‘Love is Better’
A New Economics
The theories of modern neoclassical economics are based on a small number of premises. Each premise reflects a basic assumption about human behaviour. The models of economic activity have been developed with these assumptions at their core. ‘More is better’ is one of the most ubiquitous of these assumptions. It underlies all economic reasoning and modelling and is reflected in the economic systems and activities of both our public and private worlds.
The early days of economic theorizing occurred during the late Victorian and early Edwardian times. This was the time of the industrial revolution and the rising prominence of the middle classes. Owning more objects meant a person was able to live a much better life: cleaner, easier, more attractive and healthier.
During this era of growth and industry, fervent industriousness was highly valued. An honest days’ work and a good income were seen as signs of moral capacity. ‘More is better’ meant both that life enjoyment increased with wealth and prosperity, and that lack of wealth indicated that moral fibre was lacking in the poorer classes. The idea that social constraints existed and human differentials could be the result of power, entitlement or discrimination had not yet been considered. This was the era of social Darwinism and an unexamined acceptance of the idea that those who had the most were somehow being rewarded by nature as a superior ‘type’. It is therefore not surprising that the early economists included ‘more is better’ as a premise of human economic behaviour. However, times have changed, and it is wise to examine this early assumption to see if it remains a valid basis for our entire economic system.
The assumption that more is better underlies all traditional economic theory and practice. Applied to individual economic behaviour, ‘more is better’ assumes that a person will gain more satisfaction from consuming more units of something. The more units consumed, the better off the person is, although their increase in satisfaction will taper off at higher levels. Although it is recognized that the increase in satisfaction lessens as the person consumes more, the enjoyment never becomes negative so that less would be better. It just tapers off to a very slight increase in satisfaction for the next unit consumed. This slowing down and levelling off of the increase is called ‘diminishing marginal utility’. In other words, there is a diminishing increase in enjoyment, but basically a person always gets more total enjoyment from consuming more total stuff. This means that having more stuff is better, and if increased enjoyment of one thing tapers off, you can always move to having more of something else.
‘More is better’ is an assumption that runs through all economic theory and practice. Since satisfaction is assumed to come from consuming stuff, consuming more is better, so more stuff is better. Obviously, having more income means a person can buy more stuff, so more income is better. ‘More is better’ also applies to businesses and producers, since higher sales benefit the business owners through higher profits. This feeds back to more income is better, more capital investment is better, and ultimately more economic growth is better. For governments, more revenues are better, more trade is better and more money in the system is better. Public agency funding is set up so that for schools, more students are better, and for hospitals, more patients are better. Everywhere we look, we see some version of this basic premise at work in the socio-economic world around us. And if we scratch the surface of it, we will discover the hidden notion that more is somehow morally superior too.
It is easy to see how the assumption that more is better has infiltrated all aspects of our society. People strive to make more money, own more objects, earn more profits, take more holidays, eat more food, take more photos, have more friends, and so on and so on. The striving to have more is tied-in with the feelings of being more important and getting more out of life. The specifics of ‘more’ can vary, and in some cases ‘more’ shifts to a qualitative change, so rather than eating more food, the person eats more expensive food. But fundamentally, the assumption driving the economy is that more is somehow better.
However, there is a serious problem underlying this assumption. First off are the old arguments such as those presented in Schumacher’s famous book Small is Beautiful, that suggest the Earth can’t survive a ‘more is better’ approach; that as we all strive to have more of everything, we will drive the environment into a spiral it won’t be able to get out of. In this same category are social policies, such as Marxism and welfare economics that argue that wealth should be distributed differently, so that society isn’t being driven competitively by the personal need for ‘more’. But these theories are still based in the notion that more really is better, it’s just socially necessary to be stoical and not let ourselves have more. These arguments still accept the assumption that more really is better, but propose that ‘more’ has to be restrained for reasons of morality or sustainability.
However, there is a second problem with ‘more is better’ that comes directly from spiritual evolution and unity consciousness. This new argument comes straight out of the healing room and the human embodiment of spiritual consciousness. The problem is that it is not a basic truth of human nature that more is absolutely better. While there are lots of circumstances in which more may be better, it is by no means an absolute of human nature. Instead, having this basic ‘more is better’ assumption actually becomes hurtful to everyone who adheres to it. It causes suffering and unhappiness, and creates instabilities in our social and economic fabric. What’s more, there is a simple and spiritually true assumption we could be making that would lead to a happy, healthy, thriving society and economy. We don’t have to do without. We just have to do it differently. How? I’ll explain in a moment.
In the healing room, one of the most pervasive human wounds is the feeling of not being good enough. It may turn up as ‘inadequate’, ‘insufficient’, or ‘bad’. ‘Not good enough’ is a constant cry from the depths of our suffering. ‘Not big enough’, ‘Not strong enough’, ‘Not smart enough’, ‘Not pretty enough’, ‘Not powerful enough’ are favourite refrains of the inner critics. No matter how much a person increases their level of goodness, it’s never enough. Not good enough means not good enough, no matter what. As soon as the person accomplishes something and feels better, smarter or prettier, the wound repeats again. The accomplishment is insufficient. More is needed. The feeling of being good enough only comes from the additional increment, and not the level the person has attained. As soon as the new level is reached, it is immediately not good enough again. There is no way to get ahead of this wound.
The truth of humanity is that all people have this wound. On the soul level none of us are spared from it. It fuels our criticisms of ourselves and of others. We feel ‘bad’ at the core, morally inadequate, unworthy and unacceptable. Dark consciousness lives in these hurting places in our fields and keeps provoking the wounded beliefs. In response, we all strive to prove to ourselves and each other that we really are good enough, by boasting, showing off, working hard, or criticizing others, but the wound is still there. Deep within we really feel we aren’t good enough. So with any addition to our accomplishments, our moment of glory is short lived, for as soon as the new level is reached, to remain good enough, we have to climb again. We get stuck living perpetually in the wound of ‘not good enough’.
The wound of ‘not good enough’ entails pain since no one can ever reach a truly happy state. And this same inherent pain results from the assumption that ‘more is better’. No matter how much a person owns or has accomplished, more would always be better. They can never be truly satisfied with what they already have. In both cases, the satisfaction is found in the increment, not the level. So no matter how high a person’s steady state might be, they will immediately start needing more to feel better. ‘Not good enough’ and ‘More is better’ are two faces of the same wound.
Of course there are times when it truly is better to have more of something, and when we really aren’t good enough for something. The idea that more is better is certainly a relative truth of life, depending on the circumstances of the moment. When we’re hungry, more food is better than no food. And not being smart enough to get accepted to a demanding program may be true. But these are relative truths, not absolute ones. Clearly, there are also times when more is not better. More pollution is not better, more obesity is not better, and hundreds of other counter-examples could be given. So there are times when ‘more is better’ is true, but it is not an absolute truth about life. Yet as an assumption within economic theory, it is treated as an absolute.
So is there an actual, spiritual absolute that we could be basing our economic systems on?
In the healing room, the wound of ‘not good enough’ is always healed with love. In fact, every wound is always dissolved when it is reunited with love. Every criticism, every negative belief, every place of suffering is always reversed and made whole when it is touched by love. In the healing room, there is an absolute. Love is always better. No one has ever felt worse as a result of feeling love. The love is always available in the higher energy fields, and all we have to do to feel the love is to connect with our own higher energies.
‘Love is better.’ Hmmm… Would this work as a basic assumption of human nature on which we could design a social and economic framework?
Well, love is better. Love is everyone’s favourite thing in life. We all know it, in some way or another. Unlucky souls may only feel it rarely, with a pet or in a moment. Blessed souls have lives filled with love. But we all know that the truth of life is that having love in our lives makes our lives better. Loving parents, loving friends, loving relatives, loving partners, work we love, places we love… It seems so obvious. Love really is better.
And having more love is not necessary. We have to be careful not to drag the ‘more is better’ assumption through to underlie the idea that if love is better, then more love is better. If you have one child, you love him. If you have two, you love them both. If you have a dozen, you love them all. Having more love isn’t what makes life better; it’s just having love, period. The difference between having love and not having love is the baseline. Without love, we hurt. With love, we feel good.
Economics has long been faulted for its assumptions, but no one has ever suggested a real alternative. Most non-standard economic theories only look at the distribution of resources rather than the basic premises underlying the economy as a whole. But here is a truly workable notion in which everyone benefits and no one suffers. This new primary assumption that ‘Love is better’ would enable our economy to thrive as we reorganized our habits and systems to be based in love.
As an economist, I would like to propose ‘Love is better’ as the backbone of a new economics. As an economic principle, it supports ample wealth-creation for those who want to be wealthy, while correcting the imbalances and problems of our world. It’s important that this not be seen as a utopian view of life, based on fanciful notions. This is instead a sound proposal, grounded in both economic understanding and spiritual truth. I spent twenty years as an economist, working within the framework of the current system. I was dissatisfied with it since it seemed to lack a true representation of human nature and wasn’t very realistic. What’s more, it accepted suffering as a consequence of economic activity, even subtly blaming the victims for their plight, and this offended the social activist in my soul. But even those who seemed to be doing well within its own paradigms were usually unhappy and dissatisfied in their personal lives.
I knew the system had something fundamentally wrong at its core, but wasn’t able to uncover what it was until I had walked my own spiritual journey and shifted my occupation. As a healer I became very familiar with the underlying human wound of ‘not good enough’. A moment of insight helped me to realize the wound has the same energy as ‘more is better’. It was spirit that helped me to realize that ‘love is better’ can become the standard for healthy economic activity.
Since economists need to measure things to fit within their paradigms, how could we go about measuring Love? Well, first of all, let us realize that by the single word ‘love’, we actually mean a wide array of experience, from compassion and respect through honour and integrity. (see my piece titled '52 Faces of Love') But beyond that, we each know what it feels like when we feel love. Our energy fields expand and lighten. This is a measurable indicator of a pre- and post loving state of being. (For more, see my book, 'The Whole You: Healing and Transformation through Energy Awareness'.)
Let’s explore for a moment what our world would look like if the basic premise for economic activity were ‘Love is better’. First off, people would choose occupations they loved and would love going to work. Their paid work would feel connected to their soul purpose for living and their own higher energies would be present in their employment. They would be more insightful and creative in their production since they would feel the presence of spirit with them at work. They would work in an atmosphere of loving cooperation with their fellow workers, who would also love their jobs. Jobs that existed that no one loved or wanted to do would cease to exist, and if there was a genuine social need that wasn’t being met, someone would be inspired to invent a love-based way to do them.
Employers would love their workers and treat them in a loving way. Respect and kindness would replace criticism and control as ways of getting higher productivity from staff. Human needs would be met with a loving understanding and labour productivity would thrive. There would be way less stress and unhappiness, resentment and foot-dragging. Having a love-based group consciousness would allow Spirit to work within and through working groups to bring new insights and creativity into play.
People would buy things they loved so they wouldn’t need to have a lot of things. For example, a smaller wardrobe made up of clothes they loved would make them feel better than a large wardrobe of recent fashions. They would take better care of their clothes and help them to last longer since they would be sorry to see an old favourite wear out. Similarly, a home they loved, filled with objects they loved, would not need constant ‘home improvements’. Without the implied need to continuously consume ‘more’, they could be happy with a smaller number of things that made them feel good.
People who wanted to make a lot of money by manufacturing things and selling them would still be able to, by making things people loved. They could fill the stores with objects made with love, with the intention of being purchased by someone who loved them. If they created a wonderful product that people really loved, they would become wealthy. Gone would be the lies and manipulation of advertising. In their place would be educational and entertaining information about the products, there to show people why and how their product reflects a loving approach to life. (Remember when the Polar Fleece factory burned to the ground and a whole town was put out of work? The company responded in a totally loving way by letting the unemployed staff do the work of rebuilding the factory, and aiming to let everyone have their jobs back as soon as possible. This loving response to a tragedy made Polar Fleece a consumer favourite.)
School systems would love the teachers and the teachers would love their students. Students would learn better. Hospitals would love their staff and the staff would love the patients. Patients would heal better. Politicians would love their jurisdictions and their constituents, and the people would feel well served. People would vote for the politician they most loved and respected and felt most loved by. Social policies would be designed to bring love into peoples lives, and government agents would work to make the systems work in a loving way for people. In areas of conflict, people would act in a respectful way, to hear each other out and find a solution that worked toward the highest good for all. Spirit would be present in all circumstances, feeding love-based options to the bargaining tables.
People would love the planet and Nature and act in ways that embodied that love. We would become the caretakers of the physical environment rather than the destroyers of it.
If we accept the absolute truth that love is better, we can create a respectful world of sustainable enterprise. In any system you care to imagine, creating a process that looks for love will make people happier, healthier and more productive.
Compared to ‘more is better’, love really is better. It is a spiritual absolute. Love is a force of nature whereas the idea that ‘more is better’ is only true sometimes, and when it’s not true, it goes against the flow of nature. Any human system that runs without love at its core isn’t going to make people happy, healthy or be sustainable. Without love, we’re working against the truth of life. Any system that tries to operate against nature will ultimately fail. This is the problem with human life as we know it right now. As long as ‘more is better’ is the accepted doctrine, people have to compete against each other for the next unit. There is no social cohesion since each person is trying to maximize their own climb, regardless of the effect it has on others. Power-over and greed serve one person’s gain at another person’s expense. Everyone feels not good enough and works to try to get that next hit of goodness in the next marginal increase. The system is fundamentally operating from the wound of not good enough and keeping people feeling bad about themselves and each other.
But when Love is the guiding principle, it holds everyone in the embrace of unity consciousness. Spirit is free to work through all people and all systems to create a sustainable, beautiful world of harmony and balance. There is absolutely no reason why we could not have a thriving economy, with trade, government and all social systems operating well, if we aligned with the true nature of spirit. There is nothing inherently wrong with our needs and systems. The inherent wrong is in the false belief that more is better.
Copyright Tanis Day, PhD, 2008