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Social and Economic Development

A session at the Barli Development Institute for Rural Women in Indore, India
© Bahá'í International Community

Social and Economic Development

The Bahá'í Faith teaches that effective social and economic development can only come about when the twin principles of the oneness of mankind and the essential spiritual nature of mankind have been universally accepted. Everyone should receive education so that they can develop their individual talents and skills in a fashion that will satisfy their own needs as well as those of the society to which they belong. The Bahá’í Faith recognises that while absolute equality is undesirable and ultimately unattainable, society must intervene where extremes of wealth and poverty occur to prevent unnecessary suffering. Some of the approaches that the Bahá'í community adopts in its efforts to contribute to social and economic development include: seeing people as resources, not problems; recognition of the nobility of the human being; avoidance of pre-packaged solutions; and raising the capacity of individuals and communities to participate in the generation and application of knowledge.

What is regarded as the most important economic activity?
Building construction
The majority of the world’s population still earn their livelihood through agriculture, and we all depend upon it to survive.
In the Bahá’í understanding, what is the principal driving force behind social advancement?
Strong leadership
Sound investment
True religion
In the Bahá’í view, each divinely-inspired religion brings the moral teachings and social principles which are essential for the advancement of humanity.
Which of the following attributes is the most important in the creation of a prosperous and just society?
A university degree in business studies
Moral integrity
Hard work
Access to credit
Moral integrity is the most important because without a moral compass all other attributes will become counterproductive. To train a thief in business practice, for example, is merely to produce a better thief.
Who is primarily responsible for the implementation of social and economic development strategies?
Expatriate advisors
Local government officials
The people themselves
Non-governmental organisations (NGOs)
Just as the people themselves are primarily responsible for devising appropriate solutions to their problems, so the people are also primarily responsible for implementing these solutions.
From where do effective social and economic development strategies ultimately derive?
Rich countries
Development experts
The grassroots
Effective development occurs when those concerned take charge of their own destinies and this involves communities working together to find solutions to their problems. Every context is unique and demands insights that are rooted in everyday reality.
Who should be ultimately responsible for ensuring that social and economic justice prevails?
The government
The police
The banks
The media
The government must ensure that in every village and town there exists a storehouse or ‘house of finance’ which is administered by responsible officials and whose duty it is to help those who are in need.
How is income to be distributed in a successful business?
The bosses will decide how much others should receive
All profits will go to the state
Profits should be shared amongst the work-force
Income will be divided equally amongst all staff members
Employees will be given a share in the profits of their employers. In this way their interest in their work will increase, plus they will receive a share in the proceeds of their labour. The interdependence of capital and labour will be recognised and the politics of confrontation avoided.
Who, according to Bahá'í teachings, is responsible for generating society’s wealth?
The government
The working class
All adult members of the community
Every able adult must engage in a trade or a profession. Work that is performed in a spirit of service occupies the same rank as worship, while idleness is condemned.
In the Bahá'í teachings, it is envisioned that income tax should be paid by:
Those whose income exceeds their needs
Rich people
Businessmen and women
All those whose income exceeds their needs will be taxed according to a graduated scale, while those whose income fails to meet their needs will be exempt.
What is the main obstacle to the achievement of social and economic justice in our present world?
Self interest
Poor health
Lack of resources
Lack of opportunity
In our modern world where everything is interconnected and all people are interdependent, the exaggerated self-interest of the few limits the possibilities of the many.


Author:  National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United Kingdom

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