explained in words, since it is a unique phenomenon gained from an individual’s personal experience and not through logical deduction. Those who experience the higher level of happiness will experience it through continual training of their minds through regular practice. Sufficiency Economy serves as the most handy and practical tool that will lead to the said goal in a significant way.


The question is whether there is any similar thought in the West? One stream of thought that is widely spread in the West is green economics. Green economics put nature in special place. It explains that the earth is not a life-less star orbiting in the cold space. It consists all forms of lives. Although all living things are competing for survival, yet they all depend on each others in the form of chain of lives. An intervention into nature is the intervention into the balance of that living system. As some lives or many lives disappear completely from the earth, the chain of lives on earth would also be destroyed. Human beings are part of the chain of lives. However, we have special ability for both the destruction and the creation in this life chain (human included). If we do not understand that we are part of the chain of lives , by intervening into nature regularly, in the end the chain of lives will lose its balance. Consequently, human beings will also be destroyed in the process.


Capitalism allows too much intervention of human beings into nature resulting in inability to survive of human race in the long run. Green economics under the stream of thoughts of deep ecology has its believes that the chain of lives not only consisting of lives but it has its own spirituality which is holy in itself. Therefore, intervention into nature is strictly forbidden. If necessary, it must be done with the least disturbance. Although this line of thought is made popular to a certain degree in the West, it has its root from Jane-ism rooted in India widely spread almost at the same time as Buddhism. Therefore, it has the dimension of spirituality with different method of explanation. In conclusion, the main trust of green economics lies in that  all economic activities must be friendly to nature and environment. If necessary , the intervention must be kept at the minimum. Green economics results in conscience raising to care for nature and environment. This thought can march along well with Sufficiency Economy. It starts from the realization of the dire consequence of humankind that leads to the improvement of human behavior. Sufficiency Economy creates a positive reaction for the development of human mind that reflects in human behavior towards better life. Such way of life will generate a positive feed back loop to better environment that is conducive to further development of human mind.


Another stream of thought available in the West that is close to Sufficiency Economy is humanistic economics. Humanistic economics has its own root from the third stream of psychology led by Abraham Maslow (1908-1970). Maslow had different understanding of a human being from mainstream economics or capitalist economics. He studied the “mind’ from the angle of behavioral science that is to understand the mind through human action. It is a western scientific methodology since it does not deal with the mind directly. This school of thought studies human behavior from the past until present and found that although there have been major changes in science and technology as well as environment and the way of life; hierarchy of needs in human life has hardly changed much. This hierarchy can be classified into two parts but three levels. All can be broken into five levels:-

  1. Physiological need
  2. Security
  3. Being part of social institution
  4. Self-esteem
  5. Self-actualization

The first four levels require response from outside. The last one does not require such response, but can contribute more to the society. This quality of human beings is considered to be the best of all. The first two levels required some material inputs. The third and the fourth levels are parts of social needs. They require more of social response but less of material needs. Physiological needs of each person must first be satisfied. Such needs are the four basic needs and personal security. The society must be able to satisfy theses needs for all, so that each one can embark on to higher levels of needs. However, physiological needs should be supplied at the level of sufficiency only. More supplies than needed could result in the situation of fixated for some cases. After basic needs are sufficiently provided to everyone, the society should provide opportunity for everyone and encourage a person to do things for the others, while also gaining reasonable recognition from the society. This situation will lead to further mental development of self esteem for higher level of mental development to the level of self-actualization so that the person can give more to the others. The more the person gives, the more that person will attain happiness and peace at higher levels. Such person will become most valuable for the society. Therefore, humanistic economics stresses on redistribution of products sufficiently for all the needy ones first. This approach is close to Buddhist economics that also insist on the redistribution of products to all living things (not only limited to human beings), who are still in pain or suffering from inadequate share of materials to satisfy their basic needs. So long as human beings are still in pain, their paňňa will hardly emerge.


Humanistic economics does not set the gaol based on the quantity and quality of outputs produced, but more on the production process itself. The process must be part of human development and not for impediment of such activities or even works against humanity. For if human work is designed to be just an extention of the part that the machine still cannot perform well, soon as the new and more effective machine is produced, that person will be pushed out from his/her work, the same as an obsolete machine. Such situation occurred since the time of industrial revolution in the 18th century. Simonde de Sismondi (1773-1842), the one who is now being considered as the founding father of humanistic economics made the following observation.

  “Sufficiency for living is necessary for life and for moral and ethical development in all aspects including the development of human intellectual and wisdom. These are things that human beings can not be without.”  

It should be observed that the above statement is closely resembled to Sufficiency Economy. Unfortunately, since capitalism grew in strength during that period of time and it was consistent with human greed, humanistic economics did not receive adequate attention in the West from the outset. There were stream of thinkers along this line after Sismondi (1773-1842), the other well-known one was John Ruskin (1819-1900) who had strong influenced on great thinker of Asia, Mohandas Gandhi  (1869-1948) who worked on rural development in India through self-reliance and emphasized on human dignity as a tool to fight the strong wave of industrialism supported by imperialism that controlled India by the British Empire then, through non-violent means.


One prominent thinker along this line who had been influenced by Ghandian works was E.F. Schumacher (1911-1977) who wrote a very well known book “Small is Beautiful” in 1973. Chapter 4 of this book had the title of “Buddhist Economics”. This book partially influences King Bhumibol to offer a counter argument to the development in Thailand along the capitalistic model on July 18, 1974, as appeared in part of his speech to graduates from Kasetsart University.

  “National development must be carried out step by step, starting with laying the foundation to ensure that the majority of people have enough to live on and to live for as the basic step, using economical yet theoretically sound methods and equipments. When the base is securely established, higher levels of economic growth and development should be promoted.’  

It can be clearly seen  that “using economical yet theoretically sound methods” is the resonance of Schumacher “appropriate technology”. It can be clearly seen also that humanistic economics that evolved into Buddhist economics of Schumacher and the King’s Sufficiency Economy are all critical and against mainstream economics or capitalism. However, the resistance has been done in a none-violent way through immunizing the system so that it can survive well under capitalism. The significance of capital can be greatly reduced through the development of human mind. The only difference between Sufficiency Economy and humanistic economics is the application of science based on mind, while that of humanistic economics explains the development of the mind based on behavior science. Also, Sufficiency Economy is not merely a philosophy for living only, but it also comes with practical models with clear examples of success. This latter part will be discussed more in the other papers.


It can be clearly seen that although Sufficiency Economy has its philosophical root in the Thai society with predominantly Buddhist culture. The concept can also be made prominent universally. It includes analysis of mind in the most scientific way that western science is yet to be developed.


More and more westerners turn their interests upon the development of mind in this direction. For the reasons explained above, Sufficiency Economy should be taught and applied to the Thai society presently as well as in the future, as the mainstream of  thoughts here. It will be a good example to show the world that is now increasingly shifting to develop more along this new line of development.


The last similar line of thought to Sufficiency Economy, to be discussed in this paper is economics of happiness. Economics of happiness is a recent concept in economics. The concept has two different roots. In the East, it has been originated in a pro-dominant Buddhist country of Bhutan, a monarchic state, north of India. The one who first introduces the concept is King Jigme Singe Wangchuck in 1973, one year after his accession to the throne in 1972. It rests on four pillars: (1) promotion of economic and social development in a sustainable and equitable way (2) promotion and conservation of tradition and culture (3) conservation of natural resources (4) development of good governance. It is part of the deliberate policy to keep Bhutan to remain close to its beautiful nature, by stressing more on the so-called, Gross National Happiness (GNH) than Gross National Product (GNP). The policy was led to minimum intervention into natural resources and nature. This policy was critized by the UK’s Financial Times as the main cause for so slow pace of development in Bhutan. King Jigme Singe Wangchuck responded that “Gross National Happiness” is more important than Gross National Product.” The statement appears to receive strong support from western economic psychologists, including 2002 Nobel Laureate Daniels Kahneman that questioned the link between levels of income and happiness. In 2003, Richard Layard took this argument further by showing empirical evidence that despite economic growth in the West, happiness in the West has not grown in the last 50 years. He substantiated his argument by showing trends in depression and crime in the West after World War II. Layard also shared Kahneman’s argument by supporting the argument that once people’s basic economic needs are met, additional income and wealth contributes little to individual happiness. The implication from this statement is that to improve the level of popular happiness, politico-economic policies must focus on other things than increasing consumption and material wealth.


However, Layard claims that he has studied happiness in the scientific way. His scientific method is the same approach developed in the West. The new part of his study is to include new development in psychology and neuro-science. Unfortunately, his explanation of happiness is on the same tradition as Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832). Layard explains that happiness means feeling good, enjoying life, and feeling it is wonderful. However, he moves beyond Bentham by explaining that happiness and pain is the same thing, but on different scale, the concept of similarly to hot and cold.  This part is close to Buddha Dharma. But in Buddha Dharma, the concept of happiness is closer to peace and tranquility. The only weakness in Layard’s approach is that so long as he does not recognize that human mind is usually controlled by cravings, there will be no way to develop the mind through its training. Instead happiness can be improved more with the help of neuro-scientists. For Thai people, life will be less painful through Sufficiency Economy. At the same time, Layard’s approach can provide better alternative to economics and politics for the West than the existing ones.


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