Economic growth or no economic growth? Which way is best?

As with most questions with only two allowed answers, the real answer is “almost certainly both, and neither.”

We have plenty of resources, if only we were to use them properly.

Whichever model we choose we have to start from where we are right now with the resources we have right now.

The long-term intention is to end up in a better future where more people are more genuinely happy, and our use of resources is indefinitely sustainable. (If at least these two conditions are not met, what’s the point, right?)

So whichever model we use will start with the same resources and end up with the same goal.

The model we choose to use will be a collection of mechanisms we design for the express purpose of getting us to our goal as quickly as possible, with as little resource waste and negative side-effects as humanly possible.

The current mechanisms we use have not been designed to help us meet these goals. The current economic model was designed to solve historic problems. It is not a model which has these common goals woven into it. It is merely a short-term historic legacy to which we should not feel beholden, and possibly do so at our peril. It is of our own invention, and we are free to discard it any time we like. Indeed, when the going gets tough (pick more or less any situation you like in which lives are at stake), people almost invariably do discard it as being incapable of solving their most pressing problems.

So as Keynes himself said, “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?”

I’m not suggest that I have an answer. (Though I do know that the growth / no-growth debate is a false dichotomy: what about faster? or more complex? Both of those would deliver more for less.) Some of the mechanisms we use may not even exist yet, but that is not to say that we can not plan for them. We should be – and are right now – discussing their parameters and their goals. We should consider and inform ourselves and others about what other options are available to us. Where could our inventiveness take us, if only enough people knew about it and saw that it was a better way?

I’m off to read about the Steady Sate Economy

In response to a debate on Facebook started by Daniel Tagioff talking about Why we need a world without economic growth in The Guardian

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