We are told that we need economic growth by governments and the other people at the top table. We are told that we need this to pay for our good life and our infrastructure, public healthcare, education and for our pensions.
But is GDP growth really necessary?
Most of us have enough already and lead a reasonably comfortable life without having to worry about growth. We have enough, and most of us know that you cannot buy much more happiness with money, but this growth mantra keeps telling us otherwise. Here U try to debunk this mantra and show that de-growth is in fact no joke – it should be a serious objective for the developed world to embrace – and read on to learn why…
We are basically very safe here in the Nordics – we enjoy most of life’s good things even though luxuries are out of reach for many. There are plenty of people who are living off very small incomes or small subsidy payments from taxpayers. Hardly anybody here dies of starvation, and even the homeless get the basics. The great majority have a good life with its ups and downs. Yes we pay higher taxes, but we save huge amounts by not having to fork out for healthcare and education.
But it is probably true that most of us do not really benefit from growth. There is only so much we can buy from the supermarket and most the stuff there is not worth buying. They are mainly various combinations of fat, sugar and wheat. Heavy consumption of these products gives you cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Fresh fruit flown in from Kenya, South Africa and Peru is not great for climate change. Both groups can be dumped without any loss to consumers…
Meat and animal feed are also causing the removal of our oxygen-producing forests. Soya beans are grown to feed cows and pigs to produce milk and meat. These can be reduced can be dumped without any loss to consumers…
It is the same with gas-gobbling SUV’s and big Mercedes… those too are “growth things” that we could dump without any loss to consumers…
Bikes and modest energy efficient electric cars, limited by law, along with electric buses and trains unlimited by law could serve us better without asphalt roads and huge parking spaces.
The incompetent are normally too incompetent to see that they are incompetent, and because of that they should be banned from ruling us. Democracy works well when people are educated but breaks down quickly when they are dumbed down by a relentless media and easy go lucky politicians.
That the right-wing short sighted politicians do not want to admit that fossil-based transport and the loss of forest land are going to have terrible consequences for the planet on which we live is reason enough to see how stupid they are. These politicians are one of the world’s greatest threats.
Think how much we spend on defence, and that too is a “growth thing”. For us for Finns, we are more concerned about Russia, and because of that we have to spend billions on keeping that long border secure. We could spend that money on education and healthcare if we had a better neighbour.
We also spend money on sending soldiers to less fortunate countries that suffer from real wars and violence like in the Middle East and Africa. It is beyond belief what we could do with that money if things were calm and peaceful there…
There are so many objects we are pulled into buying in the name of growth. By giving them up or having them less available could result in de-growth at the macro level and actually improve our lives.
De-growth does not mean that companies and business could no longer grow and thrive. The good ones would succeed and the bad ones go under like today but as described in an earlier column, taxation on how resources are used needs to be radically increased while taxation on work radically reduced.
Good companies do not need to pay their senior bosses hundreds of time more than their ordinary workers. I doubt vey much if we would see these bosses moving to tax havens. Living in closed and gated communities and in consumer bubbles like Monaco is no fun because there is less diversity that exists in big cities.
In fact we should start to think seriously about the efficiency of really big global companies. Big companies actually show few productivity improvements and end up being wasteful. They all want protection by lobbying hard to keep out competition. The media and politicians like them because they sell stories (good for advertising) and fund the political ambitions in return for favours (Super PACS).
Anyway you only have to read some hundreds of books to know that GDP as a measure of growth is about as useful as a having Trump as a President. Depending on your vested interests, the argument can be made, truthfully or otherwise, in any number of ways.
Ordinary folk want peace, security, good food, good healthcare and a good education for themselves and their children. If growth is necessary to support this then why do governments need to keep on borrowing even when the economies have been growing for years on average for decades on end?
De-growth is no joke – it should be a serious objective for the developed world to embrace.
Photo: Wikipedia Commons