If you ever stop and think about it for a millisecond, it’s pretty obvious that the notion of perpetual economic growth is a bit daft.
While it’s true I never attended the London School of Economics and I can barely add up, my grasp of the basic laws of physics is good enough to understand that perpetual growth is a load of arse.
And yet that is what our economies are based on. According to the current corporate logic, an organisation, a society, in fact the whole global economy cannot function unless it’s growing. All the time, never ending growth.
I have had people try to explain to me that endless growth is possible, that people have got richer and richer in the last 200 years and this won’t stop.
However, the richness, even if it’s some bozo in an office in the City of London or Wall Street making gazillions, the richness is coming from somewhere. When one guy has twenty billion dollars in the bank, that represents an accumulation of energy and that energy has come from somewhere. Somewhere where it no longer exists. It means that a lot of people are now very very poor.
In the last 10 years in the United Kingdom, the top earners have experienced a 400% increase in their income. The rest of us have experienced diddly squit. Is that growth? I suppose it certainly is for that top 0.0003%.
Growth is an illusion, it’s a myth, it’s based on pseudo maths, on crackpot, frail as gossamer theories that men like to talk about at global economic forums. If one company keeps growing, it’s going to consume more raw materials, it’s going to produce more and make bigger profits. But that company is inhabiting a finite world, the world isn’t growing, the resources aren’t growing but the company is.
There is only one possible long term outcome. It’s going to stop growing at some time and because the entire system it was formed under is based on growth, the only alternative seems to be collapse.
Endless growth or stagnation, contraction, decline. Is that it?
Unsustainable growth or total collapse. Take your pick.
What a shitty choice.
What about stability, what about sustainability? Try and imagine a corporation or nation state who’s economic basis was stability and sustainability. Is it possible.
Imagine Toyota cars, I’m using them as an example because I know the company quite well. Imagine their primary target was to stay the same. They produce the same number of cars this year as they did last year. They introduce new models, they develop new technologies and they maintain their manufacturing base, improve their efficiency and reduce their consumption and waste.
Would this mean they would die out. In the current climate I’ve no doubt it would be the death nell for them, but what if every one of their competitors did the same. Honda, Ford, General Motors, VW. If all those giant companies did the same, stopped getting bigger, refined their products to maximize use of materials and minimize waste, maintain their workforce, develop new technologies and invest in very long term, non growth strategies, would the world survive?
I’m asking this because I love the comments, I learn so much from the comments to things I’ve written. I’m not asking it because I believe non-growth is possible. What I do know is, the system we’re all so locked into now is doomed to failure by its very nature, so we need to do something a little differently. Don’t we?