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Exploring the connection between Buddhism and political and economic liberty.

Most Buddhists don’t have the luxury of avoiding politics entirely. Unless we become monks and escape from the world into a monastery, our participation in a politicized and politically governed society means we must “do” politics — or at least have it done to us.

For quite a lot of us, our Buddhism compels us to not just focus on our own well-being, but, through compassion, improve the state of the world for everyone. Because so much of our daily lives, from our personal choices to the economy, are governed through the political process, this means as Buddhists, we ought to mindfully use the political tools available to us to help realize that better world.

Buddhism teaches us to approach all decisions not just with compassion, but also with mindfulness and wisdom. We should do the same with our political engagement. Thus we should make sure that our political choices are helpful in ways consistent with Buddhist values.

As I look around at the state of the world and its politics, and I pay attention to the kinds of policies American Buddhists often advocate for — or insist are the only ones in line with Buddhist principles — I’m troubled and see myself as an outsider, my deeply held commitment to political and economic freedom too often labeled as fundamentally anti-Buddhist. I’ve dedicated my career to a set of political ideas. I’m also a practicing Buddhist. My goal with The Free Market Buddhist, as well as the upcoming book of the same name, is to explain why there’s no conflict between Buddhism and a belief in the value of political liberty and the extraordinary benefits of economic freedom and free markets. I hope to show that Buddhism would be better served by politics quite different from those advocated by most of my American Buddhist peers.

I have two goals with this Medium publication and the book.

First, I’d like to help my fellow liberty-minded Buddhists see that they are not alone, and that there is no necessary tension within their beliefs. Buddhist ethics quite easily supports (quite radical) political and economic liberty.

Second, I want to start a conversation with progressive and conservative Buddhists about whether the state-centric policies they advocate are in fact a necessary consequence of their Buddhist beliefs, and whether a politics more focused on individual and economic liberty would better accomplish their Buddhist ends.



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