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Hualin International Journal of Buddhist Studies 2.2 (2019): 31–80;
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Buddhism and Business: South and East Asian Perspectives)

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Wisdom-Based Economic Theory as Informed by Buddhism

Paul E. Shaffer Professor of Accounting Emeritus
Purdue University Fort Wayne

Abstract: This paper first identifies turbulent and imminent economic, social, and ecological problems threatening our modern economy and society. It is argued that many of these problems are natural or predictable consequences of the production-for-profit economic model feverishly advocated by mainstream economists and prevalently adopted by many policy makers in every corner of the world. The paper then examines the fallacy and deficiency of the production-for-profit economic model and its underlying philosophical tenets and premises. It shows that Buddhism, with its thorough examination of human predicaments and its pragmatic middle-way approach to the solution of these dilemmas, can be the philosophical basis for a viable alternative economic model which has not only the remedies for the problems created by the mainstream economic theories, but also the promise of a comprehensive solution to the human struggle for survival and prosperity. To help to formulate a new economic model, specific examples of how Buddhist principles can be applied to economic problems are elaborated and illustrated. The paper concludes with an urgent plea for the whole world to reconsider the efficacy of our current approach to economic well-being and to seriously consider the merits of a wisdom-based economic model as informed by Buddhism.

Keywords: Buddhist economic model, production for profit, production for enlightenment, market economy


About the Author: Dr. Otto Chang is a reputed accounting and business educator with specialty in several areas, including taxation, management and international accounting, business ethics and philosophy, corporate governance, and social responsibility. His specialty in the Buddhist studies is a Buddhist approach to economics and management, and he has published a number of works on Buddhism and Economics, including ‘Humanistic Buddhism and Business Ethics’ (2003), ‘Buddhism and Innovative Organizational Culture’ (2005), ‘Economic Sustainability: A Buddhist Perspective’ (2006), and ‘Accounting Ethics Education: A Comparison with Buddhist Ethics Education Framework’ (2012).


This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.