Wholistic Economics Evokes Happiness Naturally and Sustainably

When I was studying Economics Ross Gittins was an often quoted economist. There were a series of books called State of Play, the Australian Economic Policy Debate which I referenced extensively, I recall. I found Ross Gittins an excellent economist. I was walking through a shopping mall today and to my surprise saw his latest book ‘The Happy Economist’. I smiled as it concurred with my own sentiment, happiness is the purpose of life.

I wrote what I thought was a brief introduction for Ross’s book but found myself going deeper and deeper into my own experience. So this blog will depict my experience as a Economist, Analyst and Clown as all are relevant to the Economics of Happiness which I have called tonight the Wholistic Economics of Happiness. If I was to be clearer I would replace Economics with market but in the sense of a community market. Anyway, this is musings that have just flowed so it is not fully edited, I just spent 4 hours flowing, so I am tired and will sleep and read later tomorrow. So bare with my grammatical and logical errors. I felt ideas coming together, it was a lot of fun to write. Some ideas will repeat, but my feeling is that is okay for reinforcement. This is the first draft. Hope it inspires you as it did me.

Here I go…

Ultimately the argument for Economics rests on the proposition that profit maximisation (Revenue-Costs=Profit) provides wealth and through consumption generates taxes which provide for societal infrastructure, health, schools, services etc. and on the consumer side they are paid wages/welfare and their net income is used to purchase goods and services which satifies (utility) needs and wants and we can feel happy, as we are fullfilled. Social stability is an invisble in this, but the idea is that people are happy and society hums along happily. Moreover, it is assumed consumers are rational in preferences, they will seek their highest utility (satisfaction) given choices (other products) and price will find equilibrium where demand and supply curves intersect. It was considered the best way to allocate resources and satisfy needs and wants.

Economics I always found amusing (makes me smile). Whilst studying I questioned why human needs were placed in a market mechanism and rationalised on the basis of demand and supply signals maximising utility, supply and profit. I wondered about the social reality and environmental implications given it was a finite planet. Hence, the rationale in Economics was the idea that the production and marketing of products and services would communicate their availability (supply side strategy), messages would create demand and generate supply (production) and depending on the number of suppliers (competition) price would find a level that was optimum. Consumers would typically go for the cheaper prices, although if the product is esteemed or value added by branding, then consumers would be prepared to pay a higher price so they could be seen to own exclusive products/services at a higher price (out of reach, exclusive). There is prestige associated with the item and hence, personal identity (ego). Brand labels are a good example, sending signals of class and success to others.

Economics does not internalise externalities in the first instance. Externalities are social ills caused, they are the hidden costs, not factored into consumer prices. Externalities could include: pollution, resource depletion, environmental damage, deforestation, sullied water, salination, chemicals and overworking for example. Other externalities of a positive nature could include: kindness, social connectedness, wellbeing, love, self awareness, spirituality, wisdom and real community. So externalities are excluded from analysis. Regulations are an attempt to internalise externalities, however they are not sufficient to ensure there are zero negative externalities. Thus, nature is damaged. How do we measure the value of nature an environment evolving for up to 4 billion years? How do we cost extinction? What is the opportunity cost of losing life forms? How do we understand the knock on effects and the costs in respect of the web of life? These realities are outside our concepts and cannot be expressed through linear thinking which seeks numbers to define states of play in economics and indeed society. Society consists of people engaged in activities of business, consumption and social networks. The Economics game is played out through buying and selling, yet the buying and selling is the focus of wealth and self gratification rather than meeting basic needs and self realisation as the true happiness of humans. Economics dominates life, as the goal is to make money, not to find true happiness, even though the acceptance of Economics is due to its promise of happiness in the end.

What tended to happen with negative externalities is that the costs were transferred to governments (public), regulations imposed to limit extremes. Moreover, when dealing with real complexity and incomplete awareness (true knowledge) it was simpler to focus on key indicators and algebraic calculations, rather than deeper attitudes, behaviours, real identity and deeper human needs. Humans are more sophisticated than simple preferences. The focus on Economic scenarios (often unrealistic) depicting preference usually between two choices with relative payoffs was justified and preferences were regarded as rational. Moreover, outcomes were less contestable as they were equated to numbers. The only way they were contested was in future events where Economic forecasts were proved wrong overtime.

Markets are irrational when compared to nature. Markets are driven by consumer demand, resources, production and profit maximisation. The decisions, in my viewpoint given the disconnection from nature, are not rational or a better word would be ‘wholistic’. If we look at needs in the natural environment e.g. clean air, water, fertile soils, access to food supplies (plants, animals) and psychological wellbeing including meaning, spirituality, belonging/community, love, harmony, self actualisation then the economic modelling can not go there. In fact the intangibles are often labelled as idealistic as it is not material, this is on balance a masculine perceptual reality that emphasises thinking rather than feeling. Moreover, Economists are not trained or aware enough to see or feel these deeper needs, they would not be able to find the depth in variables to analyse these needs into models of supply and demand or other forms of Econometric modelling. It is all supposition, guess work and typically agreed variables. Moreover, when thinking about what is rational every person is different, indeed unique, no two the same, even twins are different. So even in the so called rational analysis it is assumed people behave in the same way given certain conditions. That may be true in the sense of advertising to a target market that share perceived unmet needs, they may be the same demographic group who are aspirational, or need to feel good or are seeking to send a message. So they may share psychographics. So in an economic sense it is identifying those groups and marketing to them. When I speak of it as not rational I am considering that most needs and wants are false, generated by marketing and unrealistic social norms. It is not addressing the real underlying need. In economic analysis there are many variables used to understand a few variables and see if there are correlations, the analysis may look at those variables, run a few econometric tests and assert in the analysis a correlation ‘given all things are held constant’. We hold extraneous variables constant (no change) so we can focus on a few factors at a time, yet the reality is life is organic, interactive, spontaneous, merging, conscious, changing, growing and evolving. All is change. We are breaking down to analyse something that is organic. Behaviour is indeed influenced by advertising and perceived unmet needs but the point being made here is that the real underlying human needs are seldom met with the intention of a social benefit. The intention of the economic system is profit maximisation, growing GDP and financial security through wealth. I use the word intent as it is important, what is intended is where focus goes (flows) and we then create a possible future. The wholistic notion is that we are one (interconnected) and the social benefit would be the intention (win/win for whole system). That changes how we see and the outcomes.

The market just cannot deliver on authentic happiness. We end up in a market system that is good at producing, selling and distributing products and services to consumers (not citizens) who have believed the marketing, but rather than feeling good they still feel empty and uninspired (real needs unmet) after a while they go off in search of the next thing to bring pleasure. Thus utility (satisfaction) is reduced to short term pleasure gratification through immediate purchase and consumption rather than deeper happiness (joy) that comes from knowing thyself and being true (inner peace), indeed being in harmony with the true self. This is a spiritual state of being, not a physical grasping for happiness, yet materialism affects the physical world, as demands will fuel production or whatever is the trend or perceived need e.g. flatbed screens, ipods, cars, furnishings, home theatres, clothes etc. Many illnesses occur because people are out of balance with their nature or real Self. Given competitiveness and the need to succeed, many socially feel they fall below par. They may succumb to negative thoughts of failure or not valued enough by society, given their perceived success which affects their happiness and hence health, immune system and wellbeing. That is why clowns go into hospitals, we bring joy because we see this as healing the real needs of people. When people feel loved, happy and cared for it creates a auto-immune response. I’ve heard of cases where people have had cancer and used comedy as a therapy to discover they go into remission. There is a biochemical reaction to our thoughts. From an economics, or in the above case, medical perspective, these spiritual values are unmeasurable and invisible to notions of what we perceive as happiness.

The above musing is not to say that economics is redundant, by all means utilise proven ways to meet basic needs through demand and supply. Alternatively create parallel markets where people can barter without persuasion, just simple exchanges of what is needed. Bartering is a efficient system as we reuse rather than purchase brand new, not placing pressure on the planet. There are systems of free exchange, in Australia we have Freecycle online where people simply exchange or offer to give away products. I note most of the participants in this are women. Reflect on how many products you have bought that lay dormant and forgotten in cupboards, when others could be using them. The waste is phenomenal given spontaneous consumption. So barter or freecycle could at least put those products back into use.

What if we completely remove the money system (physical cash) and create a system of debits and credits. All transactions could be viewed by anyone in society. This, by the way, would stop pornography, illegal drugs, crime etc. as all the flows of digital debits/credits would be visible and you could track and be seen spending credits on these pursuits, it would be known and subsequently behaviour would change given the need to be in harmony with others. So visibility could help identify social ills, economic ills and unhealthy patterns that are not harmonious for society and importantly, the planet.

In relation to higher order or innate needs or completeness, economics is unable to satisfy the real needs, which when realised would nullify most materialism bar the basics. Moreover, as people are freed up in a wholistic system they would be encouraged to follow their passions, society would support happiness as the ultimate goal and not marginalise those who do not choose to accumulate or chase after status. In fact, those engaged in the social good would be the most supported. Imagine the potential and passion that would unlock. Imagine the contributions of inventions and concentrated intention on improving life and balance. I wouldn’t be writing this if I was working. I would not have become a peace clown (no time) and wouldn’t have travelled the world, as people see what I have lived as dreams and bubbles. In other words they would desire how I have lived but not think it possible, hence a dream.

Think of tribal cultures where the real utility was in a natural tribal life, nature, hunting, families and oneness with the earth. I read Chief Seattle’s famous quote today and could feel the wholistic knowledge the American Indians had. The first one is the earth does not belong to us. He states humankind has not woven the web (we did not create ourselves or nature). We are one thread. I often write this in poetry as part of a tapestry. Indigenous peoples across the world have been regarded as primitive and worthless (no economic value) but there was happiness in these societies, they didn’t need the material world to fill gaps. Many were in harmony with nature, they had to be to survive (as we do now). In fact I recall the Australian indigenous people had said on witnessing the arrival of Anglo-Europeans, they perceived the white people as unhappy. Gandhi spoke of the imported unhappiness of the West when referring to India and the need for self reliance and home spun.  So this condition has been with us a long time. Indigenous people lived a natural life plenty of laughter, fun and bonding together. Sexual activity was freer and there was a deeper love and connectedness with the planet which was not seen as separate, nor owned or a commodity, they were at one with their true nature. Many were mystics and had visions, so it was an exciting world to live in. I spoke to a white person in Alice Springs who told me a story where an indigenous man left his community to go to Alice Springs 80km’s away, instantly he was seen there. What do you make of that? they were teleporting themselves. So there is much mystery that is unknown, suppressed and the more we enter the material world the natural gifts inherent to humans are lost in front of computers and televisions. They had spiritual needs met through their cosmology, dreaming, mystical experiences and adherence to universal laws imbued with nature spirits. This created order in the tribes and a shared agreement on how to live in harmony.

Therefore, economics and materialism is unable to satisfy the deeper spiritual needs such as love and community e.g. In our society people seek love through acquiring money, buying a nice house, a nice car, good career and the latest gadgets. It turns out to not be love but a false sense of admiration (projection) whereby the person impressed, wishes they were you or they feel negative, that is jealous (smaller).   In the case of admiration they may seek to hang out with you, befriend you, have a relationship as it may rub off and enhance the false image of ‘better than’ and attract opportunities. So status becomes a subtle divider of ‘better than’ which is not natural as we are all equal in value and unique. That doesn’t mean sameness, it means opportunity could be equal if we saw equality as the goal, rather than superiority as an ego gratification of success. The sense of love that accompanies admiration is conditional and not the real love (unconditional) that is deeply desired (the real need is not met).  If people do not experience real love they can die. My time in baby houses in Russia taught me that if children were not hugged and given love, they died. So it is a real need, like food. Community is also a real need, if you isolate a person (often used as punishment) it causes pain, it is a real need as we are subtly connected to others. Indeed we are part of a social fabric that is not separate. It is unseen but felt. Just walk into a room and feel the energy of others then walk into an empty room. Experience a break up with someone you love and feel the disconnect from just above the stomach. I actually experienced that, I realised the love was a bond or chord that had snapped. The relationship ended when that occurred. So we had indeed been connected. The larger fabric is always connected of course, as you may think of someone and they ring, that is a good example. So the unseen is indeed real but not well understood but I am sure many could relate to it. We just don’t talk about it.

Interestingly, the false self which is the image projected to the world and the many friends associated with the image, reveals the unreality of it in the case of losing everything. Most of the people you thought were friends walk or drift away as you are now perceived as a loser (powerless), a failure or judged as having lost your edge (less than, lower value). Hence ‘out with the old in with the new’. The love you perceived in admiration is in truth, ego gratification and disappears, as the image changes. That is because it was never real. Thus, Economics holds up a false self as satisfaction through materialism, which in truth, is out of harmony with our real nature which is to satisfy real needs and desires (not wants). Desire turns out to be creative, as we are always naturally desiring to create something new in our lives, hence the thought what can we experience next? This doesn’t have to be material. In fact as universal values are deeply felt, you will chooose creative pursuits that are in harmony with nature. At levels of consciousness where people identify with the ego, desires play out as pleasure (addictions) not joy (peace with self). Life is constant change, nothing is held constant, only change is constant and what is real lasts the test of time.

Our true nature is not factored into GDP, there is no balancing mechanism or deeper assessment of real needs. Therefore, markets tend to be irrational when contrasted with natural support systems in that they manufacturing more consumption to maximise profit. They work on the notion that the resources are infinite and they are separate from social responsibility given they are private entities engaged in marketing/sales, production, shareholders and externalities. Although governments have sought and implemented regulation, we then see a counter argument (policy) whereby certain political interests adopt ideologies of deregulation (small government, free markets) and power struggles between employees, employers and environmentalists around cost reduction, profit maximisation and attempts to rebalance responsibility in governance for sustainable ecological/econonmic balance with nature. The competition lies at the bottom of this pitching one group against another based on perceived winners/losers economically which creates divisions and ultimately conflict can result. This works against our nature which is to naturally cooperate, to seek harmony with others. In truth, all these competitive dynamics are irrational given activity is out of balance with natural feedbacks, homeostasis and natural human instincts to cooperate.

A rational paradigm or natural coexistence with nature is naturally living within sustainable limits (taking only what we need in the moment and valuing nature), understanding nature (seasons, rhythms, climate, life) and our place (dependent, nature itself), finding balance within (trust, love, belonging, happiness, non resistance as peace) in harmony with natural rhythms. Music often gives us the feeling of harmony as our state of being is uplifted and we feel in tune with the world, there is a flow and we naturally move to it. In structured societies we lose connection with the flow and dysfunction occurs as we behave in socially trained ways rather than natural ways, where our inherent wisdom is not far from the surface. Nicola Tesla I learned recently always spoke of trusting your instincts rather than doing what others tell you to do and shaping your life in accordance with societal norms.

On a psychological level, marketers are the creators of consumption by influencing customers through understanding the range of needs. I was trained in Marketing and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs was used as a model, and products and services were used to meet those needs. As a Market Analyst it was my job to work with Marketers and analyse consumer opinion and whether they had net correct recognition (recall) of advertising, to understand their relationship to the product, to test in focus groups what they associated with products or services and deeply delve into their psychology to find the hot buttons, to find what evokes them to purchase. In the company I was in we filmed instores to see how they moved through aisles, what caught their attention, shapes, colours, shelf height, all to maximise the visual then attract them to buy through perceived needs/wants. Impulse purchases were stimulated through design of packaging and messages. It is extremely complex but ultimately it is to stimulate desire and loyalty with products and/or services as extensions of a persons identity. This is where the ecological imbalance begins and the psychological irrationality of cultivating a false identity rather than beingness and valuing authenticity (naturalness). Hence to be happy with who you are, not what you have or how you are seen.

Excessive consumption moves from economy supporting society (needs=wants) to society supporting economy by increasing consumption (wants > needs) which is the basis of economic growth or Gross Domestic Product (aggregate demand). Where what we have and what we do become important factors to societal acceptance, security, belonging and importantly falsely raising self esteem feeding into ego manifesting as self worth. People end up designing identities to be seen to be rather than being themselves. I’ve heard many people on holiday say ‘I feel I can be myself here’. What pressure people are under to conform. I can say as a clown (bringing in another experience) that when I clown all the conditioning falls off me, as no-one cares if I make a mistake, I am free to hug, jump on park benches, juggle and smile. I can be myself with no restrictions. So I have felt the freedom of just responding to the moment without limits. Returning to the workplace or society, others support the myth of the false self by being superficially agreeable or speaking to the role, so they don’t lose favour or economic/social advantages, so the false self is upheld by ‘I am just doing my job’ (no self determination) or the idenity ‘I am a secretary’ (role). This is the game played which is not real. The reality of this comes suddenly when the illusory bubble bursts. This could come from a financial crash, partner leaving, physical or mental illness or career disaster, suddenly the ego is deflated and many become depressed or suicidal. This is because what they do became their ego identity and it was not who they really are. If it was they wouldn’t change given external changes.

On a global level, if the world financial market collapses, people will be stunned as their world, their structure, their scripts are all up in the air, they don’t know what to do, as the natural world comes into visibility, they have to remember their true nature. People, as we have seen in disasters, at first are stunned, they miss the structures that are familiar (e.g. earthquakes) and then they start to cooperate, help each other, do kind things, bring food, send help etc. We saw this in Brisbane with the floods, people went from house to house offering food and help. It shocked the society as they believed people were selfish and insular. So it shows you when we are given a challenge, we do rise to it. So what was rational was to love your neighbour, as yourself. See the wisdom. If they were economic beings they would have only done it for money. The illusion of economy was shattered in a disaster. The real world came forward, we are loving. Yes there are a few that loot, but the majority become who they are naturally, each others keepers.

We see in the present time an unhappy society engaged in economy rather than community. Many are caught up in unhappy jobs, with too much debt, long hours, unhappy partners, less money, challenges with children, separation and their demand for more material things for happiness goes on. That is why we pass faces that are impassive or look visibly unhappy on the street. Patterns of seriousness, fear and conservatism generate this sense of dullness, routine and unhappiness. Hence, the deep unhappiness in society is not mentioned in Economics or politics as it would raise questions and unravel the myth that profit doesn’t bring you happiness. People have to believe it does in order to follow the carot which takes them to work in jobs many do not enjoy. I raised the simplicity of Economics as a inadequate predictor of social wellbeing when I was studying and wasn’t answered satisfactorily. I found it incredible that complex societies were reduced to equilibrium analysis. Howevever, I accepted on some levels abstraction gives us a feel, but ultimately there had to be deeper understanding of social dynamics. In 20 years I have not seen this field evolve. So it is refreshing to discover one of the most respected Economists in Australia speaking about happiness, not in financial terms but happiness as an alternative to growth. He is evolving, that is an encouraging sign. I feel vindicated as a clown now.

Happiness of course comes from the freedom of being who you are not who others want you to be. So it is not hard to see how Economics promotes the false self through materialism and building greed (profit maximisation) into acceptable models of supposed wellbeing. When what we see today is the opposite, the bubble is indeed bursting and the reality of the false economy is presenting itself along with identification with selfish ego (self interest) rather than the real self which is spiritual, cooperative, sharing, selfless in nature (best interest). You may note I use the word nature, that is the clue in how we harmonise with the planet. We have to return to our true nature, which indeed is peace. This is found when we return to truth (inner), when we learn to surrender to nature itself and find ourselves in a natural state of equilibrium with ‘what is’ (as life turns up). A better word than equilibrium would be non resistance or total acceptance, whatever your journey. I discovered we create our reality, we choose to define it, we can choose to be negative or positive. This is where I found true happiness. I realised money wasn’t the source of happiness for me, I didn’t resonate with competitiveness and had no desire to walk over others to get it. I saw the disrespect of employees and employers, I smiled at the prestige which I saw as not real, as always I felt equality. So for me I walked away from Economics and chose to experience life fully. Even more radically I chose to become myself, I chose to follow my dreams and if inspired follow the thread. I was inspired to become a clown and I ventured out of the box of the corporate world and opened up into a world that was unlimited. I found I could create opportunities through coming at life in a different way. I followed my heart and did work for nothing, I found my passion and held a light for around 14 years, with very little monetary recompense. What I found is that I loved what I did and it became the sense of success and fulfillment. I found I didn’t need a job, house, partner or success in the eyes of society. My happiness became my barometer and if I was feeling happy with what I was doing, I realised I was on track. I even lived in a tent and travelled Australia to test my fears of being attacked and to trust that life was kind, which indeed it was, abundantly. I even travelled the world to 20 countries, clowned on the streets, and couch surfed (free accommodation) on a shoe string, I did it alone. That was part of my peace work, it was part of learning to be in harmony with life, to trust whatever comes up. I decided to see all cultures as my own family and when I went to a new city I was coming home. I imagined it was familiar and the fear left me. I had no idea if my money would last, just bought what I needed and didn’t waste it. I had money left over when I returned to Australia. I had experience, it was not theoretical. I allowed life to take me on the journey and it was incredibly happy and expanding. I grew in confidence when I stepped out of my comfort zone. Following my inner vision rather than listening to people saying it is not safe to travel as a woman, or take pepper spray, I said no to both, I am fine nothing will happen. That was my instinct and I was right. In truth when I came to align myself with nature I’ve never been happier. I’ve never had less. I thankfully sussed out many years ago that money and career wasn’t my reason for my life, purpose was. How do I economically value purpose in GDP? Purpose can be paid or unpaid, for me it is unpaid. I actually don’t desire to do it for money, but I find society doesn’t value what I do unless I charge money. I am a clown and give love and play joyfully, it is my nature to be this, I don’t want to put a price on it, how do I value a child’s smile, or an old man sitting on the bench I walk past, or the people I speak to. My colours bring security, happiness, a sense of community, carnival, wellbeing and healing. I love to do it for free because love is my pay and I want people to see the love not the performer. People are often surprised. I said I love to give. Often they give back to me, they invite me into eat or try to give money. I don’t accept money but if a sandwich is offered I may accept. Giving is the currency. I see very clearly as I give it inspires the same, that is our true nature. Do you see my point, I only work for money when love is not in the work. I am so happy as a clown I cannot even begin to express in words the joy I feel and the sense of complete fulfillment when I come home. I realise to love people is my purpose and my true nature, as I do it effortlessly, I don’t even think about it.

I remember an interesting approach which stated ‘to be to do to have’ rather than ‘to do to be to have’. For example when you ‘be happy’ the rest follows, rather than, I have to do this for 20 years then I retire and will be happy. Why wait when it is here now. In my case I chose to be happy. I actually remember the moment, it was in Britain, I had had enough of work, workplace politics and my work not valued, I was just an economic unit. I came back to Australia and told myself I will not take a job unless it makes me happy. Couldn’t find one so created my own. I learned to be courageous enough to follow my dreams, trust my instincts and step out of my comfort zone and social conditioning. It has served me well. It took me to university to study peace, to Russia with Patch Adams, to become a teacher of values, then to win a scholarship with Rotary to go to Bangkok with world experts, then to travel the world, then Austalia and now I find myself in Perth house sitting, no home of my own and my things in the car. It is very exciting when you go with your nature, abudance is there. Quite contrary to the idea that we will live on less, the truth is, life becomes fuller from a state of spaciousness, that space is no stress, no thinking, no fear, no distractions – you just allow positive thoughts to come and create what is next. That is what I have experienced. Great fun. Every day is new and I love my life.

I wish you wholeness and happiness, the place to find it is within yourself. Life will lead you home, or back to happiness which is a feeling of joy. For me, it has been feeling as if I am falling in love with life itself. I am so enamoured by its beauty and fullfillment of my needs. That is how you know you are in harmony with nature. It is fully interconnected, each part is nature, when you tap into this flow, this mystery, you just love all of it.

I pass this love to you.

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Mohandas Gandhi

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”