Munich Personal RePEc Archive

Scarcity, self-interest and maximization from Islamic angle

Hasan, Zubair (2011): Scarcity, self-interest and maximization from Islamic angle. Forthcoming in: No. IRTI: IDB Laureate Lecture Series 2011 : pp. 1-25.

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Abstract

This paper clarifies some misinterpretations of three foundational concepts in mainstream economics from Islamic viewpoint. These are scarcity of resources, pursuit of self-interest and maximizing behavior of economic agents. It argues that stocks of resources that God has provided are inexhaustible. But important is the availability of resources out of stocks to mankind. Availability is a function of human effort and the state of knowledge about resources over time and space. In that sense resources are scarce in relation to multiplicity of human wants for Islamic economics as well. Self-interest must be distinguished from selfishness. The motive operates on both ends of human existence: mundane and spiritual. Its pursuit does not preclude altruism from human life. Counter interests keep balance in society and promote civility. Islam recognizes the motive as valid. Maximization relates to quantifiable ex ante variables. Uncertainty of future outcomes of actions makes maximization a heuristic but useful analytical tool. The concept is value neutral. What is maximized, how and to what end alone give rise to moral issues. Modified in the light of Shari’ah requirements the three concepts can provide a firmer definition for Islamic economics centered on the notion of falah.

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