Practical Economic Suggestions for Everyday Use

It is becoming more evident that the present economic system is dying out and cannot meet the needs of humanity. The gap between rich and poor is getting wider and wider, which has increased the suffering of the masses. The solutions that can heal it have been ignored. It is time to try a different course of action. We know that the Baha’i economic system will occur when the transformation of man and society has been accomplished and with it man’s awareness of his spiritual station and his destiny are realized. He will have subordinated his animal nature and will therefore behave less selfishly. At this time it is almost impossible to imagine a society that will have spiritually grown to that extent. Since we do not have the Baha’i economic system in place as yet, we may think that we cannot do anything to bring it about and we must wait for its arrival. But by introducing more of the spiritual qualities in our economic lives we are laying the foundation for such a system.

Abdu’l-Baha explains the nature of economics, and the remedy for its problems:

The secrets of the whole economic question are Divine in nature, and are concerned with the world of the heart and spirit. In the Baha’i Teachings this is most completely explained, and without the consideration of the Baha’i Teachings, it is impossible to bring about a better state.1

Shoghi Effendi sheds more light on this:

…By the statement ‘the economic solution is Divine in nature’ is meant that religion alone can, in the last resort, bring in man’s nature such a fundamental change as to enable him to adjust the economic relationships of society. It is only in this way that man can control the economic forces that threaten to disrupt the foundations of his existence, and thus assert his mastery over the forces of nature.2

Our participation in economic activities will set the example for the rest of the world and at the same time prepare the ground for the time when the World Commonwealth will come into being. The Universal House of Justice reminds us that our economic actions should reflect our spiritual beliefs.

Nevertheless, there are certainly practices a Baha’i would eschew, such as dishonesty in one’s transactions or the economic exploitation of others. Faithful adherence to the divine admonitions demands there be no contradiction between one’s economic conduct and one’s beliefs as a Baha’i. By applying in one’s life those principles of the Faith that relate to fairness and equity, a single soul can uphold a standard far above the low threshold by which the world measures itself…3

The following suggestions are intended to be clear and straightforward in order to encourage you to participate in economic actions with increased awareness. They are meant for everyone, whether or not you are knowledgeable about economics. Hopefully, you may find these suggestions useful and they will empower you to act and also help you realize what an amazing power we have as Baha’is to transform society and bring about the “fundamental change” as Shoghi Effendi stated.

  • Focus on the important questions of life such as “who am I”, “what is the purpose of my life” and “how much is enough”
  • Live a simple life, a life like Abdu’l-Baha’s
  • Do not lie about a product
  • Pay a fair price, even if it’s more than the market price
  • Share profits with employees, provide medical coverage and pay fare wages
  • Be honest in your dealings
  • Provide the best quality of service
  • Make customer satisfaction a goal
  • Look for opportunities to extend help to co-workers and competitors
  • Be content with a reasonable margin of profit
  • Update yourself with the latest information in your field
  • Be punctual in business and other meetings
  • When lending money, ask for a reasonable interest rate
  • Resist the consumer mentality
  • Be knowledgeable about advertising and read between the lines
  • Spiritually justify every expenditure
  • Avoid wastage in the workplace
  • Protect the environment
  • Increase your economic and business knowledge
  • Volunteer whenever possible in the spirit of service
  • Give to the Baha’i Fund
  • Adopt a financial goal in life
  • Avoid debt
  • Create a habit of saving
  • Spread the word about honest and fair businesses and professionals
  • Don’t buy the latest models if the old ones are in working condition
  • Avoid “keeping up with the Jones” or accumulating material goods for the sake of appearances
  • Support the concept of one world currency
  • Don’t follow society’s shortcuts with regards to taxation
  • Make honest insurance claims
  • Make fair expense claims at work
  • Do not abuse sick leave
  • Report when you have been undercharged or paid too much
  • Resist society’s corrupt practices such as bribery
  • Regard service first and profit second
  • Participate in social and economic projects
  • Do not support the idea of the end justifying the means
  • Be honest in a job interview
  • Be truthful in filling out forms or tenders
  • Do not sacrifice your values in order to get a promotion or contract
  • Use good quality material in production and no harmful ingredients
  • Protect the poor and underprivileged
  • Give with a sense of sharing rather than a sense of loss
  • Create a consciousness that your welfare, wellbeing and happiness depend on the welfare, wellbeing and happiness of every poor, needy and underprivileged person in the world
  • Spend as much energy in becoming detached from material possessions as you spend getting them
  • Remind yourself of your spiritual destination while pursuing financial goals
  • Live the Baha’i Life
  • Be considerate of the needs of those who rent from you
  • Practice the virtues
  • Manage your insistent self or ego
  • Be more vocal in a loving way about social issues

These ideas are an abridged version of a chapter in my book, Economics of the Future Begins Today. What do you think of these suggestions? Are they practical? Have you implemented any of them? They may seem overwhelming and you may not be able to practice all those that apply to your situation. But you have to remember that it is not about the results, it is about sincere and wholehearted efforts. It is the pure intention that counts.


 

  1. Abdu’l-Baha, The Baha’i World, Volume 1V, p. 448 []
  2. From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, December 26, 1935, Lights of Guidance, p.551 []
  3. The Universal House of Justice, Ridvan Message 2012 []

About the Author

Badi Shams

Badi is a mystic at heart. His education is in economics and he made the compilation "Economics of the Future". He is retired from helping troubled youth in the school system and lives with his wife on Vancouver Island. He is a gardener and a traveller and loves classical music and his workouts. He has lived in many countries. He loves writing and is excited to start his new project called "The Mystic Economist".

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Discussion 27 Comments

  1. Truly great, Badi! You answered my prayer. (This morning I asked Baha’u’llah to help me harmonize spiritual and professional goals. Thank you so much my brother!!!

    Russ

  2. Interesting article. I hadn’t read that illuminating quote from Abdul-Baha. It seems so abundantly clear; nothing will be achieved without the Teachings of Baha’u’llah. Thank you.

    1. Dear Daniels,
      Now you can appreciate what an important role we can play. Makes me feel hopeful that we have a part- as small as it may be – to play.
      Badi

    1. Dear Faramarz,
      As Sonljel mentioned it is available with BPT of India. It was published last month and hopefully will be available with other distributors soon.
      Badi

  3. Dear Badi

    This is a lovely and insightful article. I will be studying Economics in University soon and I never knew how I could bring Baha’i concepts in my study but now I can see how and the qoute from Shoghi Effendi truly helped. I hope I can find more guidance in the writings as well.

    Thank You Very Much

    1. Dear Solomzi,
      Thanks for your kind words. I am happy that I was of some service and will be happy to be there for you , if you need me in the future. If you can read my book, there may be a few ideas too. We need economists in the future to help to bring about the Baha’i economics system. Wish you all the best in your goal.
      Love,
      Badi

  4. I’m not an economist or any of the sort of money geniuses. A simple farmer but most of your suggestion I incorporate with my daily dealings to my fellow workers and whomsoever I deal with. The Bab’s story of His example as a merchant is my guidance in all my economic affairs .

    1. Dear Ambrocio,
      It is so good to know that the suggestions are making sense to you and not only that you have been doing them for a long time and looks like you did not suffer financially.
      We do not need an economic degree to practice common sense.
      Thanks for sharing your experience with me.
      Love
      Badi

  5. I found that it is easiest to follow that long list of great attitudes and behaviours when operating my own business, no matter how small. In particular, the provision of a high quality service or product is within one’s control. The result is people trust you, and appreciate what a high quality product does. I would add to the list a ‘profit share’ as an essential business element for the reason that if it is a ‘share’ and not a ‘bonus’ it is based on a sharable gain, not ‘given from the boss’ profit’ at his whim. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá suggests this profit share is a right, not a privilege.

  6. Dear Crispin,
    Very valid and good points and I thank you for them.
    Providing the best quality of work that one can offer not only has its personal satisfaction but also is the best advertisement for the business.
    I really don’t know how I missed the profit sharing. Maybe it was so obvious to me.
    Thanks for the reminder.

  7. Dear Crispin,
    I checked my list and luckily I had not forgotten profit sharing and it is mentioned in the 5th suggestion in my list.

    1. Yes it is there. I was distracted by the provision of medical benefits, which may apply in certain countries without universal access to health coverage.

      What do you think about a thread dealing with this only? It would have a socially and economically transformative effect if instead of race or ‘group’-based restorative laws and regulations such as exist in (not only) South Africa and Malaysia there was instead a requirement that all employees together own 20% of the shares, reflecting in law the “rights of labour” (SAQ)?

      In a conversation with the late Charlie Grindlay, he said that profit sharing was one of the most complicated things to implement. I never found it so but that doesn’t mean I interpret the guidance well. I think he had the idea that profit share should be distributed on the basis on contribution to generating it. My view is that it is everyone’s equal responsibility to market, perfect and promote the company.

  8. Dear Crispin,
    Personally I think as spiritually mankind in its path of advancing to a enlighten civilization we will see profit sharing and sharing in general as the only way of living. Since we share earth together.
    Please check this movement “Mondragon cooperative model” since they have proved it works and are successful in doing. The beauty of that model is the small gap in salaries of management and employees.
    Also you can read if you wish, my article in bahaiteachings.org called “Profit-sharing: Does it Make Economic and Spiritual Sense?”.
    There you find that studies done show that it is not just profit sharing makes economic sense but also improves the sense of well-being.

    1. I am familiar with the Mondragon approach but have not tried it.

      In support of profit sharing, I raise the point of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s regarding how that share should be acquired. He says that labour has a right to that share, and that they should receive shares ‘written in their names’. The topical problem it addresses is the ownership of the economy as exemplified by the legacy of apartheid in South Africa. Everyone is trying to find a solution for the non-white population to ‘own the economy’ at least proportionally. It will take forever to do this without ‘shares in their names’. If the norm was that all employees share 20% ownership of all incorporated or associative bodies, as the ‘right of labour’ and recognise that 80% of shares are ‘the right of capital’ (which is nothing other than investments) then 20% of the economy would be in the hands of the workers overnight without disrupting the whole of it (which is the plan of some).

      One of the evils of not having such a shareholding is that many employees are dishonest towards their employer, or tolerate other being so without comment. When misbehaviour against the company affects everyone who sees it, the attitude to stopping it changes. Us-against-them becomes Us. At least for South Africa, it would transform industrial relations in short order.

  9. Dear Crispin,
    Your reference to South Africa highlights the fact that the time has not come yet to decide about a method of action because every region of the world has its unique background politically and culturally.
    At the moment we do what we can as individuals and most importantly explore (that is what you and me doing) the possibilities.
    That is the wish of the Universal House of Justice in the 1 March 2017 message for now and when the time is ripe it will guide us to a course of action.
    Personally I believe for now we can find a way to share the profits with the employees whether in certain % or or a certain amount of money. The spirit behind it is the main goal and not the method.

  10. Dear Badi, thank you so very much for your wonderful article – we will use it today as part of the summer school in Vanuatu. It would be wonderful if in the future an electronic copy would be available for purchase – it is very difficult to get books here and they do not last 🙁 Astrid

  11. Dear Astrid,
    Today my website called “Baha’i Inspired Economics” went online.
    The reason behind the website is to provide materials on the Baha’i concept of economics.
    Please go to my website at badishams.com and find many materials in resources page including a material I made for summer school in Greece. It is the study of 19 economic related Writings. Let me know what you think of the website.
    Please let friends know they can find materials there.
    Hope this helps you. Give my love to the participants of your school.
    Love
    Badi

  12. Badi:
    I found this list to be quite useful as I think about a Baha’i contribution to economics.
    I organized your suggestions in five categories: general (for everyone), consumer,
    producer/employer, worker/employee, and investor.
    I would be interested in how you might create categories for the list so that it would be a bit easier to have a discussion of relative importance.

  13. Dear Bill,
    To be honest I never thought along those lines. As you may know, the list is the abridged version of a chapter in my book.
    Now since you suggested it I will think about it.
    These days I am mostly occupied with my website that I started a few months ago called “Baha’i Inspired Economics” that maybe is useful to you. I have put more than 100 different materials on the Resources Page of the website. You see it at http://www.badishams.com.
    You can be in touch with me through the site in case I have something of your interest.
    Thanks for your suggestion.
    With love

    1. Thank you for the link to your website.
      Right now I am reading Steve Keen, Arnold Kling, George Gilder, and Richard Thaler. I have been looking for an alternative to standard economics as it is taught in undergrad classes and have read Daly and Farley’s Ecological Economics, but am still looking for a dynamical systems perspective that can address the global, digital, information age in which we are living. I have read your Baha’i Perspective on Economics of the Future and am trying to articulate how concepts in that compilation can add to the discussion.
      I will certainly continue to read your work.

      1. That is wonderful that you are still looking and investigating. Wish you success in your search.
        Let me know if I could be of any service.
        Once again thank you for your suggestion.

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