The New York stock market crash last fall, which set off similar dives in foreign markets, prompted financial experts to offer reassuring perspectives on the grim fact that investors had lost billions of dollars (and yen and marks and pounds). The plunge was only a "market adjustment," most of them seemed to say, and in the long run "key indicators" pointed to a strong economy and a stable market.

The flurry of advice and reassurances from the experts only succeeded in reassuring me how inherently unstable is any economy based on speculative investments. If the dollar, yen, mark, and pound are themselves prone to fluctuate, then what to speak of the markets they fuel?


But the Vedic formula for economic stability is so simple and down-to-earth that it too may be practically impossible for most of us to believe in.

The Vedic formula? The bottom line for what you need to live a happy and prosperous life? Here it is: an acre of land and a cow.

Can you imagine a financial wizard recommending in a news interview that the solution to our economic woes is for each of us to acquire an acre of land and a cow?

Interviewer: Beg your pardon?

Expert: Yes, on your acre you can graze your cow and grow your own grains and vegetables. And from cow's milk you make butter, yogurt, curd … what more could you want?

Interviewer: What more? Are you serious? We're talking about mortgage payments, car payments, food bills, clothing bills, medical bills, the GNP …

Expert: Don't take a mortgage. You can afford to buy an acre of land. You won't have food bills, and since you won't be driving to the supermarket, you don't need a car. Most of the world lives without cars.

Interviewer: Most of the world lives in poverty, without proper food and clothing.

Expert: But food comes from the earth; clothing cotton and silk comes from the earth. If people are in poverty, it's not because they don't have cars and supermarkets; it's because the earth is poorly managed. If things are properly managed, and people have food, clothing, and shelter, then what is the value of your so-called wealth of cars and processed food?

Interviewer: [To production manager] Who arranged this interview? Get rid of this guy.

Although I am among the few who accept, theoretically at least, the practicality of the one-cow/one-acre formula for economic stability, I'm no more willing than anyone else to practice what I theorize. As long as there are cars to be had, I want one; I need one. As long as there are central heating, indoor plumbing, health insurance, carbonated drinks, and the six o'clock news, I need, I need, I need.

If in the spring you gave me an acre of land and a cow even if you threw in an assortment of seeds, a roto-tiller, and a few hundred bucks to get me started I'd most likely perish before the end of summer. And I'd surely freeze to death the first winter. Where do I get winter clothing and fuel from an acre of land?

That's what really stops me dead in my theoretical tracks. The cold. Much of Europe, America, and other parts of the industrialized world is covered with snow part of each year. Sure, only a hundred years ago, even in the snow, most people were living a lot closer to the one-cow/one acre formula and managing O.K But if I had to do it today, send me somewhere tropical.

To the Philippines, say. I hear that President Aquino is pushing land reform there. She has proposed to break up larger landholdings, including her family's fifteen thousand-acre sugar plantation, and distribute the land thirteen million acres in all to the nation's ten million farm workers and tenant farmers.

The Filipinos are mostly farmers already, so there's no need to convince them of the importance of their own acre. I only hope they don't try to set up ten million mini-sugar plantations. No. Vedic authorities advise that you grow your necessities first, and only then, if you have the time and the room, think about cash crops. Personally, I'd plant rice, wheat, a vegetable garden, and a couple of mango trees. And I'd chant Hare Krsna. What a life.

Mrs. Aquino, I seriously hope land reform goes well for you. It's time that some of the world's "underdeveloped" nations took a leading economic role by demonstrating the advantages of underdevelopment, of prospering on a one-acre plantation. Please don't let your citizens think that progress is measured in terms of television and indoor plumbing. And please reserve an acre for me. I'll be arriving with my roto-tiller shortly after the next market adjustment.