By Vaddhaka Linn
After his Enlightenment the Buddha set out to help liberate the individual, and create a society free from suffering. The economic resources now exist to offer a realistic possibility of providing everyone with decent food, shelter, work and leisure, to allow each of us to fulfill our potential as human beings, whilst protecting the environment. What is it in the nature of modern capitalism which prevents that happening? Can Buddhism help us build something better than our current economic system, to reduce suffering and help the individual to freedom? In his thought-provoking work The Buddha on Wall Street, Vaddhaka Linn explores answers to these questions by examining our economic world from the moral standpoint established by the Buddha.
About Vaddhaka Linn
Having completed a first degree in economics, and a postgraduate degree in industrial relations, Vaddhaka Linn worked for over twenty years in the UK in trade unionism and adult education, before joining the Triratna Buddhist Community, in which he has lived and worked since 1994. He now divides his time between the UK and Estonia, where he teaches and helps to run a Buddhist centre. He is the author (as Ian Linn) of Application Refused: Employment Vetting by the State (Civil Liberties Trust 1990) and of The Case Against the Polygraph (Society of Civil and Public Servants, 1983).
Sarah Vaz on The Verge (University of Brighton's Official Newspaper) wrote:
"Although Vaddhaka Linn acknowledges the creative side of business, he oversimplifies the portrayal of greed and selfishness (capitalism) versus generosity and altruism (Buddhism). In particular, there is no mention of philanthropy, which is, after all, compassion in action – the application of the fruits of capitalism for the benefit of others. Think of the Gates Foundation, one of many. I would have liked Linn to explore this middle ground between capitalism driving material desires, and Buddhism purifying the human character. There are ‘Wolves’ and ‘Buddhas’ on Wall Street, but there are also many people in between. Money itself is not the problem – it’s what we do with it that counts. After all, no one would have heard of the Good Samaritan if he hadn’t had a fiver in his pocket. That said, there are fascinating insights into the means through which multinational corporations have amassed wealth and power whilst avoiding paying taxes wherever possible."
"In his preface, he states that through his book, ‘Buddhism offers a radically alternative perspective to the market fundamentalism that dominates the world today’. That is what he has done and as well as that, it offers people who don’t know much about economics a chance to learn something on the topic. The book is split up into twelve sections, each one going through different ways in which the economy can be changed or looked at through a Buddhist perspective. [...] What I thought was good about this book was that it didn’t force you to follow Buddhism; rather it was merely an approach to understanding why we have the economy that we do today. [...] Overall, this book is insightful and carefully goes through the society that we live in through different eyes. Linn explains certain words and what they mean, so that the reader is not alienated and ties it in with the specific topic. By understanding capitalism from the beginning, it is easier to come out of it and live in a way that everyone can survive together."
Video Introduction by the Author
If you have more time, watch his lecture 'Going beyond Capitalism; A Buddhist Perspective (62 minutes). Or, alternatively, watch another lecture (47 minutes) on the Gift Relationship and attitudes towards altruism in modern economics.
Table of Contents of 'The Buddha on Wall Street'
- An 'invisible hand'
- The gift relationship
- The decline of community
- Nature and the environment
- The waste economy
- The attention economy
- The happiness industry
- The corporation
- Buddhist voices
- Concluding thoughts
- Poem 'Shopping'
- Note on classical, neoclassical, and neoliberal economics