Is economics the largest religion on earth?
This might seem an absurd question at first but based on the legal definitions given to terms like religion and economics and the reasoning behind those definitions, coupled with the way we humans behave in relation to both, it may not be so far fetched.
The law in general defines religion as the belief in something beyond the five senses and the following of certain canons in order to give effect to that belief. An obvious example would be a belief in God and the following of the 10 commandments out of the Bible. What is key here is not whether one believes in a god or not, but whether one believes or accepts that an intelligence exists beyond that which can be perceived by the five senses. A belief in ghosts therefore could fulfill this requirement although only it seems if those who believed in them stringently followed some set of rules as a means by which to serve this belief.
Another key is why one wishes to connect to that intelligence. Serving God, or any other form of intelligence beyond the five senses, by serving a set of strict rules, it appears is done for purposes of guidance; for instance, a belief in God and the following of the Bible is supposed to guide one toward heaven or inner peace or some reward, or inversely, away from hell, turmoil, or pain.
Looking at economics, the law in general defines economics as the production, distribution, and consumption of commodities. What is key here is the fact that the definition is focused on commodities and not resources in general, and the reason for this is because economics is not concerned with how resources are handled unless its purposes also involve the production, consumption, and transfer of wealth. For the purposes of the law, economics is not concerned with Granny making you a plate of shortbread or next door giving you a bag of apples because you offered to mow the lawn, but it will if a source of your income is from mowing lawns because, believe it or not, the tax authorities will deem the shortbread and/or apples as income because you are treating the resources at the heart of the exchange (including your labour) as commodities.
So how does this relate to religion?
All those who participate in economics do so for purposes of reward, whether that reward be for riches, power, to pursue self-interests, security, or to serve others, to name a few. So in line with the reasons people follow a religion, there is both a means and an end.
What about canons? Economics also follows rules and law, such as property and contract law, and much of our legislation today is implemented in the name of the economy. So again, like religion, we follow laws and rules to give effect to what we are pursuing and the reasons why.
So what about the belief in something beyond the five senses?
In 1776, a man by the name of Adam Smith wrote and published a book called ‘The Wealth of Nations’ and in this book he coined the phrase ‘the invisible hand’. Economists have then summarized this term to mean the self-regulating nature of the marketplace in determining how resources are allocated based on individuals acting in their own self-interest, and, to an unseen mechanism that maintains equilibrium between the supply and demand of resources. Smith states that the invisible hand functions by virtue of the innate inclination among free market participants to maximize their well-being. As market participants compete, driven by their own needs and wants, they involuntarily benefit society at large.
The similarity between this and religion is that the invisible hand is something beyond the five senses, because as economists admit, it is something ‘unseen’; but yet a force nonetheless, a force without which we apparently could not pursue the rewards we seek and something with which me must place our faith and belief. It is also a force which apparently, is the only force which can benefit society at large, a claim which religions also make. As you can see from the description, the invisible hand only exists in a free-market where each participant is competing against every other participant to secure their self-interests; take away the free-market and the competition, and the invisible hand disappears. Communism therefore would differ in the sense that under a true communist state resources are not treated as commodities, wealth is not pursued, and the hand which governs the production, distribution and consumption of resources is very evident to the senses (I do not advocate communism when the definition of communism means that its principles are forced on a whole community against the will of some who make up this community, just as I do not advocate capitalism if its principles are forced on everyone).
Krishnamurti said that the constant assertion of belief is an indication of fear. I have maintained for many years that a belief is based on wanting something to be true because objective fact has not made it so, however I feel Krishnamurti explains better the reasons why we want these things to be true because they indicate a fear in the background. With all due respect to economists, capitalists, and all others who advocate our system of exchange economics, it is obvious that much of it is based on belief and not objective fact. One of the greatest misfortunes of our capitalist system is its so called principle of free-will, a principle which is fine within the confines of the system itself, but which is a principle that the system itself does not permit toward any other who does not wish to participate in it. Put another way, if you are a person who does not agree with the principles of our capitalist system and the requirement of it to treat all human needs as commodities to be exchanged, then you are essentially crap out of luck because your means by which to access human needs now no longer exists. For a system which is based on so called free-will, its very reach has done nothing but destroy free-will unless you believe in capitalism and exchange economics, and I’m afraid I see no difference between this belief system and most religions today.
If capitalism and exchange economics is to be true to form, it should permit the free choice to operate other models of handling resources, one of which is what I call the way of the custodian, and allow these models to co-exist alongside it instead of acting as if every alternative is some threat to its existence, a belief which has no justification.