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Dalai Lama declines invitation to endorse capitalism

Asked to call free enterprise the most moral economic system, he cites gap between rich and poor

Dalai Lama declines invitation to endorse capitalism
Lauren Markoe for Religion News Service
United States

February 21, 2014

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Some of the brightest pro-business minds in the nation prodded the Dalai Lama on Thursday (Feb. 20) to offer a warm endorsement of capitalism.

But during an appearance by the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism at the American Enterprise Institute, one of the world’s most stalwart and, in conservative circles, respected free enterprise think tanks, they came up short. 

The Dalai Lama was the star participant in a morning of panels on “moral free enterprise” and “human happiness.”

Asked by AEI President Arthur Brooks and Columbia Business School Dean Glenn Hubbard whether he agrees that the free enterprise system is the most moral of economic systems, and why he thinks the U.S. is the richest nation on earth, the Dalai Lama answered in broken English with his own question: What do you mean by rich?

He went on to declare the command economy of the former Soviet Union, “failed,” and then critiqued American capitalism: “At the same time, United States, capitalist country, most richest, but gap rich and poor.”

Both systems, he continued, have “drawbacks,” and he prescribed “more discussions, more concern for others’ well being.”

Then finally, the Dalai Lama said, “I myself don’t know,” and burst into laughter, adding, “unless I spend few years studying about world economies and become student of you.”

In his opening remarks to a rapt audience of several hundred, the Dalai Lama did underscore a value that many conservatives believe is in short supply: individual responsibility.

He said the next century, unlike the last, should be one of peace. “We must create it. … Peace only comes through our action, not through wishful thinking,” the Dalai Lama said. “Buddha cannot give you what you want. You must make effort.”

Brooks — who was joined on the first panel by Hubbard, hedge fund founder Daniel S. Loeb and New York University business and ethics professor Jonathan Haidt — also asked the Dalai Lama how nations could best protect private property, and how the poor could enjoy “the blessings of the free enterprise system.”

The Dalai Lama answered in general terms, repeating his call for human beings to be more compassionate and to dampen “too much greed.”



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