The book, adopting a fresh approach, addresses the economic travails in the contemporary global scenario and presents a search for solutions to the economic quagmire based on arguments relying on common sense and understanding of human nature. It analyses the views of thinkers and economists including Kautilya of the ancient India, ideas of John Maynard Keynes and Milton Friedman, and other highly acclaimed economic theories to discuss ideal economic concepts. Looking at the past for economic wisdom and taking clue from the laws of nature which ensures that imbalances do not persist for long, the articles in the volume deal with matters of deep concern in the present- day global economic scenario and ways to address them. The volume, informative, interesting and insightful, is bound to be useful to economists as well as general readers.
Navin Doshi is an aerospace engineer, trader in financial asset management and philosophical thinker. In 1958 Doshi came to the United States and pursued postgraduate studies in engineering at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and at UCLA. During his career as an aerospace engineer, he was the recipient of several NASA awards and US patents. In 1999, Navin and his wife, Pratima, endowed the Doshi Chair of Indian Studies in the Department of History at UCLA. The Doshis have also endowed a professorship at the Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, which administers the annual Doshi Bridge Builder Award. In 2008, Doshi founded Nalanda International, a non-profit organisation for promoting excellence and research in Indic Studies. Recipient of numerous honours in India and USA, Doshi is the author of the book Transcendence: Saving Us from Ourselves (Ithaca Press, 2009). Doshi’s numerous articles on investment, economics, and philosophy have been published in various periodicals and are posted at www.nalandainternational.org.
When a highly trained aerospace engineer has his feet firmly grounded in economic and psychological realities, he can look far and deep into life. Navin Doshi is such a person for whom Nature, seen through the twin eyes of Western science and Indian philosophy, from outside in and inside out, offers pointers to our economic well-being. ‘Economics and Nature’ is his book that interrogates the harsh economic actualities of the present and searches for pathways to harmony in personal, familial and social life.
Doshi’s astute grasp of nature, history and psychology allows him to penetrate the US economic crisis of our times and provide solutions for individual and social survival and well being. In today’s global interdependent world, this is a book which carries understanding and practical wisdom for everyone.
Ever Since 2007, when home prices began to sink in the United States, the American economy has varied from stagnation to a deep recession. According to official claims the slump ended in 2009, but large-scale unemployment has persisted with little hope in sight. Naturally, people are wondering what is wrong with the state of the US and global economy, where even trillion dollar budget deficits and corporate bailouts have been unable to fix the problem. Several economists have offered a variety of cures, but unfortunately their remedies are old fashioned and are unable to meet the new challenges.
It is in this troublesome background that Navin Doshi has written a book, which, in my view, offers a better explanation and cures than most competing works. Each and every chapter of Economics and Nature emits freshness lacking in similar books Written in recent years. Navin is no economist, which seems to be a blessing in itself, because most of today’s established economists start out with an agenda and then look for theories to rationalise their preconceived notions. That is why the globe finds itself ridden with intractable problems. Those theories are now obsolete and have to be discarded. Navin, by contrast, has a business and engineering background, and he offers an
approach based on common sense and human nature.
There are a lot of imbalances in the world today, but modern economists and governments try to eliminate one imbalance by creating another. For instance, the American consumer is drowning in debt, but to mitigate the effects of this excess the US government is creating another pile of debt. As if one mountain of debt is not bad enough. Similarly, the top bankers and CEOs of major corporations earn billions every year, yet the government and the Federal Reserve have bailed them out again and again, puffing billions more into their pockets. Thus, one imbalance is being neutralised by another, and this cannot be the right cure. It may postpone the sickness for a while, but the malady will return with force.
Navin puts his faith in the laws of nature, which ensures that imbalances don’t persist for long. Otherwise, there are violent consequences in the form of tornadoes, hurricanes and earthquakes. Economies also exist in nature and have to follow its immutable laws. For economic wisdom Navin looks to the ancient past, when the debt piles that afflict nations today were not possible, so that people had to solve their financial problems by correcting the fundamentals and not just apply band-aids to festering wounds. He discovers that the first great economist was an Indian luminary named Kautilya, who, as the prime minister of a great empire, had to revive an economy ravaged by wars and droughts. Kautilya turns out to be a modem version of John Maynard Keynes, whose ideas underlie much of the fixes that the governments are using currently around the world. But Navin finds that Keynesian economics has been totally misinterpreted, because Keynes never condoned a relentless rise in government debt and printing of money.
Navin is not an ideologue. That is why, unlike many others, he finds no contradiction between Keynes and Milton Friedman. While Keynes offered a cure for an economy in a recession or depression, Friedman suggested remedies to fight inflation. Combining the wisdom of the two offers a balanced economic policy that Navin advocates.
Navin is a concerned individual. He is concerned that vast global imbalances of today will rupture again and land the world in another recession. He is concerned that millions of investors could lose their savings yet again, and millions more could join the army of the unemployed. He is worried that we are compounding the problems created by the most recent Great Recession, and wasting precious time in not offering genuine economic reforms.
In short, Economics and Nature by Navin Doshi is a serious work written by a man of integrity and business acumen, who is concerned about the well-being of our society. He wants to rejuvenate the economy by combining the wisdom of the past with practical and logical policies offered by some wise economists today.
This book in essence is a by-product of my first book, Transcendence Saving Us From Ourselves. We humans have come a long way to learning and understanding nature within and without. Before we go into the subject of economy, let me describe what I have understood based upon the works of two theoretical physicists Amit Goswami and Ulrich Mohrhoff, working independently and geographically poles apart. Their work implies an affirmation of the Vedantic tradition that there is an ultimate self-conscious reality. This reality is the world and the cosmos we live in, it is also the consciousness that contains and penetrates the cosmos in its totality. This ultimate, reality is, subjectively speaking, an infinite bliss, and objectively speaking, an infinite in any quality and value we can imagine that expresses and experiences itself. This follows the top-down framework of the Vedantic kind with quality, value and consciousness rooted in the very heart of Reality, as opposed to the bottom-up framework of the materialist kind with no idealism or sentience attached to it. Please note that the universe exists by itself in the material sense, and it exists for itself is in the sense of consciousness. I also interpret, based upon their findings, that there is non local, meaning beyond the realm of perceivable space and time, quantum connection between individual subjective consciousness and the all-pervading objective super- consciousness. It has also been accepted that the nature within and without is fractal, meaning it is layered like an onion, and in which each part contains the whole. The implication here is that, not only our mind, but Consciousness itself is layered and has discrete poises rising towards greater consciousness and wholeness. Sri Aurobindo had pioneered this subject and claimed that humanity is on the evolutionary path of transcendence towards the Ultimate Reality.
We need an economic arrangement that will not only facilitate but also help accelerate the process of transcendence as described above. It is easier for me to explain a good economic system by reciting my own story. I was born in India in the year 1936, when the freedom movement under the leadership of great men like Mahatma Gandhi was in full swing. Many teachers in my high school were followers of Gandhi and believed in Gandhi’s idealism of simple living. I had, along with my family, an opportunity to spend an afternoon with Mahatma Gandhi, walking and participating in evening prayers; I was about 10 years old. In subsequent years, based upon my own interest and counselling, I received a degree in mechanical engineering in India (1958) and came to America for higher education. After finishing the Masters degree, I worked as an aerospace engineer for about two and half decades. Later on, I initiated my own business in textiles, real estate and financial investment. Over time, I achieved my goal of becoming financially independent in America.
Though I am not an economist by training, I taught myself about economics based on experience and self-learning. So, what is an ideal economic arrangement. Call it Capitalism or a Free Enterprise system, it is the most natural economic arrangement that I know, where anyone has an opportunity to succeed. But, it needs the promotion of an ethical consciousness to work. Corruption and too much government intrusion become its Achilles’ heel. I had little chance to succeed in India, at least in the 1970s, due to too much government interference and corruption. India’s economic growth started to accelerate only after government intrusion began receding in the early 1990s The economic system in America has been admired because almost anyone with some creative idea, has a good chance to succeed even today. I remember how someone succeeded selling pet rocks. On each rock was painted a unique facial expression, and attached to each rock was a card with a few good words.
As described by the journalist Thomas Friedman in his book, That Used to be Us, the five pillars that made America the most powerful country, were:
(1) Open-ended education system.
(2) Immigration policy that brought in the best minds and most talented people from other countries.
(3) Building the best infrastructure.
(4) Government working in partnership with the private sector, and providing incentives for capital formation, and risk-taking with rules to prevent recklessness.
(5) Government-funded research.
Those were the good days with good work ethics, and most Americans had high respect for the government. I had come across a few Americans who believed that not paying taxes was not only unethical but also sinful. The socio-political events like the Watergate scandal, disconnect from the gold standard, Vietnam and Yom Kippur wars, affected the economy adversely. The misery index composed of the interest rate, unemployment rate, and the CPI index, went up to the moon. Both husband and wife started to work to keep up with the “Joneses”, but it also affected raising children adversely. Today the economy, not only in America but also in many European countries, is in the worst condition due to several reasons including enormous government debt and spending deficit, unfavourable demographics and unrestrained creed. “Too Big to Fail” banks with little government supervision are also responsible for creating economic polarisation.
I have described in this book the ways of bringing balance between two economic opposites, bringing harmony between the two. Often, opposites need to work together complementing each other, instead of destroying the nemesis. For a solution to inequalities, a clear perception of the problems is first necessary. It seems every pair, liberals and t conservatives, labour and management, paper currencies and inflation hedges, and many more all seem to be out of balance. Then, there are problems of corruption at the highest levels in India and Gaponomics, implying widening gap between the rich and the poor in Western countries. What we need is life-education, not merely professional education without morality, which has led us to the exploitative world of today, but the education of the heart. We need to put more emphasis on such education at every level. Education that unifies humanity, but maintains individual autonomy, that stimulates the highest level of creativity, should become our universal currency of the mind, with more positive results. The Holy Grail in every human endeavour is unification, as for example, unification of all forces in physics. I believe a good natural economic system will help fulfil all somatic and philosophic desires of men, Jeaving only one desire, and that desire would be the desire of becoming selfless. A “superconducting” economy, where resistance to the flow of money, the misery index, and unemployment index is close to zero and the somatic needs of all are totally satisfied. Humanity needs to accelerate the evolutionary processes within to make us more humanitarian, more ethical, more responsible, more detached, more compassionate, and more loving. The political and economic systems have to be such that they are natural, providing a path of our choice for the final destination.
This book is divided in two parts; the first part is about the history and the theory of economic systems going back 2000 years ago, and the second part contains essays about what has happened in matters of economics in last several years in America. One can get the flavour of the book by reviewing the aphorisms given in Appendix A. Market clichés associated with the laws of nature are given in Appendix B.
I wish to thank Professor Ravi Batra for his valuable insights and advice and for writing the Foreword. I also wish to thank my wife Pratima Doshi and my colleague Debashish Banerji for their encouragement and support.
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