At the outset, it has to be mentioned that, for the sake of simplicity, we are studying these Bahá’i Writings on economics briefly without going too deeply into their importance and implications. Volumes can be written on each of these Writings, and each could be the subject of extensive research. As time goes by, we will realize their importance and how they can and will bring us towards a totally different economic system. Future economists will write books on how these Sacred Writings changed our spiritual, social and economic lives. So please bear in mind that the simplicity of the language and my feeble attempts to share my understanding of them does not do them justice. Many Writings could be mentioned here, but I chose these on purpose because they cover many areas related to economics.
THE NATURE OF THE ECONOMIC PROBLEM
“Although the body politic is one family yet because of lack of harmonious relations some members are comfortable and some in direst misery, some members are satisfied and some are hungry, some members are clothed in most costly garments and some families are in need of food and shelter. Why? Because this family lacks the necessary reciprocity and symmetry. This household is not well arranged. This household is not living under a perfect law. All the laws which are legislated do not ensure happiness. They do not provide comfort. – Abdu’l-Bahá, Foundation of World Unity, p.38
“Economic plans of reconstruction have been carefully devised, and meticulously executed. And yet crisis has succeeded crisis, and the rapidity with which a perilously unstable world is declining has been correspondingly accelerated. A yawning gulf threatens to involve in one common disaster both the satisfied and dissatisfied nations, democracies and dictatorships, capitalists and wage-earners, Europeans and Asiatic, Jew and Gentile, white and coloured.”– Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh, p.190
Man’s inability to see that we as members of the human race are family, his dependence on his intellect, and his disregard for the moral/spiritual laws that must govern life, has led us to this state of crisis. Man has failed to understand that the welfare of the whole depends on his welfare and his welfare depends on the welfare of the whole. This selfish tendency of every man for himself has created the problems that we have at the moment. It does not matter how many laws we make, as long as man’s lower nature is not controlled, there will be chaos. What man needs is to understand that other human beings are part of him. Humanity can be compared to the human body. Just as the human body is connected and what happens to one part of the body affects the rest, so, too, we cannot ignore one part of humanity because it affects the whole. There was a time that people did not think beyond their own backyard. But with the development of technology and the arrival of the age of information, our backyard has been extended to the whole world and all of humankind. We cannot be indifferent and ignore what is going on in other parts of the world because directly or indirectly our lives are affected. An example would be stock markets in different parts of the world. If the stock market in China changes, the stock market in New York also changes. So we have to recognize that we are all in it together and we need to help each other in order to have a better spiritual and material life.
THE ECONOMIC COST OF WARFARE
“Peace is the pretext, and night and day they are all straining every nerve to pile up more weapons of war, and to pay for this their wretched people must sacrifice most of whatever they are able to earn by their sweat and toil. How many thousands have given up their work in useful industries and are labouring day and night to produce new and deadlier weapons which would spill out the blood of the race more copiously than before.
Each day they invent a new bomb or explosive and then the governments must abandon their obsolete arms and begin producing the new, since the old weapons cannot hold their own against the new…” – Abdu’l-Bahá, The Secret of Divine Civilization, p. 61
“Observe that if such a happy situation be forthcoming, no government would need continually to pile up the weapons of war, nor feel itself obliged to produce ever new military weapons with which to conquer the human race. A small force for the purposes of internal security, the correction of criminal and disorderly elements and the prevention of local disturbances, would be required – no more. In this way the entire population would, first of all, be relieved of the crushing burden of expenditure currently imposed for military purposes, and secondly, great numbers of people would cease to devote their time to the continual devising of new weapons of destruction.” – Ibid, p. 65-66
We can readily calculate the allocation of a national budget for military forces and weapons and, at the same time, calculate the cost of eradicating malaria, providing clean drinking water or educating one child. When you compare how much the money used for warfare could benefit the sick and needy, it is not difficult to understand how much we have wasted and continue to waste and how harmful it is. But the statistics do not tell the picture of the human lives that have been lost unnecessarily and the human suffering experienced. This suffering could have been avoided and could still be avoided. Imagine a world in which there is only one military for the whole world and one police force to ensure its security, so that costs are reduced and monies channeled into humanitarian pursuits.