The Confucian doctrine of the Mean teaches that too much is as bad as too little. The Aristotelian doctrine of the Mean coincidently articulates that there can be too much or too little of nearly every human passion and action. In neoclassical economics, it is assumed that people tend to take any action at the optimal (not too much and not too little) level to maximise the net happiness from the action. This article argues that the Confucian doctrine of the Mean concurs with the optimality principle, and therefore that the optimality principle is a representation of human nature and can be understood as universal human wisdom. It follows that people can adopt both the Confucian doctrine of the Mean and the optimality principle as worldly common wisdom beyond the blunt dichotomy of spiritual orientalism and materialistic individualism. Too much emphasis on the technical differentials between the two has undermined the common wisdom embedded in them.
The primary intent of this paper is to statistically test whether Buddhist countries tend to contribute to global warming mitigation in comparison with other religious groups of countries. A sample of 160 countries were classified into seven groups coded as ‘Buddhist’, ‘Hindu’, ‘Muslim’, ‘Catholic’, ‘Protestant’, ‘Christian mixed’ and ‘None of the above’. This study modelled the religious heritage of a nation into the IPAT equation (Environmental Impact = Population × Affluence × Technology), religion being as a cultural proxy of the technology factor. ‘Buddhist’ countries were found likely to emit lower CO2 compared with ‘Protestant’ and ‘Christian mixed’ countries, although likely to emit higher CO2 compared than ‘Hindu’, ‘Muslim’ and ‘Catholic’ countries, all other factors being held equal. The relatively low group effect of ‘Buddhist’ countries on CO2 emissions can be interpreted to support the argument that teaching Buddhist economics and ecology could be a useful ingredient to curb ever-increasing global CO2 emissions. Thus, further study is warranted as to how teachings from Buddhism can translate into lower CO2 emissions.