Does Buddhist practice affects adversely on the Development of a country?

Michio Kaku said that it is the science which develops countries, if a country focused on spiritual development, they cannot achieve economic development. He said “look at those countries with sound religious practices, they are poor”.

Obviously, there is no developed country who has higher percentage of buddhists. Buddhist countries have poor development rates and plans. Strong regional variations in patterns of world economic growth reveals that cultural differences may play an important role in economic dynamics. However, the complexity of the religious-economic system is difficult to explain.

Buddhism has negatives and positives on economy and the development. Mostly Buddhism is recognized as a very pronounced other-worldliness (supramundane) and seems to be devoid of the primary motivations (Ex: Desire for material accumulation) over economic development. However, buddhism itself is becoming an expensive commodity. For example “Headspace” app worth several hundred millions. Dhamma and the meditation techniques are being sold to higher prices in the west and Australia. But, moral value of Buddhism is rather appreciated in asian countries, where it has a small commercial value.

Buddhism may emphasise (capital expenditure) on non-productive religious artefacts. This was the Chinese governments idea on buddhism when they captured Tibet, which resulted killing monks, destroying monasteries and valueble texts in 50’s (Read My land and my people by Dalai Lama).

Alongside its secular orientation, respect for education, discipline, loyalty, and work ethic, the collectivism and related solidarity and efficiency of group dynamics of Confucianism have been argued as a significant positive influence on the economic success of many East Asian economies (Johnson, 1985; Kim, 1988; Levy, 1992; Matthews, 1986).

Buddhist countries show slower development compared to western countries. Does Buddhist practice affects adversely on the Development of a country?

Is it possible to achieve economic success along with the religious practices?

What are the ethical ways to achieve higher economical growth to a country according to Buddhism?


This is more of a Watercooler question I think.

TL;DR: If you don’t want an essay on development then the short answer is Kaku is using an outdated idea from the 1930’s and we don’t really know what influences development. The religion of a country is one factor and doesn’t determine how it develops.

The idea that religion influences economic and social development is an old one coming from Max Weber. In the 1930’s it was believed that being white and Protestant is what guaranteed development and democracy because all the countries that had those qualities fit the description, besides Japan. Since Japan was an outlier and China was also developing quickly at the time they thought Confucian thought was okay for it but not the best. But Catholic and Muslim countries were seen to be the worst preforming countries hands down and encouraging to dictatorship.
These theories have now been debunked, it’s very complex on why and how countries develop socio-politically. You can’t nail it down to their religion or race. It has to do with many factors. Kaku is closely following in Weber’s foot steps and this has largely been debunked. Development is now seen as a rugby match between religion, domestic policy, foreign policy, corporations, and culture. We really can’t decide what influences it the most and so the field is hard to work in. For example can’t figure out why the Middle East has such high youth unemployment but all of Southeast and East Asia has a more average unemployment level.


Thanks ZenKen, I agree and have moved it accordingly. This is because the ‘Discussion’ category is for EBT specific discussions. The water cooler is for light hearted or more general posts.

From your friendly neighbourhood Mods :smile:


Agreed. In the 1950s there was an effort among political scientists to conceptualize what was known as “political culture.” Most of the work that was done in that field is now widely considered simplistic and has been relegated to the status of historical fad. This is not to say that economic development has nothing to do with aggregate societal preferences, which obviously it does. Economic demand (as theorized by economists as part of the complex processes of supply and demand) responds to numerous factors, of which societal preferences is but one of many. Any economist who can pin down the exact cultural forces that shape demand would win a Nobel Prize. Short of that, economists are left to take into account countless causal variables that influence a country’s or region’s economic performance.


Thanks for posting this, I wholeheartedly agree.

I also want to say that many modern economic measurements such as GDP (which is widely used as a barometer on how poor or rich a country is) don’t really matter for the lives of everyday persons. These economic wealth measurements cannot measure what really matters in life: how happy people are, how strong their family relationships and friendships are, and so on.

So I would argue: even if this was true, that Buddhist countries are less wealthy, who cares? Are they less happy?


Thailand is surely a predominately Buddhist country, and as of now the baht is surging in value, to the point where the Thai government is putting controls in place to control the surging value of the Thai Baht. The economy is expected to grow at around 3.5 - 4 percent annually, partly due to the strong currency, yet there are Asian manufacturers now moving their manufacturing from China to Thailand.

Thailand has many poor areas, and most Thais live day to day, while a small percentage of oligarchs possess great wealth. But as an example, I feel that the example of Thailand might damage the argument that a Buddhist country is likely to underperform economically. Thai Buddhism is strong, but it is a curious mixture of Thai Theravada Buddhism and other influences, including Hindu deity worship, along with local spiritual traditions. Rather than there being an renunciate sensibility, younger Thais are generally driven by emerging middle class consumerist sensibilities. Walk into any Thai city shopping mall, and you’ll see high end items along with luxury brands that many Thais seek out.

Whether Thai Buddhist Thailand is First World, or still Third World, it’s part of the economic conversation these days:

And to @Javier’s excellent point, I love being at my small home in Thailand, as I am surrounded by general happiness/Metta, Thai wats, sabai, sabai, warm sun and fragrant air, and all that is so lovely about Thailand.


Science and technology are amplifiers. Amazon amplifies craving. SuttaCentral amplifies the Dhamma. The notion of “adverse” relates to goals and wishes in this very life. If one were to wish for something, what would one wish to amplify? Suffering or not-suffering? :thinking: :man_shrugging:


Looked at from the other direction, does economic prosperity cause an increase in secularism?