The Body and the Economy

Macroeconomic discussions flood the airwaves and news media today. The world struggles to plot a course amidst economic crises. Most discussions are centered on macroeconomic terms, such as: government shutdown, debt ceiling, sequester, continuing resolution, US Treasury bonds as international currency, entitlement reform, escalating healthcare costs, care for the elderly, carbon dioxide emissions, energy independence, and so forth.

In my discussion in this post, I will not directly deal with the macroeconomic terms. Instead, I will take a step back and consider the crisis from the perspective of root causes. My questions here are, “how did we get to this point?” and “what can we do to make fundamental changes?”

The Body as Exemplar

When considering root causes,  I always revert to the great master of all truths, which is the human body. As spiritual teachers tell us, “the truth is within you.” I consider the body’s organization to be the model for a good society. The theory I propose is the “Back to the Body” perspective, which I am developing as advanced spirituality.

In the body, we have stomach, brain, and heart. That is comparable to the economy (people), government, and culture in the nation. The current crisis involves the economy as a primary focus. In other words, we are dealing with an economic crisis.

The Stomach and the Economy

“Stomach” here is used as a metonymy for the creative forces in the human body. In the nation, “stomach” is comparable to the productive forces of the nation–the people, das Volk. What lessons can we glean from the way the stomach produces its nutrition for the body–as compared with the current economic crisis? The stomach works best in the following circumstances:

  1. The stomach receives excellent raw materials to work with–that is, great-tasting and nutritional food.
  2. The stomach requires very little interference from the brain. The brain must, naturally, deploy its muscular immune system to protect the stomach’s environment against enemies that may reside in the body or may invade the body from the outside. Other than that, the brain should leave the stomach alone to do its work. So, after a good meal, the best thing you can do for digestion is to engage in a good conversation, have good laughs, maybe go dancing, or distract your brain with good entertainment. Let the stomach do its job. Relax and watch the magic happen. You might say, “brain governs best that governs least.”

What is, then a good government in relationship to the economy? It is a government that will protect the people from enemies foreign and domestic but mostly will give people the freedom to engage in productive activities. Too much interference in the economy by the government will not be beneficial. The brain needs, of course, a strong immune system. That immune system, when applied to the nation, is the defense apparatus: armed forces, police, law enforcement, security of all types, and so forth. The government ensures a law-abiding environment for the government, in which economic activity can prosper.

Application to the Economic Crisis

So far, all that is theory. How can we apply this to the current economic crisis that afflict nations and the entire world? As the proverb goes, “the proof of the pudding is in the eating,” The great spiritual teachers also tell us that you can distinguish between true teachings and false teachings by their fruits. So, it is really in the application that we can find out if a particular theory is true or false.

The application of the “Back to the Body” perspective yields three solutions for the current economic crisis. I will consider each solution and will show how it applies to the current crisis. At first, you might think, “well, this is too simplistic. The solution to these word-level economic problems must be MUCH more complicated than that.” I understand your hesitation. All I ask is that you try them out. See how they work for you. Then you can judge. As always, we judge a theory by its fruits.

I also would like to make clear that I do not have a partisan agenda in my posts on this blog. I have friends from a wide spectrum of political opinions. I love them all and respect their opinions.

And I think all of us, regardless of political agenda, want very much to overcome the current economic crisis. It is only on the foundation of a healthy economy that any of us can hope to accomplish our respective political agendas, whatever they may be. Thus, I believe all of us are in search of solutions. Here are the ones I propose, on the basis of the “Back to the Body” approach.

Solution No. 1: Security–an Immune System for the Nation

The government must continue to provide a solid and trusted environment of security for the entire nation. In the body, the brain provides an immune system within the body and in the environment in which the body lives. In like manner, the government must provide a security system inside the nation and in the world. Bottom line: without a secure and law-abiding environment, the economy will not grow.

Solution No. 2: Feeling Good — Spread a Feeling of Well-Being

The government must give the people a sense of well-being. Think about mental health and how it is achieved. One of the primary means to achieve mental health is to have a relaxed brain that thrives in the here and now and deals well with anxiety. An overanxious brain is not good for the body.

The same think applies to the relationship between the government and the people. The government must make sure the citizens FEEL safe and comfortable. I think this is one of the distinguishing factors between a “politician” and a “statesman”. A politician uses fear as a means to control people and win elections. A statesman creates a climate of safety and well-being for the people.

The feeling of safety and well-being is the equivalent of mental health on the national level. We do not need a worrier-in-chief. We need a president that can laugh, sing, dance, tell jokes. Of course the president must be connected with the real problems of the nation, but at the same time, the president must exude a sense of confidence, comfort, and well-being that transmits to the entire nation.

As good examples, I can think of Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt, Pres. Ronald Reagan, and Pres. Bill Clinton. Overseas, Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Prime Minister Golda Meir come to mind.

Solution No. 3: Economic Freedom — Control Less Rather than More

In the human body, a relaxed brain is best for the stomach. In the nation, a government that governs less is better than a government that governs more. To quote the Founding Father Thomas Jefferson, “that government is best which governs least.”

Conclusion

As you can see, I am taking the health of a human body as an exemplar for the health of a nation. Especially we can learn from mental health about how a good government should deal with the people. The economy is sensitive to the tensions in the nation, just like the stomach is sensitive to the tensions in the body. The productive forces (that is, the people) need a sense of security, well-being, and freedom in order to operate best.

Paulo-Juarez Pereira
Ypsilanti, Michigan, USA
October 2013

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