Enlightened Economics

Economics for an Enlightened Age

Archive for the ‘Consciousness/Psychology’ Category

• ‘Voluntary Simplicity’ Brings Higher Consciousness into Economics

Posted by Ron Robins on February 3, 2009

A sweeping new consumer frugality is enveloping the developed world bringing higher consciousness into economic affairs. Some call it ‘voluntary simplicity.’ And it ties in well with my thesis that as a more balanced, higher consciousness arises in consumers, their consumptive and savings habits will change significantly and more sustainably. Thus, I believe the age of Enlightened Economics is ahead us.

Voluntary Simplicity defined

The term voluntary simplicity (VS) according to the Simple Living Network is first thought to have been used by “Richard Gregg who, in 1936, was describing a way of life marked by a new balance between inner and outer growth.” Some might argue that numerous people are being forced into VS-as the unemployed might be, for instance. There is some truth to that. Nonetheless, I believe that most of us are sensing a new reality dawning in the consumptive habits of almost everyone around us.

For example, more and more people in developed countries are realizing that their lives have become so dominated by material possessions that the caring, maintenance and use of some of these possessions take too much of their time, energy and money! (i.e. ‘McMansions,’ large homes for just two or three people are going out of style.) They are also realizing that many of these products are damaging to the environment. Thus, a degree of frugality is coming to be seen by countless numbers of people as the way forward. It is important to understand though, that this VS style of living is not to be compared with an agrarian ‘back to nature’ lifestyle, nor related to material impoverishment.

The Simple Living Network states that the values underlying VS are: material simplicity, human scale, self-determination, ecological awareness, and personal growth. These personal values are often attributed to individuals of higher consciousness, and mesh well with the understanding of Enlightened Economics, which believes that with rich inner development of our minds will come the ability to fulfill our individual and collective economic aspirations.

The exact numbers of individuals abiding by the VS lifestyle, either knowingly, or unknowingly, are not known. But it is apparent that its ranks are growing fast. Evidence of this is seen in the cutting back of material consumption, increased spending on education, and a deepening interest in the environment, personal growth and spirituality.

Modern economies lose their way as happiness fades

Economics should be about assisting us in fulfilling our dreams while allowing us to enjoy great happiness and fulfillment in life. However, as practised today economics is sorely lacking in achieving such goals. In fact, when looking at measures of happiness, authoritative research by Dr. Robert Lane of Yale University, shows happiness actually declines as GDP grows! Other studies such as the one by Prof. Arthur A. Stone, of Stoney Brook University School of Medicine, demonstrate that happiness is unrelated to income.

People in developed countries everywhere are beginning to understand the deep flaws of a modern life based principally on the acquisition of material possessions. Hence, our lifestyles are increasingly favouring the nourishment of our subjective values and inner development, over outer material goods.

The coming era of voluntary simplicity

VS lifestyles encourage more entrepreneurship, independence, self-employment, the purchase and manufacture of sustainable products and services, lower debt levels, reduced consumption, and higher savings rates plus a tendency to save and pay cash for purchases. (For related reading, see my editorial on the Investing for the Soul website, Everyone Becoming A Cultural Creative.)

With society favouring qualitative and subjective values related to lifestyle, there will be considerably less emphasis on the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) statistic. This statistic simply totals the market value of all final goods and services sold. New economic measures that include quality of life factors will become the norm. These other measures might include the Calvert-Henderson Quality of Life Indicators, the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI), the Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare (ISEW), and variants of them.

The economic transformation giving rise to voluntary simplicity

Almost nobody in the mainstream economic community predicted our present circumstances, illustrating the deplorable state of economics in our institutions today. They naively believed it was fine for debt to grow exponentially while incomes stagnated and savings crashed. And then they wondered why the consumer stopped spending and acting more frugally. It’s amazing how such brilliant minds could get it so very wrong. It was primarily only those (like myself) adhering to the ignored and maligned Austrian School of economics who largely got it right.

People in developed countries are increasingly favouring more non-material growth that is founded on higher inner values, knowledge, simplicity and sustainability. They will not abandon material joys, but the emergence of VS is telling us that long-held so-called economic ‘truths’ are shattering before us. An age of Enlightened Economics is being born.


© Ron Robins, 2009.


Posted in Consciousness/Psychology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

• Cultural Creatives to Dominate in the Age of Enlightened Economics

Posted by Ron Robins on May 22, 2008

For many years I have envisioned the possible psychological archetype of individuals in the coming ‘Enlightened Economics’ era. After much thought and research, I believe it is likely to resemble that of what sociologist Paul Ray calls the “Cultural Creative.” He coined the term back in the 1990s after performing two extensive surveys on Americans’ psychological values for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to help understand and categorize Americans’ values to assist in the development of their environmental policies.

Who are the Cultural Creatives (CCs)?
In 2000, Dr. Ray co-authored with Sherry Ruth Anderson the book, Cultural Creatives (CCs), where they describe CCs as caring “…. deeply about ecology and saving the planet, about relationships, peace, and social justice, about self-actualization, spirituality, and self-expression.” They suggested that in the year 2000 there were more than 50 million CCs in America (about 25 per cent of the U.S. adult population) and a further 80-90 million in Europe. In a private conversation I had with Dr. Ray in 2002, he indicated that CCs could dominate western populations as early as 2020. I believe a case could now be made that this will occur much earlier than that.

Spiritual and personal development were at the centre of the values of the founding ‘core’ CCs. Referring to the early development of CCs, Dr. Ray and Ms. Anderson state, “As the ranks of beginners kept growing [in the 1960s], hundreds of thousands stayed with the process and went deeper. By the 1980s, the ‘movements’ numbers had swelled to a million or so, and by the 1990s, tens of millions were involved… But the consciousness movement-full of contradictions, shallow and deep, bubbling with new developments-is still in the phase of accelerating growth.”

CCs imbibe the values of Enlightened Economics
As explained in my various posts (The Missing Ingredient in Economics — Consciousness; Retiring the GDP (Gross Domestic Product, etc.) the fundamental shift I envisage in individual consciousness is towards that of global ecology, spirituality and social justice. This fits very well with the definition of CCs.

Though Dr. Ray has not completed further surveys in recent years as to the growth of CCs in western or global populations, it is clear from the enormous escalation of interest in green products and services, the environment, ethical investing, corporate social responsibility, spirituality, etc., that the numbers in the CC camp are growing significantly.

The ranks of the CCs are being filled from a group Dr. Ray refers to as ‘Moderns.’ The Moderns are the governing group in western societies. Their primary values concern money and status.

As the Moderns decline, the CCs gain
In the U.S., Moderns number close to half of the population. Dr. Ray and Ms. Anderson in their book explain the role of Moderns as “… the normative culture found in the office towers and factories of big business; in banks and the stock market; in university science labs and high tech firms; in hospitals and most doctors offices; in mainline churches and synagogues; in the ‘best’ schools and colleges …and most ‘mainstream’ and newspaper articles. The standard we take for granted, the rules we live by, are made by and for Moderns.”

However, the Moderns are declining in number as their values, focusing on financial materialism, status and lack of altruism, are under attack from both within and outside of their group. Increasingly, such values alone are seen as insufficient to meet the challenges of our world. The shenanigans on Wall Street – with the sub-prime mortgage and derivative fiascos and the gross irresponsibility of corporate elites – are some of the many reasons encouraging countless Moderns to re-align their values. Thus, unknowingly, they convert to the ranks of the CCs.

The expected era of Enlightened Economics necessitates a psychological archetype that reflects the demands of a new global epoch. This new epoch requires values depicting openness to the unfamiliar; a sense and inner experience of the unity of all things; and a deep caring for nature, the environment and humanity. And it also includes a realization that a new vision of global economics is critically needed. Cultural Creatives (CCs) heading to be the majority in numerous countries, imbibe these qualities. As such, their psychological archetype is the one I believe will dominate in the forthcoming age of Enlightened Economics.


© Ron Robins, 2008.

Posted in Consciousness/Psychology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

• Free Markets Need ‘High Consciousness’ Individuals

Posted by Ron Robins on February 1, 2008

Adam Smith in 1776 said in his “Wealth of Nations” masterpiece that prices in a free market are as if determined by an ‘invisible hand.’ This invisible hand in free markets exists due to innumerable individuals voluntarily buying and selling goods and services by mutual consent. Such exchanges are at prices and quantities unhindered by monopolistic, oligopolistic or governmental influences. I believe that this ideal can only be optimally attained when individuals are fully free and fulfilled within themselves, enjoying higher consciousness.

Critics of free markets today, such as Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Economics Laureate, say that true free markets can only exist if pertinent knowledge is fully and equitably distributed among all market participants. Now he says since this is rarely the case ‘free markets’ usually need some form of government regulation. This is a popular proposition, witness the increased US Federal Reserve’s tightening of loan standards for sub-prime mortgage loans. (I refer again to this below.)

But suppose markets can be made more efficient and uniform in the way knowledge about them is promulgated? Today, we have the internet. This allows for the mass transmission of knowledge. As the internet becomes increasingly ‘dense’ in terms of knowledge and society ever more sophisticated in its use, the argument about knowledge in any given market not being widely disseminated becomes less plausible.

Another criticism which I see regularly and is particularly apt, say in regard to the sub-prime mortgage mess, is this: That many individuals lack the knowledge and/or intellectual ability in distinguishing fact from fiction when making purchases, and therefore need ‘protection’ by the government or some other party. Were there no means of counteracting this insufficiency in individuals, those proposing such intervention would have a valid point. However, there is a way of counteracting this human insufficiency and that is because our individual and collective consciousness is now undergoing an extraordinary transformation where these deficits are being righted. This development is a core premise of this Enlightened Economics blog, integrating the knowledge of consciousness into economic theory.

The new evolving theory of Enlightened Economics will demonstrate that as higher consciousness permeates society, individuals will have the required insight and intellectual facility for optimal purchasing decisions, without much need, if any, of government regulation. Thus, with individuals enjoying higher consciousness free markets can rise to their optimal state and produce affluence and fulfillment for all.


© Ron Robins, 2008.

Posted in Consciousness/Psychology, Economics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

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