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

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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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