I have often said to such audiences as this one that to be a tiger is not important. The important thing for us is to have a self-supporting economy. A self-supporting economy means to have enough to survive. About this, I have often said that a self-sufficient economy does not mean that each family must produce its own food, weave and sew its own clothes. This is going too far, but I mean that each village or each district must have relative self-sufficiency. Things that are produced in surplus can be sold, but should be sold in the same region, not too far, so that the transportation cost is minimized. Doing so might prompt some distinguished economists to criticize that it is out-of-date. Some other people say that we must have an economy that involves exchange of goods in what is called “trade economy,” not “self-sufficient economy,” which is thought to be unsophisticated. However, Thailand is a country that is blessed with self-sufficient productivity.
Where a self-sufficient economy can be practiced, we can survive, we don’t suffer. In the present situation, the trouble we have with rice is evident. The people need to use many other commodities and these can be produced in Thailand. Moreover, these can also be exported. We can use the products at home as well as export them overseas. However, for exportation, there are many procedures that have to be satisfied, and the result is that there is nearly no profit left. But if direct contact can be made, as they have done in the case of these drums, sending a full load by using container ships, the price of transportation is not too high.
An excerpt from the royal speech given to an audience of well-wishers on the eve of the royal birthday anniversary at Dusit Hall, Chitralada Villa, Dusit Palace, on Thursday, 4 December 1997
Thank you all for coming to wish me a happy new year — not the calendar new year. It is my new year, the new year of the speaker, tomorrow being the beginning of a new period, a new year of my life. The Prime Minister has summed up fifty years of my life, saying that I have worked and contributed to the well-being of the nation. Today, those inside and outside have come in record-breaking numbers. The prosperity and happiness of the nation and the people are not the achievement of any single person; it is a cooperative effort. Those with knowledge must use it for the stability of the country. People possessing similar knowledge must pool their ideas. Some people are knowledgeable in the same area but are different in their viewpoints. These people have to exchange views in consultations rather than argue. Consultation and argument are different. Arguments involve mostly emotion, whereas consultations involve the intellect. By using sound reasoning in discussions, the problems will be solved, because there is only one truth; there are many falsehoods, or there are many wrong ways. On the other hand, the truth, the right way, is universal and is usually the only path to success.
The Prime Minister has mentioned my various activities, such as what I said last year, about the sufficiency economy. The term sufficiency economy does not exist in the textbooks; there has never been a sufficiency economy. There are other terms but not this one. Last year, I spoke about sufficiency economy because I could not find other terms. I also added that 50 percent of its application, that is, not completely, or even only 25 percent, would be enough. At that time last year, I thought that it was understood, but lately, only last month, somebody who should be in the know, someone who has participated in development work for quite a long time, came to see me and said that the sufficiency economy was a very good system, and he indicated his understanding that the application of one fourth of the sufficiency economy means the coverage of a quarter of the area in the country. The meaning of sufficiency economy and only one fourth of its application did not mean one fourth of the area, but one fourth of the degree of sufficiency.
I have to come right to the point because I am worried that even a person with a Ph.D. still misunderstood my point. Perhaps I did not speak clearly enough, but when I reread what I had written in my speech, I thought that it was clearly stated that 50 percent sufficiency or even only 25 percent sufficiency would be enough. I meant that the application of the sufficiency economy does not necessarily mean full sufficiency, and I may add that full sufficiency is impossible. If a family or even a village wants to employ full sufficiency economy, it would be like returning to the Stone Age, to that age when humans lived in grottos or in caves, when they did not have to rely on others because other communities were enemies; they fought each other; they did not cooperate. Therefore, they had to resort to full sufficiency economy. Each one had to find a cave to live in; they had to find their own food, collect fruits and leaves that were available, or use weapons that they made themselves to hunt animals for food. Those who lived in caves used 100 percent sufficiency economy. It was feasible in that situation.
Subsequently, they came out of their caves and began to build houses. The extent of sufficiency economy was reduced to about 80 percent because some people passing by were not hostile. They brought various things to barter with local goods. For example, a stranger from afar would bring animal hides that would be suitable to use as garments. These would be bought or exchanged with food such as fish caught in the lagoon. Thus, it was no longer a sufficiency economy. As time went by, up to the present time, those of you who are either outside or inside this hall would not be able to use 100 percent sufficiency economy, even if you wanted to. In addition, if you examine yourself or your own economic system, you will be of the opinion that it has not been done. It is possible that it is done less than 25 percent, that is, less than a quarter, because most of the things that are produced or made by the individual must be exchanged with other products that are needed. Therefore, I say that the application of only one-fourth of the sufficiency economy should be enough, and it can be done. This is one point that I would like to clarify regarding what I said last year.
The word sufficiency has another meaning, a wider meaning. It does not only mean self-sufficiency but also means to have enough for the individual to live on. This sufficiency was mentioned to those who were present here [in 1974]. On that day, I said that we should strive to have enough to live on. To have enough to live on, of course, means sufficiency economy. If everyone has enough to live on, everything will be all right. Furthermore, if the whole country can subsist, the better it would be, and Thailand at that time was on the verge of insufficiency. Some individuals had plenty, but some had practically nothing. In the past, there was enough to live on, but today, impoverishment is creeping in. We must, therefore, implement a policy of sufficiency economy so that everyone will have enough to live on. This sufficiency means to have enough to live on. Sufficiency means to lead a reasonably comfortable life, without excess, or overindulgence in luxury, but enough. Some things may seem to be extravagant, but if it brings happiness, it is permissible as long as it is within the means of the individual. This is another interpretation of the sufficiency economy or system. Last year, when I mentioned the word sufficiency, I mentally translated it and actually spelled it out as self-sufficiency; that is why I said sufficiency for the individual. In fact, this sufficiency economy has a wider meaning than just self-sufficiency. Self-sufficiency means that the individual produces the things to fulfill his own needs without having to purchase them from others; the individual can live entirely on his own.
Some people literally translate it from English into Thai as standing on one’s own feet. Some say that this expression is rather odd. Who would stand on our feet? If anybody stands on our feet, we would definitely get angry. Anyway, if we step on our own feet, we would surely stumble. These are perhaps rather strange thoughts, but they derive from the expression “to stand on our own feet,” which means to be independent. This means that our two feet are firmly set on the ground, so we can stand without stumbling. We don’t have to borrow other people’s feet to support us. However, sufficiency or to have enough has a more extensive meaning than this. The word to have enough is sufficient; sufficiency is moderation. If one is moderate in one’s desires, one will have less craving. If one has less craving, one will take less advantage of others. If all nations hold this concept — I don’t mean sufficiency economy — this concept of moderation, without being extreme or insatiable in one’s desire, the world will be a happier place. Being moderate does not mean to be too strictly frugal; luxurious items are permissible, but one should not take advantage of others in the fulfillment of one’s desires. Moderation, in other words, living within one’s means, should dictate all actions. Act in moderation, speak in moderation, that is, be moderate in all activities.
I once mentioned that if, among the audience in this hall, anyone wants to sit on his neighbor’s seat, it would not be a moderate action, and it would be impossible to do so. If such an action were done, there would be trouble because people would feel constricted, and it would result in friction. When there is friction, it is of no use at all. Therefore, one must act moderately. The same thing applies to thoughts, not only to physical actions. An individual who has any opinion, which may not be right, should not impose it on other individuals. Such an action is not a moderate action. Moderation in thought consists of expressing one’s own ideas and opinions, and allowing others to speak out, and then carefully considering what they say and what we say in order to find the way, which is more moderate or reasonable. If the idea does not make sense, it must be rectified, because talking without coming to an understanding will lead to arguments. From vocal arguments, it could lead to physical arguments, which would eventually bring about damage to both antagonists. If the conflict is between groups, the quarrel could become more serious, which would cause trouble to more people.
Thus, sufficiency also means moderation and reasonable thinking. I have to speak about this because I have to explain the word sufficiency, which some people misunderstood last year. And the misunderstanding lasted until about two or three weeks ago. Most surprising was that the person who missed the point was someone who should have understood, because we had talked at length about this kind of topic: economy, and the meaning of words. However, it happened. I, therefore, have to explain it in rather great detail. I don’t know whether today’s explanation will be understood or not. If today’s clarification is not successful, I may have to further my explanation next year (laughter), because it is rather tedious to drag on. Moreover, some individuals here in front are getting drowsy (laughter). That’s good; your laugh means you are beginning to understand it a little. Understanding a little is better than not understanding at all.
I would like to turn to another topic. The Prime Minister has mentioned that I have done many good things, implying that I did these things single-handedly. In fact, everything that has been done, has been done in cooperation with other parties. For example, the application of the New Theory involves the participation of many people: the development officers and the farmers who utilize the New Theory themselves. The New Theory was introduced or publicized around the year 1994. I put it down in the computer as a principle with three steps, trying to keep it very brief. However, this brevity itself may make it rather difficult to fully understand, but stating it in concise terms that were easy to understand should have made it comprehensible. I had the people concerned look at it, and gave it to them. I did not expect that the New Theory would be easily implemented, but those who got it happened to understand and have been able to put it into effect.
An excerpt from the royal speech given to an audience of well-wishers on the eve of the royal birthday anniversary at Dusit Hall, Chitralada Villa, Dusit Palace, on Friday, 4 December 1998