Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth. [Jesus, Matthew 5:5]
I came up with the term Meekonomics about a year and a half ago around the time when I read Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations, and Daniel Bell’s The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism. Around that same time I was also engaged in a study of the Sermon on the Mount [Matthew 5-7] and many of the ideas of the world’s great economists seemed to create dissonance with the words of Jesus.
The idea came back to me this week as I read another book on the history of economics, The Worldly Philosophers by Robert L. Heilbroner.
In a nutshell, Meekonomics is my economic theory that it is better to give than to receive. Put in more practical economic terms, it is better produce than to consume.
It is by producing a product or service of value that you serve the consumer. The consumer rewards the producer with economic gain which he then reinvests in more or better products that better serve the needs of the consumer. But the goal of the producer is always one of service; gain for gain’s sake is greed which leads to all manner of abuses causing the system to collapse on itself.
On the contrary the producer must always remain meek (also translated; gentle, humble, patient and free of pride). A greedy producer will tend to start hoarding his wealth, stop investing in improvements, and even block the production of competitive products that in the long run may do an even better job of serving the consumer.
Producers who forget that they are servicing consumers will underpay their workers and over produce their goods on the mistaken assumption that there will always be a market for what they sell. When the consumer, who is also tied to the producer as a worker, can no longer afford to buy any products, sales will slump forcing the producer to further cut wages, slow production and reduce the work force eventually leading to economic collapse.
Consumers aren’t off the hook though; they too need to learn a few principles of Meekonomics. A meek consumer recognizes that the producer deserves to be paid for the products and services he provides. Quality is worth something. Not only the quality of the end product itself but also the way the producer treats his employees, his competitors and the environment. Greedy consumers care only about a bargain without thinking about how that rock bottom price was arrived at. Are the employees underpaid, is the producer destroying the environment, is the product safe? These are the questions a meek consumer needs to ask when faced with a price that seems unreasonably low.
When greedy consumers thoughtlessly flood to the lowest price producers will be forced to cut wages, slow production and reduce the work force eventually leading to economic collapse.
Do you see the pattern here?
It’s a delicate balance. Producers and consumers need to live in symbiosis so that the market can be self-regulating. That takes meekness on everyone’s part.
The single biggest threat to a balanced market is greed. When one side of the equation gets greedy the other feels threatened and starts to take steps to protect its interests. The organization of labour, trade unions, consumer protection agencies, industry associations and government lobby groups are all driven by greed, either active greed, the desire for more or passive greed, otherwise known as protectionism.
Some will say that at its heart Meekonomics is the very definition of laissez faire but there is one very distinct difference. Traditionally laissez faire has led to class distinctions and inequality while Meekonomics recognizes equality between producers, workers and consumers. Not economic equality like Marxism or communism but moral equality. The truly meek person (gentle, humble) will never turn his back on a person in need because he sees him as his moral equal. Morality after all is not measured in dollars and cents.
The greatest lie ever told is that some people are worth less than others. The philosophy of Meekonomics wholeheartedly rejects that claim and seeks to help everyone participate in the system. It recognizes that investment in public infrastructure, education and health care will pay dividends for years to come and that the beggar on the street could be a worker who lost his job when you opted to buy that cheap knock off rather than the real thing.
“There but for the grace of God go I” is the mantra of the meek. Now since you have received God’s grace, it is your responsibility to give it back in some way.
Meekonomics is not a utopian ideal. I believe it is the way the world has always been intended to work and that it is greed that continues to undermine a properly functioning market economy. When we successfully banish greed, then and only then shall we learn what it means to inherit the earth.