Buddha was pretty bad at predicting unintended consequences

Henry Hazlitt summarized all of economics by the notion that most people are bad at predicting unintended consequences.

That idea is so important that I will link to a PDF of his book, and I will put that PDF in the permanent “commonplace book” reading list accessible by the menu.


Buddha was a great guy, but evidence suggests that his economic prediction power was no better than average.

Example 1: Buddha told some students to meditate in a graveyard; those students killed themselves. Then Buddha said to his surviving students, “Okay, DON’T meditate in graveyards, meditate on your breath instead.

Example 2: Buddha ate meat, and told the people he visited that there was no need to kill an animal just because he was visiting. This morphed into the doctrine that complete abstention from meat is holy. Preventing this kind of misinterpretation was probably within Buddha’s power.

Example 3: Buddha told his lay students not to go into the weapons trade. This morphed into the famous Buddhist warrior tradition, demonstrated by Shaolin Monastery and the Japanese Ikko Ikki sect. Preventing these misinterpretations was probably beyond Buddha’s power; most people would say it’s unreasonable to blame Jesus for the Crusades.

Of course, this all connects back to panpherohoplocracy.

Are predominantly Buddhist societies good places in which to start social movements toward panpherohoplocracy?

Well, from what I have seen of Asia, societies in which lots of people act Buddhist aren’t really societies that are defined by Buddhism. Asian societies seem to be defined by governments and economies and gene pools.

Buddhism doesn’t seem to define any communities exclusively. (There are plenty of big Buddhist groups with lots of adherents, but they obey laws just like everyone else.) Buddhism is both a social and a personal quest for salvation that frequently ends up in self-righteous hippiedom, especially when practiced in societies where hipsters can proclaim themselves to be Buddhists.


If you know that you’re going to be getting involved in violence, it might be best to avoid calling yourself a Buddhist. Otherwise, self-righteous hippies will probably distract you with whining about how their karma is better than yours.

I don’t think it’s possible to approach Buddhism while saying, “I want to be a warrior monk.” I’ve known some Pure Land martial arts teachers, but I couldn’t emulate their approach to Buddhism. I suspect that if you’re going to study violence, you might as well refuse to claim to be a Buddhist. If you use Buddhist meditation methods, don’t say you’re doing it as a Buddhist – otherwise the hippies will scream, and that might distract you.

The favorite phrase of the self-appointed guardians of holiness is “Don’t even think about it!” Thinking is not a panacea – often one must stop thinking and act – but when you think about ethical systems, you often discover their inconsistencies. Pointing out the inconsistencies of a religion is usually a sin according to that religion.

In various religions, self-proclaimed holy people demand the right to sneer at anyone whom they consider sinful, and to stymie behavior that might lead toward sin. Those people are no more holy than crabs in a bucket, pulling down their fellow crabs who try to climb out.

If moving toward panpherohoplocracy in an East Asian country, you might call yourself a Confucian, and try to operate with a Confucian set of ethics.

I am personally disappointed in this, because I had rather hoped that I could delve into Shaolin monasticism and find some quick and easy shortcut past all my problems. It would be nice to have the extra publicity value of monastic status while inculcating the skills of violence. If I could wear special status markers (e.g. a funny haircut, a colorful robe) then I could praise myself for having the social status of a monk. Without those special status markers, I still have access to the basic FUNCTIONS of a monk – i.e. meditation, self-discipline, asceticism – but those functions involve lots of difficult, unglamorous effort!

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