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Living in One World: Economics, Spirituality, and the Human Good
“Economics within a Buddhist Philosophy” (continued)

維荷文博士 講 By Martin J. Verhoeven, Ph. D.
王青楠博士 中譯 Chinese translation by Qingnan Wang, Ph. D.
一九九九年十月十六日星期六加州柏克萊 Saturday,October 16,1999,Berkeley, California


(a)世界上最富有的 1/5人口享用了 86%的生產品和勞務;最貧窮的1/5人口只享用了1.3%。最富有的1/5人口使用了全部食物的一半,能源近60%,紙張84%,電話74%,車輛87%。(如同Nagler教授所指出,令人吃驚的不僅是這種兩極分化,而且我們有限的資源正在無窮盡地用來維持這一擴張過程。)  








Let's look at some of the statistics or outcomes that could be used to test this Buddhist model or hypothesis; first at the macro and global level:

(a) The richest one-fifth of the world's people consumes 86% ofall goods and services, while the poorest one-fifth consumes just1.3%. The richest one-fifth consumes half the food, nearly 60% ofall the energy, 84% of all the paper, 74% of all the telephone lines, and 87% of all the vehicles.
(This absurd disparity is fed by an equally absurd notion that we have a finite supply of resources to sustain this endless expansion, as Professor Nagler has pointed out).

(b) Natural resources are plummeting: since 1970 the  world's  forests have been halved; water, fish, and other vital resources are diminishing and in some areas already depleted. Americans spend  $8 billion annually on cosmetics—$2 billion more than the amountestimated to provide basic education for everyone in the world. Europeans spend $11 billion a year on ice cream—$2 billion more than the estimated amount needed to provide clean water and safesewers for the world's population. Americans and Europeans spend $17 billion a year on pet food—$4 billion more than the estimated annual additional total needed to provide basic health and nutritionfor everyone in the world.

(c) The three richest people in the world have combined assets that exceed the combined domestic product of the 48 least developed countries. The world's 225 richest individuals have combined wealth exceeding the annual income of the poorest 47% of the entire world's population. It is estimated that the additional cost of achieving and maintaining universal access to basic education for all, basic health care for all, reproductive health care for women,adequate food for all, and clean water and safe sewers for all isroughly $40 billion a year—or less than 4% of the combined wealthof the 225 richest people in the world, according to the United
Nations Secretary General's Report, in the New York Times, Sept. 27, 1998.

If we look at the micro and more personal level, we find equally troubling inconsistencies. And it is important to bring the discussion down to this level, because one of the more insidious aspects of infusing market values into our moral life, is that more and more people calculate right and wrong by the standard of narrow self-interest, not the larger common good. Thus, even though the above statistics, shocking as they may be, are widely known, that knowledge in itself does not necessarily translate into action that could correct such egregious wrongs. This is one of the problems of "unbelief," or the decline in "shared values." Awareness alone, unless underpinned by some deeper abiding and overarching value system that informs that awareness, easily turns into apathy and indifference. And even when our conscience is pricked by some vague sense of empathy derived from an earlier ethical worldview, in the current market-religion this noble impulse often peters out into "compassion-fatigue." It doesn't by itself lead to compassion­ate and wise action. Thus, the personal level often stirs more concern than the global. Regardless, both reflect the same phenomenon and reinforce the overall validity, it seems to me, of the Bud­dhist model. Let's look at some statistics concerning the individual:   

The World Health Organization estimates that over 80% of the deaths in the developed world ("over-developed") are the result of lifestyle; i.e. excess, indulgence, over-consumption. Most of our mortality comes from luxury and glut, from "over-eating diseases" and the corresponding growing problems associated with "over-nutrition," such as hypertension, and obesity due to under-exercise and inactivity. Coronary heart disease, strokes, diabetes, and some forms of cancer (an estimated one-third of all cancer deaths are related to diet) make up the majority of our deaths. Heart attack is the leading cause of death in the U.S. (one strikes every 25 seconds; one kills every 45 seconds). And all of this "good life" is held up as worthy of universal aspiration; it is marketed globally and consti­tutes our most influential export.

By contrast, death in the "under-developed" world is primarily caused by deficiency. Lack of food makes people prone to malaria, TB, polio, measles, malnutrition, starvation, dysentery, and dis­eases associated with deficiency, such as scurvy, beriberi, rickets, kwashiorkor (low protein). 20 million children starve to death each year. That translates into:

40,000 every day
1,667 per hour
28 per minute
1 every 2.3 seconds
To be continued

To be continued


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