Many professionals today experience a dilemma where they must make a choice between being good humans and being good at their job. They are left to wonder how the principles of love, generosity, fairness, reciprocity, and trust that they know to be true about life in general, do not apply at work. Some resort to the unfortunate conclusion that cold selfish behaviour is “natural” for human beings in economic situations. This is false. One of the prime reasons for moral listlessness at the workplace lies buried in mainstream economic theory.
Salman Ahmed Shaikh
PhD Economics, National University of Malaysia. Author, Researcher, Teacher and Consultant. He can be contacted at: email@example.com
Mainstream economics treats altruism as ‘impure’. It looks at altruism in the paradigm of pursuing self-interest. Economists like Andreoni reason that altruism can be explained through the ‘warm glow’ effect. People feel good to help others as they gain personal and private comfort. They might be doing it because of social pressure, to gain fame, to improve social image, to exhibit status or to avoid the guilt of saying no to a cause in public. The paradigm of self-interest is neutral between a person’s decision to help others or to not help others.
The doctors and nurses who have risked their lives to treat patients have defied these explanations and proved that altruism can be genuine. The idea of selfish self-interest needs revision. John Nash gave the idea that everybody does what’s best for him and the group. Referring to humans as a group, Dawkins think that Selfish Gene has no inherent morals and only has survival instincts. Morality is then just an instrument to achieve survival of the fittest.
The major issue is that the government has not been active in the collection of Ushr. Furthermore, historically, it never achieved its true potential in terms of the amount collected due to the trust deficit between the government and the landowners. It is also a fact that some greedy landlords try to evade it. On the other hand, poor knowledge about Ushr among the landowners results in the meager collection of Ushr at the national level.
In the Islamic framework, there is an emphasis on conservation, preservation and responsible use of resources. There is a discouragement for excessiveness, extravagance, lavishness and wastefulness in the use of resources. These norms are especially needed in the present times to foster a healthy, livable and sustainable ecosystem. In 2019 alone, humans have used up resources for the whole year within 7 months according to World Economic Forum.
Socialists claim that economic problems arise from the extraction of surplus value by the Capitalists in the production process. On the other hand, Capitalists urge that scarcity of resources is the basic economic problem which restricts output growth because wants are innumerable, but the resources for satisfying those wants are limited. Nonetheless, the empirical evidence does not support that resources are scarce for legitimate and compulsory economic needs.
Some of the mainstream asset pricing models can be used for security analysis in Islamic equity investments from the Shari’ah perspective. However, the choice of particular asset pricing models in practical use must depend on their ability to better explain returns on Shari’ah compliant stocks.
Muslim economists have employed the mainstream economics tools to explicate consumption in the Islamic framework. Two of the key limitations of these early works are that they used the Keynesian framework without building micro foundations and they did not model the behaviour in an intertemporal context.
There is considerable debate in Islamic economics literature on what shall be the correct response and attitude towards mainstream economics methodology. There are three varied responses among Islamic economists regarding the issue. The first response is to use the methodology of mainstream economics in Islamic economics as is. The second response is to modify it according to the needs and the context of Islamic framework. The third response is to discard it altogether and devise a new methodological framework from scratch.
This article highlights the points of distinction and compatibility between the Islamic and mainstream economics framework. The distinction comes in the decision horizon and the addition of moral filters on the choice set. The difference also appears explicit when one looks at the encouragement and incentive structure for pure altruism in a two-worldly Islamic framework. The distinction is even deeper in values whereby the Islamic framework encourages contentment, pure altruism and self-less behaviour while the mainstream economics framework is at best neutral between the moral content of economic choices.