Buddhist Economics? Raj Patel Suggests a New Way to Define Value

Worried about the meaning of existence? You might turn to Raj Patel's book The Value of Nothing. Its title, however, isn't a reference to how much a vast supply of nothing might be worth, or how to make a buck doing nothing. Instead, it comes from an Oscar Wilde quote: "Nowadays people know the price of everything but the value of nothing."

Patel's message about how we value -- and misvalue -- the world and ourselves isn't entirely new. Citing Buddhist economist E.F. Schumacher, he says what we need to strive for is a middle path: one where our financial and economic choices aren't dominated by Big Brother or big corporations. And he feels the viability of our future depends on us organizing and fighting for a society in which we value meeting people's basic needs over greed.

The 2010 publication of The Value of Nothing put Patel on the map. In February it made The New York Times best-seller list. And, after an appearance on The Colbert Report, some followers of Benjamin Creme's religious group, Share International, mistakenly (and much to Patel's dismay) identified him as their messiah.

To find out more about how Patel's ideas could play out in practice, DailyFinance invited him into our studio for a chat. We discussed Nothing, as well as how his message relates to the crisis in Egypt and why as a democratic people, we're much more powerful than we've been led to believe.

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thomasva6

i've vote independent or libertatian since 1976 except twice. i voted for clinton his 1st term (not really sure why) and mccain last time just to try to keep the muslim out of there. but what do i know?--i'm from pittsburgh.....

February 04 2011 at 2:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Gumby

He is talking about intangible assets . Investors usually ignore them and focus on tangible ones like earnings and stuff.

February 04 2011 at 11:26 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Gumby

damn, it is not closed captioned..

February 04 2011 at 12:44 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Gumby

Aluminium should be worth $3 a pound by now!! it aint worth nothing!!

February 03 2011 at 10:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Vijay Sabnis

Shallow and simplistic.50 million hungry in America is a myth. Why are poorer people fatter, then? The poor people in America are far better off than poor in India or Brazil. The real problem of the world is that there are just too many people in most countries.
The central theme is ok: live frugally, within your means, use your resources carefully. If we really had followed, we would not have the financial meltdown. It was brought on by primarily misguided policies of social engineering: Dems' 'Affordable Housing' and Republicans' 'Ownership soceity' The greedy banks and Wall street swindlers then stepped in and played a number on America.

February 03 2011 at 8:57 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Vijay Sabnis's comment
Liz

They are fatter because the type of food they eat causes them to retain fat, but sadly the food is devoid of nutrition. Cheap food is highly processed, full of salt (aside from the bloating, it leads to strokes and high blood pressure), full of chemicals for preservation that cause cancers (like nitrates), and full of high fructose corn syrup instead of simple sugars and whole grains, which are far more expensive but also far less damaging to your health. So they look well fed the way a child in Africa with a distended belly looks "fat" but it's an illusion. They are eating the equivalent to bark or grass - useless food with no nutrition.

February 04 2011 at 12:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
bfpowersjr

Mr. Pulomena: I enjoyed reading and viewing your piece.

February 03 2011 at 6:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
loxinabox

Some who I do not see this playing in America. I am sure Obama would agree he is a millionare. Easy to pretend you do not care about money when you have more than you can spend in a lifetime. A comment to bohemianacres I agree it would be great if everyone valued the truth! I have been trying to explain it to my Democratic friends maybe you could point out why I can not get them to uderstand." There is something that Dems do not understand so I will try to explain it to them. Real men (Republicans) judge other men by finding out if they keep their word. It has to do with this thing called "honor". So if a man is as the old saying goes "only as good as his word" then why would any real man consider Obama to be a man?
I can be contacted at work http://www.bestmichiganbusinesses.com and yes please keep those jokes coming in you guys have been making my day. GE building better weapons to sell to our enemies..no wonder Obama is so close to them! Obama he sure loves his war! Four more years! Come on Dems chant with me Four more years! Four more years!Of war in Afghanistan! Lets hope Cheney agrees to be on the ticket in 2012 Obama/Cheney warmongers you can believe in!

February 03 2011 at 3:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
bohemianacres

Would be great if everyone valued also the Truth. However, as seen by the uproar of the Wikileaks and their release of materials, neither the Truth nor the value of nothing will ever be prized soon. Such idealism, not to mention way of life, will be more valued 2-3 thousand years from now.

February 03 2011 at 3:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply