The Maharishi Effect and the National Economy: Research on the U.S. and Canada
Among the predicted results of the Maharishi Effect on the quality of national life are improved economic performance, increased wealth and prosperity, and decreased economic problems, including unemployment (Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, 1978, p. 66; 1985, pp. 171-172). In the research described in this section, statistical time series analysis was used to test the hypothesis that the group practice of the TM and TM-Sidhi program by a single, large group in the U.S. significantly contributed to the substantial reduction of a key measure of economic performance, Okun's misery index, for the U.S. and Canada over the period 1979 to 1988. The misery index (or discomfort index), first proposed by economist Arthur Okun, is defined as the sum of the inflation rate and the unemployment rate. The inflation rate measures the rate of increase of the cost of living (as measured by the consumer price index), and the unemployment rate measures the proportion of the labor force not currently employed. As described below, the misery index also may be viewed as a measure of one of the most important economic dimensions of the quality of life.
The level of the misery index reflects how well the national economy is doing with respect to the three dimensions of economic performance widely regarded as most important by policy makers and economists--unemployment, inflation, and economic growth (Dornbusch & Fischer, 1988, p. 8). The misery index directly measures the degree to which society is plagued by the "twin evils" of inflation and unemployment. But since faster economic growth contributes to lower unemployment, movements in the misery index also reflect the economy's rate of economic growth. -3- The rate of economic growth here is defined as the rate of growth of total national output after adjusting for inflation, or the growth of "real" gross national product (GNP). Because reduction of inflation and unemployment and the promotion of economic growth are goals which are typically at the very top of the policy agenda for every national government, the misery index serves as a very useful summary measure of national economic performance.
Some empirical studies of the misery index have been carried out. Tarantelli (1986) employed the misery index as a measure of stagflation in a regression analysis of cross-national economic performance. In another study of cross-national performance, McCallum (1986) reported correlations between the misery index and both the incidence of strikes and a measure of "corporatist" institutional structure. However, neither Tarantelli nor McCallum examined the behavior of the misery index over time for any of the countries in their samples. Thus the research described in this paper, along with the related research discussed below (Cavanaugh & King, 1988; Cavanaugh, King, & Titus, 1989; Cavanaugh, King, & Ertuna, in press) apparently represents the first in-depth investigation of the time series behavior of Okun's misery index.
Behavior of the Misery Index
For both the U.S. and Canada during the 1970s and early 1980s the misery index reached historically high levels because of the simultaneous occurrence of both high inflation and unemployment. Simultaneous high inflation and unemployment, a condition termed "stagflation," which was indisputably the primary economic problem of the 1970s and early 1980s in North America and throughout the world ( Bruno & Sachs, 1985). -4- As shown in plot of annual data in Figure 1, the U.S. misery index began rising in the mid-1960s, and ratcheted up markedly during the 1970s. After peaking in 1980 at a level exceeded only during the Great Depression of the 1930s, the U.S. index thereafter fell irregularly to near a 15-year low in 1988 as a result of substantial declines in both inflation and unemployment. As shown in Figure 2, the misery index for Canada likewise trended sharply upward beginning in the mid-1960s, peaked in 1982, and then fell by 1988 to its lowest level since 1972.
The sharp upward trend in the misery index for the U.S. beginning in the mid-1960s was reflected in a growing dissatisfaction with U.S. economic performance and a deterioration in the sense of well-being of the American people (Maisel, 1982, pp. 15-16). In virtually every national Gallup public opinion poll conducted between 1973 and 1983, a majority of the American people felt that inflation, or unemployment, or both were the most serious problems facing the nation, ranking ahead of such quality-of-life issues as crime, environmental pollution, and the threat of nuclear war (Dornbusch & Fischer, 1988, p. 537). The results of these surveys suggest, therefore, that the misery index also provides a measure of an important economic dimension of the quality of life. That the misery index may be associated with broader measures of the quality of life is indicated by research showing a strong correlation between unemployment and several measures of social stress, including increased mental and physical illness, suicide, homicide, cardiovascular mortality, and prison admissions (Brenner, 1979).
TM and TM-Sidhi Group at MIU
The statistical analysis of the Maharishi Effect examined the influence of the group practice of the TM and TM-Sidhi program on the misery index for the U.S. and Canada over the period April 1979 through April 1988. April 1979 marked the founding of the largest permanent TM and TM-Sidhi group in North America at Maharishi International University (MIU) in Fairfield, Iowa, U.S.A. At that time, a group of experts in the TM and TM-Sidhi program at MIU began the practice of this technology of consciousness together twice daily (morning and afternoon) to create the Maharishi Effect for North America. By analogy with the phenomenon of superradiance in physics, through which a phase transition process leads to the emission of coherent light by a laser, the group practicing the TM and TM-Sidhi program together to create coherence in collective consciousness has been termed the "Super Radiance group." A plot of the monthly average size of the Super Radiance group for the daily afternoon session is shown in Figure 4 for the period April 1979 to April 1988. -5-
Maharishi's Vedic Science predicts that a significant improvement in economic performance, and the overall quality of life, will occur when the TM-Sidhi group reaches a critical size approximately equal to the square root of one percent of the population. For the U.S., the critical square root of 1% threshold for the Super Radiance group during this period ranged from approximately 1500 in 1979 to 1569 in 1988, based on mid-year population estimates (United Nations, 1989). The corresponding theoretical threshold for the effect of the U.S. group on both Canada and the U.S. is the square root of 1% of the total population of North America. This threshold for North America as a whole ranged from 1577 in 1979 to 1650 in 1988. Since the calculation of the theoretical threshold for the size of the TM-Sidhi group ignores the possible influence of several other Super Radiance groups of smaller size in North America as well as the effect generated by the more than one million individual practitioners of the TM technique or TM-Sidhi program in the U.S. and Canada, the predicted results of the Maharishi Effect may have possibly begun to be felt at a threshold value somewhat lower than the theoretical square root of 1% level.
In the plot of the average size of the Super Radiance group shown in Figure 4 a horizontal line is drawn at the 1500 level, approximately the square root of 1% of the U.S. population. The two large spikes in the plot of the TM-Sidhi group correspond to two large temporary gatherings of experts in the TM and TM-Sidhi program (World Peace Assemblies) at MIU, December 1983 to January 1984, and again in July 1984, when the monthly average size of the group exceeded 3300.
of the Monthly Misery Index, 1979-1988
Shown in Figure 3 is a plot of the monthly U.S. misery index for the period April 1979 through April 1988. -6- The U.S. misery index peaked in January and March of 1980 at 24.5, thereafter falling irregularly to a level of 10.3 in April 1988. Together with the plot of annual data for the misery index in Figure 1, Figure 3 shows a reversal of the rising trend of the 1960s and 1970s, with the reversal beginning in January 1980, four to five months after the TM-Sidhi group first exceeded the 1500 threshold in July and August 1979. During the latter two months, the size of the largest TM-Sidhi group in the U.S. reached a peak of 2778 at a World Peace Assembly in Amherst, Massachusetts. The initial reversal of the upward trend in the misery index also followed six consecutive months in which the average size of the Super Radiance group consistently exceeded 1000-1200 for the first time.
Figure 3 also suggests a possible downward shift in the mean level of the U.S. index beginning sometime in 1982, a year in which the average monthly size of the Super Radiance group for the first time exceeded the 1500 critical threshold for five months. Also apparent is the continued decline of the U.S. misery index after 1982 and its ultimate stabilization substantially below its 1979-1980 level as the TM-Sidhi group rose to a level consistently exceeding the critical 1500 threshold. Reflecting this decline in the misery index, by 1986, national public opinion polls indicated that, in marked contrast to the period 1973 to 1983, neither the level of inflation nor unemployment were perceived as major national problems by the American people (Dornbusch & Fischer, 1988, p. 537).
The marked decline in the U.S. misery index during the decade of the 1980s was a surprising development not widely anticipated by economists and other informed observers. A recent review of U.S. economic performance during this period concluded (Pluckhahn, 1989):
Few who looked at the bleak economic landscape of a decade ago could have known that unemployment would decline from more than 8% to 5.4% and inflation would be cut by almost two-thirds, from 11.3% in 1979 to 4.6% in 1989. . . .Who would have forecast that the economy would grow for the final seven years of the 1980s, breaking the record for a peacetime expansion? Other milestones include more than 18 million new jobs created in the 1980s, and manufacturing productivity averaging more than 4% annual growth throughout the decade--the best record of the post-World War II era. (p. 1)
Thus the sharp decline of both inflation and unemployment during this period, as well as a vigorous and prolonged economic expansion (which, as of June 1990, was more than two and one half times as long as the post-war average -7- (was a largely unforeseen development. -8-
The Canadian misery index shown in Figure 5 displays a similar pattern of persistent rise followed by a steep decline. -9- The plot shows a continuation of the historical rising trend of the index well into 1981, followed by a leveling out in 1981-1982, and subsequent decline. The decline seems to be associated with the rise of the Super Radiance group to a level frequently exceeding the square root of 1% threshold on a monthly average basis. To facilitate comparison between the plot of the Canadian misery index and the plot of the U.S. Super Radiance group, the latter is repeated as Figure 6. In terms of the annual data shown in Figure 2, the misery index for Canada peaked in 1982, two years after the U.S. In terms of the monthly data, the peak for Canada occurred in June of 1981 at 27.1, thereafter falling to a level of 11.6 by the end of the sample period in April 1988.
The plot for Canada also exhibits a possible downward shift in the mean level of the index during 1983 when the average size of the Super Radiance group began to frequently exceed the critical threshold for all of North America. For the period April 1979 to April 1988 the simple contemporaneous correlation between the Canadian misery index and the size of the Super Radiance group is -.319, somewhat smaller than the comparable correlation of -.501 for the U.S.
The weaker relationship between the average size of the Super Radiance group and the misery index for Canada is consistent with Maharishi's analysis of collective consciousness. Since the theoretical Super Radiance threshold for influencing both Canada and the U.S. is larger than the critical threshold for the U.S. alone, this higher threshold for influencing all of North America was reached fewer times over the period 1979 to 1988 than the lower threshold for the U.S. Similar reasoning may also help to explain why the rising trend of the Canadian index was reversed at a later date than for the U.S. index, and why the proportionate decline of the Canadian index was also less than that of her neighbor to the south.