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Global Perspective

Planetary Citizenship

Your Values, Beliefs and Actions Can Shape A Sustainable World Hazel Henderson and Daisaku Ikeda

Hazel Henderson, a futurist, environmental activist and writer. Illustration by RickyHadi / Fiverr

Ikeda Sensei has had dialogues with leading figures throughout the world to advance peace. More than 80 of his dialogues have been published as books. This series highlights these dialogues. The following are excerpts from Planetary Citizenship (pp. 162–65).

Rooting Economics in Humanitarian Competition

Ikeda Sensei meets with noted American futurist and activist Hazel Henderson in Tokyo, October 2000. Photo by Seikyo Press

Daisaku Ikeda: Economists should start all over from square one, the quest for human happiness. Unlike the natural sciences, economics interprets human beings and prescribes behavior. Traditional economics teaches that human beings follow their desires and work for their satisfaction. Its basic philosophy is optimum distribution of resources to keep all human desires in equilibrium.

Hazel Henderson: In Small Is Beautiful, E.F. Schumacher sharply criticized conventional economics for its vision of humanity. He said that the economics model was completely wrong in defining work as a necessary evil and in claiming that labor is capital investment and that all human beings maximize their own greed and selfishness. He argued that labor is the unfolding of the meaning of our lives. It’s what we do to create or to actualize our potential. The idea that it’s some sort of necessary evil that we have to be paid to do is not quite right. Labor has its profoundly cooperative, communitarian and spiritual aspects as well. …

Ikeda: Dr. Schumacher looked for answers in Buddhist philosophy and said that, whereas conventional Western economists maximize consumption as a rational structure for production power, Buddhist economics sees consumption as a reasonable structure for human satisfaction.

Henderson: Yes. While claiming that greed, competition, acquisitiveness and selfishness drive the economy, conventional economics pretended to be value-free when actually what the economists projected was a bundle of their own values. This was one of the fundamentals that Fritz Schumacher and I agreed on. Most people in the world have values other than being greedy. They like to share and enjoy giving just as much as receiving. Economists, however, ignored cooperative values and eliminated them from their mathematical models. Punishing altruism, caring and sharing while rewarding greed, selfishness and competition is a recipe for conflict, poverty gaps and social disintegration.

Ikeda: The sharing and joy in giving you refer to embodies true human virtue and the profound love of rejoicing in one’s own as well as others’ happiness. In Buddhism, we call this attitude the bodhisattva way. It is prominent in the humanitarian competition advocated by Tsunesaburo Makiguchi in his A Geography of Human Life. It was written in 1903, at a time when nations strove feverishly for wealth, military might and hegemony. Imperialism and colonialism were rampant throughout the world. Keenly observant of what was going on around him, Mr. Makiguchi categorized the struggle for survival under four headings: military competition, political competition, economic competition and humanitarian competition. He argued that the time had come to deemphasize the first three and concentrate on competition in more humane arenas.

Henderson: I’d like to hear more about the fascinating idea of humanitarian competition. Is it similar to the indigenous Potlach custom of peoples of the North American West Coast who rank their status by how much they can give away?

Ikeda: It is certainly similar at the point where we do our utmost to serve others. Mr. Makiguchi insisted that we must change not the category—military, political and so on—but the very nature of competition. Ignoring others while striving exclusively for one’s own happiness is competition between antagonists. Mr. Makiguchi insisted that we shun it in favor of cooperative competition oriented toward mutual happiness. This is illustrated in the following passage from his book: “It should be understood that the ‘humanitarian approach’ does not imply that there is a specific method which can be designated as such. Rather, it is an effort to plan and conduct whatever strategies, whether political, military or economic, in a more humanitarian way. The important thing is the setting of a goal of well-being and protection of all people, including oneself but not at the increase of self-interest alone. In other words, the aim is the betterment of others and in doing so, one chooses ways that will yield personal benefit as well as benefit to others. It is a conscious effort to create a more harmonious community life.”[1]

Hazel Henderson

(March 27, 1933–May 22, 2022)

Notable Achievements
Futurist, environmental activist, evolutionary economist and columnist.
Authored such books as Ethical Markets: Growing the Green Economy, The Politics of the Solar Age and Beyond Globalization: Shaping a Sustainable Global Economy.
In 1996, shared the Boston Research Center’s Global Citizen Award with Argentinian human rights activist Adolfo Pérez Esquivel.
Honorary member of the Club of Rome.



  1. Makiguchi, Tsunesaburo, edited by Dayle M. Bethel, A Geography of Human Life, Caddo Gap Press, San Francisco, 2002, p. 286. ↩︎

Key Passages From The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings and Ikeda Sensei’s Guidance

Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism: Wisdom for Realizing Happiness for All Humanity