Let’s Get Rid of the Economy of Growth

by Kirkpatrick Sale on June 25, 2009 · 27 comments <span>Print this article</span> Print this article

in Economics & Empire,Politics & Power

econ growth

Cold Spring, NY–It’s getting worse and worse, and the wizards don’t have a clue. They don’t even know the economy is broken-and can’t be fixed. That’s why they keep doing more of the same with the same old solutions and same old people.

Nothing could be more obvious, and I think most sentient people in the land know this in their hearts. And nothing could be more obvious than the need to overhaul that economy entirely-which is indeed the opportunity we have now.

I don’t mean we have to scrap the capitalist system entirely, but we do have to reign it in. We have to fit it in to the limits of the real world. We have to understand that economics is a subsystem of the overall ecosystem. We have to realize that continuing to base it on the concepts of growth and consumption–and encouraging, “stimulating,” more of that–will lead to the collapse not only of the global economy but probably the industrial civilization it serves.

Isn’t it obvious that the Keynesian idea of growth at all costs, particularly growth fostered by large governments that can print money, has failed? Isn’t it clear that we can’t keep on throwing money at this failed economy and that something quite different is needed? The U.S. economy has been devoted exclusively to the idea of perpetual growth since the end of World War II, and it has allowed any number of evils-environmental destruction, greenhouse gases, pollution, resource depletion, military expansion, government inefficiency and corruption, corporate political domination, unregulated financial institutions, immense inequality, a perpetual underclass, the decay of public education, and that’s just for starters-in its pursuit. Isn’t it obvious that it doesn’t work and that the current Great Recession is the proof of that?

Let us posit that the three greatest perils we face are resource depletion (particularly oil, but don’t forget fish and fresh water, for example), global warming and the alteration of habitats and species, and an excessive human impact on the planet at all levels. They are all the result of unchecked economic growth, and on a planetary scale. If we continue business as usual we will surely meet up with their disastrous consequences.

The alternative? Nothing complicated: a non-growth ecnonomy. A human-scale economy. A steady-state economy.

The idea of a steady-state economy was spelled out by John Stuart Mill in the middle of the 19th century, and has been taken up and amplified by a whole host of thinkers in recent times, including Herman Daly, Kenneth Boulding, Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen, Leopold Kohr, Hazel Henderson, Howard Odum-oh, and myself (Human Scale, 1980). There is today an organization called the Center for the Advancement of a Steady-State Economy, and in the UK a Sustainable Development Commission has recently issued a report called “Prosperity Without Growth.”

But what steady-state scholars have traditionally failed to emphasize, and what I have always held to be crucial, is scale. They have tended to picture such an economy, naturally but erroneously, on the scale of the nation-state, without realizing that it is the size and nature of the state in the first place that tends to foster growth and would be hard-pressed to do otherwise.

A true steady-state economy can operate only at a scale where the people involved understand they are living within, and dependent upon, a finite ecosystem, and make their economic decisions in the mutual self-interest of humans and fellow creatures in that system. The limits and possibilities of the bioregion they live in will constrain all economic activity, which would be primarily to ensure the continued existence of the bioregion at a harmonious and productive level and would preclude destruction or pollution of the sources of economic life.

And ultimately it would depend on community. That is, the level of a few thousand people-maybe five thousand or ten, maybe as many as twenty or thirty-who are able to deliberate and decide how their economy best fits into their ecosystem. They would grow their own food, make their own necessities, generate their own energy, create their own culture, to the maximum extent of human well-being and pleasure within the constraints of the other systems and species they live with.

That would be the kind of economy that this nation ought to be thinking about and working toward-not more, and more, of the same. Because if we don’t start doing that now, and in a serious and dedicated way, we’re going to have to start doing it when this current economy collapses-as surely it will if it goes on printing money to sustain a flawed and failing growth economy.

I don’t really think that the present political system will really come to its senses in time and turn the country in the direction I have suggested. It’s just that I can’t see how it can go on doing what it is doing without understanding that it is ultimately destroying the very world it lives in. And that I see this crisis as so blatant an indictment of corporate globalism that I feel it ought, as any good crisis does, to give us the opportunity for true and meaningful change.

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Wellsy June 25, 2009 at 1:08 pm

What happens to everything that has been created as a result of this massive economy/nation-state? I’m thinking of massive advances in health care, the internet, transportation, communication — almost every aspect of life has required the input of communities that are huge, with massive amounts of money. A community with 5000 people could not muster the resources to research and build, say, an MRI machine, so that community would have no MRI machine and thus none of the benefits that come from using one.

I agree with everything you’re saying, but what you’re suggesting is a return to, almost, the Middle Ages, or at least the 18th-19th century. Is there no compromise?

avatar D.W. Sabin June 25, 2009 at 1:19 pm

Change? Well, stranger things have happened one supposes, like just yesterday , the U.S. beat powerhouse Spain in Soccer. Now, that may be a commie sport but it appears this changes something.

The problem with Change is that the nervous and jerky people have been bull-snorted so much they likely have either tuned out or habituated themselves to the deeply detached paradigm we inhabit with such cocksure braggadocio. The Great Change Commander in Chief has demonstrated that “change” is only a logo for doing things the same only differnt. Spare Change Barry, I feel so fortunate having him in charge, he’s so bright and at least he don’t wink so much.

The Growth Economy is our Acropolis and there is a giant fools gold statue crapping a slurry of waste out of sight called “External Costs” and it is not to be trifled with as one shops within the great temple of commerce.

Over in the FED, the Oracular Somnambulator reads the entrails of a Collateralized Debt Obligation in order to determine the portents before burning incense at the feet of the god “Quantitative Easing”. Just as at Delphi, gasses seep up from the underworld and the Priesthood inhales deeply before gibbering away to the floor of the Stock Exchange.

Meanwhile, a cocktail party is held in a tony suite of some media titan and his political and commercial guests assemble and twitter about how reality is theirs to make and the great unwashed should simply suck it up and watch with discipline.

The Marquis de Sade staged plays with the inmates of the insane asylum Charenton while we meet his bet and raise it by turning the entire continent into a nut house and stage a play entitled The United States of America starring a collection of some of the most auto-flummoxing nitwits in the history of Satire.

Thank you for yours but please pardon my lack of optimism. Somebody has to have some faith in his fellow.

avatar D.W. Sabin June 25, 2009 at 1:30 pm

Wellsy,
It is not so much that Mr. Sales is suggesting we go on a jihad against modernity and large institutions, he is simply stating the obvious fact that a system which elevates giant institutions and elaborate systems while pistol whipping or starving its foundation is going to have a hard time finding new victims in the fullness of time.

Encouraging decentralization or at the very least, encouraging economic and social health at all scales does not automatically suppose that larger efforts are to be banned. All the MRI’s in the world aint gonna help the species when it has run the bus into the ditch in some glib dash for perfection.

I am put in mind of one of my favorite Fred Sanford quotes from when he is arguing with his son who is trying to get him to eat more prudently: “I’m gonna look awful stupid lyin in the hospital, dyin of nuthin”.

avatar Wellsy June 25, 2009 at 1:40 pm

D.W. Sabin,

I understand what you’re saying, but all this growth has been the result of centralization. Someone has to coordinate the plastic tube makers, the mineral miners, the engineers, the technicians, the electricians, the accountants, etc etc. to get a single machine made and distributed. If you leave this up to a smaller community, it just wouldn’t get done. A smaller community cannot allow a relatively large group of people to dedicate their lives to making plastic tubing. They just don’t have the manpower.

If you decentralize but somehow suggest that we can “team up” and produce all the bounties we currently enjoy, then the inevitable result of that arrangement will be in the situation with which we’re currently faced. We can’t have both, because in order for there to be plastic tube makers, you have to have a community big and robust enough to provide them with everything that wouldn’t otherwise be making (food, shelter, clothing, etc.). And of course, I use plastic tube makers as a catchall — our big communities are full of other equally niche positions.

avatar Beowulf June 25, 2009 at 2:01 pm

Here in Europe there is a growing movement against growing economy. It was created in France from the thoughts of economists and sociologists like Georgescu-Roegen and Serge Latouche. They call it “decroissance”, but I could not find a proper translation.

If you are keen on french I give you a couple of links with the main french discussions and best articles online:

http://www.decroissance.info/

http://www.decroissance.org/

I translated an introductory article into spanish, in case you are most used to this language

http://www40.brinkster.com/celtiberia/decrecimiento.html

I’d like some feedback on it, I see them quite lefties and pro-state action, which is something that strikes me as they are people who pretend to fight against big business, as if the gobernment wasn’t part of the business…

avatar D.W. Sabin June 25, 2009 at 3:35 pm

Wellsy,
Your Society of Plastic Tube Makers and their Kafkaesque Institutions are rotting from within . They will implode sooner or later, like all megalithic imperial projects do, leaving the small mammals better equipped to scurry about the destructive scene if they survive the debacle. A system that does not scale itself will become top-heavy…..as ours has….and watch as the downside of the curve presents a lot of chaos coming up quickly. We are watching evidence of the impending crash…environmentally, socially, economically, geo-politically every day.

Then, there remains the question of “bounties”…….at some point the maw will run out of things to chow down on and puke.

My florid language is not meant as a churlish dismissal of the comforts of modernity, it is a rebuke to the righteous defense of everything about an ever-more institutionalized modernity that can forsake the local for “efficiency” sake and get away with an accounting that is based upon the uneconomic notion of “external costs”. Government has married Big Business and they are sitting in their thrones like two gluttons unaware of how tenuous their position is.

What, exactly, are you missing about the current lesson “in what not to do”? I am not impugning modernity, I am crying foul on it’s notion that it can forsake local economy, local towns, environmental consequences and any notion that it might want to abandon “external costs” because they are a dangerous falsehood. I question the idea that a world of technocratic service workers is sustainable. I question whether large government institutions are not overtly hostile to the local …or at the very least, dismissive of it as immaterial to their grand Technocratic Clusterboink.

You say we cannot have both. You are likely right, if we choose to devote ourselves to a continuation of the great Technocratic Parade of Modernity at Any Cost, you will watch as the system creaks to a halt in the charade and the larger swaths of the land masses fester…loudly. The Starry-eyed consumer of this great empyrean paradise will not know the difference between his or her butt-plug and a pacifier. Sooner or later, it’s a stirring rendition of the Souza march of your choice while some soft-headed technocrats wheel out the latest big idea called “No Life Left Behind”.

avatar Bob Cheeks June 25, 2009 at 4:31 pm

“Let us posit that the three greatest perils we face are resource depletion (particularly oil, but don’t forget fish and fresh water, for example), global warming and the alteration of habitats and species, and an excessive human impact on the planet at all levels.”

D.W., there’s much to consider with Dr. Sales essay! The above sentence illustrates central themes for any discussion. The question for you: What thinketh ye of “global warming?”

avatar Wellsy June 25, 2009 at 9:13 pm

I’m not disagreeing with anything being said, D.W. Sabin, except the point that modernity and sustainable locality are mutually exclusive. I fully support a move toward a more sustainable lifestyle complete with community and local appreciation, but I also recognize that if we were to move completely into that world, we would be forced to forsake so much that has come to better our lives — both in comfort and in necessity.

Granted, MRI machines will not save us from the impending catastrophe, and I agree there is an impending catastrophe which is the result of the things Mr. Kirkpatrick has mentioned. But MRI machines are just one thing that small communities, in the sense that he has described, will have to do without. Towns of 5000 may not have their own hospital, let alone MRI machine, and their citizens are forced to travel to much bigger cities for better care.

So, these aren’t just “comforts.” Unless you define comforts as any benefit provided by living in modern society that separates us from the struggles of yesteryear. Sustainable = good. Local = good. Livable = good. Strong communal bonds = good. I have no other suggestions, though, as to how we can achieve these things and maintain what the modern era has granted us. Furthermore, I believe it is ingrained within the human spirit to desire to better ourselves as well as our environment and our communities. Innovation and invention is in our blood. Build a small, sustainable, wonderful community — but there will always remain at least a single string connecting it to the outside world where the energy, money, manpower, and resources are gathered to supply it with all the modern things its citizens crave.

avatar Jason Peters June 26, 2009 at 8:17 am

I don’t retain a 1-900 number, but here’s a prediction: there will be no “soft landing.” We ought to be good enough and smart enough to make the changes that catastrophe is threatening to make, but we’re not. The dark clouds gather, and still everyone believes the sunny forecast–politicians especially, because their main job is to rise in the polls until re-election time, and truth be damned.

We’re not entitled to plastic tubes, MRI machines, or electric toasters, to say nothing of laptops and what our former myopic president called “the internets.” The world awaiting us is going to look a lot more like the 1930s & 40s than like the 1980s and 90s.

I will be told that you can’t turn back the clock. In fact, I have turned back the clock many times–when it has been incorrect.

avatar Dan June 26, 2009 at 8:51 am

So much angst!

avatar Wellsy June 26, 2009 at 9:14 am

I wasn’t speaking as if we were entitled to all the things our own advances have given us. But when you’ve got a torn ligament or a brain tumor, fancy imagining equipment is something you’d like to have around. I don’t think entitlement fits into the picture; we’ve created this world for ourselves (the bad AND the good), and we’re allowed to us it to the best of our ability.

There are periods in history where what was gained was lost, perhaps forever, and one of them is called the Dark Ages. For us to face a future without everything we’ve gained so far, all the comforts as well as the “necessities” of our technology, is to suggest that’s where we’re headed. It’s a little melodramatic, no? There are too many motivated nations in play, too many motivated people, to let that happen, short of nuclear war (where those things are physically destroyed ala _Riddley Walker_).

Perhaps there are compromises that can be made, but they involve deep cultural, individual changes. If we can direct a nation of millions to pay taxes and obey the law, then other changes can take place that involve millions. Fundamental changes in education and living are required, obviously as you have stated, but these changes won’t occur for as long as the previous generation inhibits their growth.

Ultimately, I come out on the cynical side: we won’t/can’t make the changes quickly enough, and the decision will be made for us. The world will be worse for the USA’s failure, but it won’t roll back the (global) clock that far. Who knows what those of us in middle America will be doing, though.

avatar Gordon June 26, 2009 at 12:55 pm

Anyone seriously suggesting we can easily rid ourselves of a society that rewards excessive economic growth and replace it somehow with a localized, steady-state economy without incurring truly massive economic and geopolitical disaster in the world obviously doesn’t understand the ramifications of what they are proposing, the historical complexity of the situation as it exists today, nor the qualities of human nature that have brought us to this point.

The reality, which few people are willing to admit, is that there are no simple solutions. Any realistic solution, such as ensuring a steady-state population as a precursor to modifying our economic and political systems is not even on the table for discussion, nor will it ever be. And population control is only the beginning of a huge number of rational decisions our species would be required to make to survive, most of which would be unacceptable to the present wealthy and religious leaders of the world who are the main drivers of the problem.

I personally think as a species we are incapable of solving this dilemma. Touting quick and easy solutions does not help to resolve the issues, but only serves to muddy clear thinking.

avatar Michael June 27, 2009 at 1:04 am

Gordon,

“And population control is only the beginning of a huge number of rational decisions our species would be required to make to survive, most of which would be unacceptable to the present wealthy and religious leaders of the world who are the main drivers of the problem.”

Yes, all those religious leaders in the West who have been so successful at encouraging the most wasteful people on the planet to keep growing their populations… er, hold on.

Actually, the problem is not that there are too many people in the world, but that there are too many people like me and you, who consume hundreds of people-units of resources without even having any children to justify the expenditure. You may rightly blame wealthy ‘religious’ Westerners for that, but not for reproducing too much. We’re committing demographic suicide, actually, if you haven’t heard.

Ironically, our refusal to have children is a symptom of our anti-local, anti-commitment, anti-self-control economy. Children are now an economic asset, rather than a liability; yet another victim of global capitalism.

avatar D.W. Sabin June 27, 2009 at 12:31 pm

Dan,
It aint angst, it’s simply an awareness based upon an accounting. If the lingo appear a tad dire, one can strike it up to the fact that folks don’t generally whistle happy tunes at a train wreck.

Cheeks, I don’t particularly like the term “Global Warming”. I think it more complex that that and to those who assert that the science has not yet proven the connection between mans activities and global climate changes, I reply so f**#king what. When you are rolling about in your soiled diaper and treating the ecosystem as a seedy branch of some Off Track Betting Parlor, It cannot hurt to alter your ways regardless of what is going on in the larger environment. We are, as a people, staggering drunks, heedless of anything beyond a 7 day time horizon and largely devoid of any fundamental biological ethics. Heedless is a good word…a bad idea with the population growth rate and industrialization today.

The better term would be “Global Climate Dynamics”…but this aint sexy enough for the popular culture. I deal a lot with precipitation and storm runoff. For the last 10 years, while the average temperature has risen during a trend with some really cold winters….colder than a period 20 years ago, I have watched as the pattern of storms in New England have distinctly altered, accelerating in this alteration over the last 3-4 years and we are having more repetitive, more frequent shorter duration, higher peak rate storm events that are causing greater erosion, more runoff, less of the soaking rains and even in undeveloped woodlands, streams are entrenching at a rate which leaves rootlets exposed…in other words, very quickly. One part of long term desertification is entrenching stream systems lowering local groundwater elevations and altering plant cover. I don’t really care a whit whether this is man-caused, nature caused or a combination, the bottom line is that we need to, as a species, develop a far more sophisticated way of living within the landscape….socially, ecologically, agriculturally , industrially etc etc. This “Is Global Warming true” or “Caused by man” debate is a distraction from the essential issue that we perfervid but lazy and gluttonous homo sapiens sapiens are failing to practice the wisdom we are capable of to the extent that we are now crowning our long bloodthirsty career with being our own best and final predator. Conservation is a Conservative Ethos. It needs to come from the bottom up and not top down.

The IJIT “End of History” Neo-Cons would have one believe we have hit a triumphal point in history where American Might and Right will be gloriously exported to a larger world that just needs to get on board in order to turn the vaunted American Way into the Global Way. Solly Cholly, it don’t compute.

We have followed a paradigm in which the carrying capacity of the planet could be ignored while we raised standards of living , wealth, health and comfort to remarkable levels. It was a marvelous ride, in some ways, its still a good ride but the bloom is off the rose. This gig is over and we are so invested in it, we are continuing to ignore the need to follow the opportunity of a different paradigm. Yes, OPPORTUNITY. We are confronting a remarkable economic, social and environmental opportunity , larger than the 90′s internet age bubble but it requires a little imagination and courage and is steadfastly resisted within the Fortune 500 crowd and so resisted in Washington. We get lip service and lip service don’t saddle the horses.

What leads to the “angst” is that we are well past the prudent time to deal with the issue and we were just given a world class demonstration of what not to do by the last 16 years and when we had the people ready to listen, nobody in the leadership class stood up and went to bat beyond platitude.

In the coming years, deteriorating services amidst inflation may be the least of our worries.

avatar James Matthew Wilson June 27, 2009 at 11:15 pm

Dear Michael,

Well said. The most sustainable culture will show itself quite clearly by a simple sign: that culture will produce children. I say this not in some spirit of dreamy optimism, but with all empirical evidence suggesting as much.

If any readers would like an example of the dellusionary logic (ideology) that keeps us from solving so many of the problems Gordon otherwise righly perceives, it is thus: so many persons persist in believe that somehow “population” is the problem. There is no population problem; population is, as it were and quite literally, the people for whose benefit the problem, whatever it may be, must be solved. The problem is simply modifying our present practices to make possible a virtuous life for many people; it is a vice, not a virtue, to consider politics, people, and populations as problems to be solved. And yet that is the spirit of technocracy: manipulate, manipulate, manipulate.

avatar Ray Bane June 28, 2009 at 2:39 am

“A community with 5000 people could not muster the resources to research and build, say, an MRI machine, so that community would have no MRI machine and thus none of the benefits that come from using one.
I agree with everything you’re saying, but what you’re suggesting is a return to, almost, the Middle Ages, or at least the 18th-19th century. Is there no compromise?”

The short answer is, no. It seems everyone is frantically searching for ways to keep what we have even as the lifeblood of modern civilization, carbon based energy, is entering an era of irreversible decline. That is not an option. It is childish fantasy to believe we can somehow seamlessly transition from a century of economic expansion fueled by cheap energy to some form(s) of green energy that will allow us to keep all the goodies we now have. That doesn’t mean that we will return to living in caves, but it does mean that we will certainly have to forgo many of the energy intensive benefits now taken for granted

If we are lucky we may be able to establish a lifestyle somewhat in keeping with the standard of living of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. But there should be no illusion that we will somehow get there without some pain. Sadly, an energy constrained world cannot sustain a population of more than six billion people. That is simple reality.

avatar Empedocles June 28, 2009 at 4:58 am

The United States would have a steady population if left alone, he birthrate of the native population is something like 2.1. The growth all comes from immigration and the higher birth rates of immigrants. So no need to resort to state control of population. It is Wall Street that needs infinite growth and thus increases in population, increases in resource consumption, and increases in centralized economic and political power.

avatar Bob Cheeks June 28, 2009 at 6:44 am

D.W.,

“Conservation is a Conservative Ethos. It needs to come from the bottom up and not top down.”

Yes, I do agree, we don’t need no stinkin’ gummint writing enviro policy predicated on the politics of morons.

I did the anti-haz waste incinerator (a Bubba deal straight from Arkansas) with the Greenpeace kumbaya dudes/dudettes while trying to explain to them the high politics of John Randolph.

avatar rex June 28, 2009 at 3:06 pm

You can’t argue that an MRI is a wonderful machine. However, you have to ask yourself how many of the maladies it diagnoses are caused by the over-developed economy it took to produce it. The externalities of pollution, economic imperialism, and the wars we fight for our way of life, have taken a great toll on our planet, our communities, our ethics, and our health.

I believe it is easy to overrate the differences in the future quality of life we will experience between choosing a sustainable future and the continuing in direction we are pointed now. However, I believe the longer we continue down the path of economic growth as the central principal of our one party system, the steeper the descent will be when the limits to growth can no longer be denied. So yes, I will miss the MRI if it comes to that, but I feel sooner we own up to our past errors the more MRI’s will be around.

(Of the economists mentioned in Dr. Sale’s article have only read Leopold Kohr, and I was a little surprised E.F. Schumacher did not make his list of thinkers. Is there something I am missing?)

avatar D.W. Sabin June 29, 2009 at 12:46 pm

Wilson,
I am not quite so sanguine about population as you seem to be. In 1500, there were purportedly somewhere around 400 million humans stem to stern. Admittedly, this was after the worst depredations of the Bubonic Plague. While the human mind and soul are braced for infinity, I’m not sure the land masses of the blue planet are. I believe we are somewhere near 7 billion people 500 years after passing the 400 million mark. I think I understand the content and frame of your assertion, am sympathetic to the spirit of it but , based upon our species gluttonous wants, the planet aint just shrinking, it’s set to go poof under the onslaught. There are almost as many Whoppers sold today as there were humans in gut alte 1500.

Not to mention, there are no doubt 10 times 400 million plastic styrofoam packing peanuts with their little static charge floating out there in that archipelago of discarded plastic in the North Pacific gyre.

avatar Septeus7 June 29, 2009 at 4:04 pm

Here we go with the pure Malthusianism again.

“Let us posit that the three greatest perils we face are resource depletion (particularly oil, but don’t forget fish and fresh water, for example), global warming and the alteration of habitats and species, and an excessive human impact on the planet at all levels. They are all the result of unchecked economic growth, and on a planetary scale. If we continue business as usual we will surely meet up with their disastrous consequences.

The alternative? Nothing complicated: a non-growth ecnonomy. A human-scale economy. A steady-state economy.”

Yes, let’s ignore Genesis 1:26-28 and have a global dark age. Let’s destroy civilization and call ourselves conservatives.

τὰ ὄντα ἰέναι τε πάντα καὶ μένειν οὐδέν
There is no such thing a steady-state anywhere in the universe much less the human economy. You cannot even maintain current population levels unless you expand your productive and technological capacity.

Humanity doesn’t not live like other animals and adjusts to a “natural equilibrium” just like the planets do not organize themselves around an equant. The purpose of civilization is to provide for the possibility of development so as to increase man’s power to exist beyond what previous state of nature allowed by economical growth.

If you say let’s stop economic growth then you are saying let’s stop civilization and have some kind of Rousseauian fantasy then you aren’t a conservative.

Resources are always being depleted. From the moment man creates a resource there is a limit to how much he can get out of that resource. But where is the resource ultimately located?

Are resources located in nature objectively or are resources subjective to man when he discovers a principle that allows him to master a part of nature around him in order to increase his power to exist in nature?

Oil is no resource to a primitive tribe who doesn’t understand principles of chemistry that allow them to use that energy.

You cannot maintain an economy on a static set of principles i.e. have no-growth economy because if you freeze you economy development then you fix your economy to resource base that is shrinking exponentially and the only result will mass genocide and universal war.

So what is the proper human response to the depletion of know resources? The answer is not a scientifically impossible “steady state” but what human have always done in order to survive. We develop new resources and switch to from old resource bases to new resources. When we do that population increases and the economy grows and that is only way human beings have ever survived in civilization.

So what is our problem? Boomers like you assume apriori that no new resources can be developed and that we are at “the end of history” and so deny that nuclear power should be developed. The result was that the boomers sat on their butts doing nothing to advance civilization for the last 40 years and let our culture rot and ran up the debt, destroyed the environment, and now you have the gall to tell the younger generations that they will just have to accept no-growth, de-population, and fascist austerity.

We can fix the economy. How? It is easy we cancel the debt you idiot Boomers created under great globalization orgy of stupidity using bankruptcy protection. Arrest anyone who tries to enforce this civilization destroying usurious debt and create a new global finance based on rule of law and the sovereignty of nations not the so-called “free market” i.e. private banking cartels. And finally we create investment programs to produce the infrastructure that the Boomer should have built and whole bunch of elemental recycling plants to clean up the giant mess the boomers left lying around and is now smelling up the place.

“The idea of a steady-state economy was spelled out by John Stuart Mill in the middle of the 19th century, and has been taken up and amplified by a whole host of thinkers in recent times, including Herman Daly, Kenneth Boulding, Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen, Leopold Kohr, Hazel Henderson, Howard Odum-oh, and myself (Human Scale, 1980).”

Actually the idea goes back the Cypria where Zeus the archetype of Oligarchy allows for the Trojan War to end overpopulation.

American patriots have long battled the anti-human ideas of the Imperialist shills for the East India Company like John Stuart Mill a true disciple of Malthus.

My response is the traditional American response to such nonsense:

Two systems are before the world. . . . One looks to
pauperism, ignorance, depopulation, and barbarism;
the other to increasing wealth, comfort, intelligence,
combination of action, and civilization. One looks toward
universal war; the other to universal peace. One
is the English system; the other we may be proud to
call the American system, for it is the only one ever
devised, the tendency of which was that of elevating
while equalizing the condition of man throughout the
world.
—Henry C. Carey, Harmony of Interests, 1851

avatar Dan McLaughlin June 30, 2009 at 12:50 pm

How about getting government out of the economy altogether, including inflationary monopoly in money creation. Let each individual, each family, each business owner decide for himself or herself if he-she-it is willing to pay the price that is necessary for their own growth. After all, the real economy is merely a sum total of individuals, families, businesses and other entitites. If each person pays the price for their own progress, then nobody loses with progress.

People have a right to their own property, and can do with it what they like, as long as they don’t infringe on the rights of others, including polluting the resources of other people.

The growth that you are talking about is the artificial growth from monetary pumping and government fiscal stimulus that distorts all economic relations, skews the real incentives in the markets and takes from one group to make another group wealthy, i.e. the massive corporate welfare.

Great post, Septeus7, other than a little incoherence regarding the cancelling of all debt and the collective investment ideas. It sounds like you are blaming “boomers” for something that socialized government created with laws, fiscal incentives and regulations. You would be more effective if you directed your anger at the right target.

avatar Alan August 13, 2010 at 8:56 am

Septeus: interesting comment. I hear distinct echoes of LaRouche — himself an interesting (if whacked-out at the fringes) guy. The LaRouche-ites actually have some good and useful perspectives on the whole mess, if only they were not such blind and rabid modernity-boosters and dupes of the insane ideology of “No limits! NONE!”. (Which is, recall, the ideology of cancer cells.)

“You cannot maintain an economy on a static set of principles i.e. have no-growth economy because if you freeze you economy development then you fix your economy to resource base that is shrinking exponentially”

Our resource base is not “shrinking exponentially”. Our appetites, and our willingness (and eagerness) to always sate them and never EVER restrict them, have expanded exponentially. This phenomenon (pardon me, but I must speak plainly) is mistaken by idiots, or is cynically mischaracterized by the evil, as either a shrinking of the resource base, and/or as overpopulation.

The problem is not overpopulation, nor is it the shrinking of the resource base. The problem, as always, is us.

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