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Mon Feb 25, 2013, 08:21 PM

A Better Plan Than 'Endless Growth': Enough Is Enough

by Rob Dietz and Dan O'Neill
The World Economic Forum held its annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland last month. The official theme was "Resilient Dynamism," a catchphrase that makes about as much sense as the futureless economic policies trotted out at the meeting. At least the attendees had something to ponder at cocktail hour. The mission of the forum, on paper at least, is "improving the state of the world." And there is clear room for improvement: trillions of dollars of public debt, billions of people living in poverty, escalating unemployment, and a distinct possibility of runaway climate change.

The popular solution to these problems is sustained economic growth. In fact, the first item of the Davos meeting's global agenda was "how to get the global economy back on to a path of stable growth and higher employment" The thinking is that if we could just get people to produce and consume more stuff, then we could also pay off the debt, create jobs, eradicate poverty, and maybe even have some money left over to clean up the environment.

It's tempting to believe this economic fairy tale. But if growth is the cure to all of our ills, why are we in such a bind after sixty years of it? Even though the U.S. economy has more than tripled in size since 1950, surveys indicate that people have not become any happier. Inequality has risen sharply in recent years, and jobs are far from secure. At the same time, increased economic activity has led to greater resource use, dangerous levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and declining biodiversity. There is now strong evidence that economic growth has become uneconomic in the sense that it costs more than it's worth.

Maybe it's time to consider a new strategy—an economy of enough. Suppose that instead of chasing after more stuff, more jobs, more consumption, and more income, we aimed for enough stuff, enough jobs, enough consumption, and enough income.
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complete piece: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/02/25-1

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Reply A Better Plan Than 'Endless Growth': Enough Is Enough (Original post)
limpyhobbler Feb 2013 OP
missingthebigdog Feb 2013 #1
GliderGuider Feb 2013 #2
groovedaddy Feb 2013 #3
GliderGuider Feb 2013 #4

Response to limpyhobbler (Original post)

Mon Feb 25, 2013, 08:58 PM

1. Exactly

We need a lifestyle contraction.
Too many people are working to maintain a lifestyle that they don't even enjoy. We need fewer workers in the economy, and living wages for those workers. A family of four should be able to live comfortably on the wages of one worker.

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Response to limpyhobbler (Original post)

Tue Feb 26, 2013, 07:09 AM

2. We literally can't do it voluntarily.

All life, from bacteria to global civilizations is structured by a fundamental underlying natural principle: to turn energy into useful work. This principle forms the fitness selection criterion through which self-organizing systems either prevail or fail - turn as much energy as is available into useful work as effectively as possible. It's an organizational rule of the universe, much like gravity. It's why capitalism prevailed over communism, and it's why we can't address either social injustice or atmospheric CO2 levels. Most people can't even imagine such a rule. But there it is, working silently within all of us. To some extent it shapes every human thought, feeling and action.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maximum_power_principle

H. T Odum: "The maximum power principle can be stated: During self-organization, system designs develop and prevail that maximize power intake, energy transformation, and those uses that reinforce production and efficiency."

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Response to limpyhobbler (Original post)

Tue Feb 26, 2013, 08:25 AM

3. This one hits home. What will it take for us to survive on this

planet? Identify the basics: water/food/clothing/shelter/healthcare/a clean environment. Create an economic system that fulfills these needs. Everyone who is able, contributes something to the process of achieving and sustaining this. Within this framework, make room for innovators and entrepreneurs. Allow them to be rewarded for breakthroughs in making the process easier, more efficient. But don't jeopradize the basics. Nature in and of itself, poses significant challenges (both current and potential) to human security. However, we have to recognize when human behavior is placing our security in jeoprady and we must alter our own behaviors accordingly. Admittedly, no easy task.

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Response to groovedaddy (Reply #3)

Tue Feb 26, 2013, 09:26 AM

4. "We" are very unlikely to do that in any general sense.

If we restrict ourselves to local initiatives, some of what you propose may be possible. But even for that the crunch will have to hit first, and even then the planetary "we" will keep on rolling.

Here's a more thorough piece I wrote on the reason why things are the way they are, and why stopping the planetary juggernaut is essentially impossible: http://www.democraticunderground.com/101656296

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