Living Without Economic Growth

Year of the Snake Reflection: #8

As economies all around the world faced crisis and austerity in 2012, might 2013 be the year we learn to live without economic growth? Here, Charles Eisenstein remarks on the need to detach our notion of progress from material acquisition, and shares his observations from his travels around austerity stricken Europe.


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God, I expect this kind of gloom and hopelessness from conservatives, not from the left! Progressives used to look to the future with optimism, convinced that human ingenuity would prevail, understanding that the best is yet to come!
Anyway, contrary to what you argue in the video, our situation is far from dire. Sure, we could be doing better in terms of economic growth, but you should know that most of our problems are self inflicted. Either countries are reluctant to adopt policies that spur growth, or they are pegged to monetary systems that don't match their economies (read the euro zone). The idea that we have been living in excess is ludicrous; industrialized countries that still retain their currencies are paying very low interest rates, they are not being "punished" for living beyond their means!
Whenever there is a crisis half the world panics and predicts the end of times! It happened during the 1930's, it will happen again. In reality, after the fire breaks out, people go out of their ways to restore normality. They crave stability, and given the choice between chaos and order, they will choose the latter.
Humanity has gone through far worse, this is just a bump in the road!

There weren't 7 billion people in the 1930's and they didn't have the ability to destroy the world in a few hours, like we can with nukes. I would say there are a few differences that you aren't considering. This isn't a doomsday message. It just suggests, like you, that our systems could be organized in a situation that best supports every person.

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I took this as being about working towards the feeling of abundance and really appreciating life for what we have beyond materialistic measures. This is the type of thought that needs to be present in today's society. Too long have we sought out more, when many of us have plenty.

I think this discussion could use the talk about what it takes to start a business or nonprofit. Chiefly it's money. You want a small business ok... but it takes a large sum of money, that most likely you don't have to start it, so you have to take a loan. You want to start a nonprofit, ok... but then you need grant money (from the government) to do that and a supply of people who have the means to donate and want to. Small businesses can't compete with larger big box stores on prices. Small businesses can't hire like big box stores. As much as we want to knock big box stores for what they are doing, they employ large amounts of people and it took individuals working hard a lot of time to get to be able to provide that much for other people. If you want the ability to give back (to charity) you have to include that in your profit somewhere as a cost. People are addicted to consumption maybe if they can afford it and it's this sense of freedom/individualism and convenience that helps it along. Yet talk about coming together as a community and sharing, and you can automatically get labeled a communist before you can even explain that you don't mean the extremism of communism at all. I don't think we should be saying that "Growth" necessarily is the evil as much as the "type" of growth. Then that gets into population of course. Which sure no one wants to be told "don't have kids" but the more people we have the more pressure it places on our resources, and the more people are going to compete over those resources for survival. Personally, I think the world could benefit from a whole lot of patience (stop the whole "we want it now" immediacy crap) and learning about investment/money management to stop wasteful spending.
Before we go kicking at the government too, we should know what it costs to run public services. It's not cheap. If we want to be serious we have to talk about money, quantity, quality, and costs.
More than anything though I just wish that people would have more empathy and understanding for other people. So many of our problems could be solved if people not only stopped and listened to each other, but made it their mission to understand and help.

Just to address the issue with population. Fertility rate tends to level off and decrease in places that have a high standard of living. If people's basic needs are met, people tend to have fewer kids. In the third world, having offspring is akin to a retirement plan, kids take care of their parents when they get old since there isn't any other option available.

Kids are also a source of labor and income for the family, and child mortality tends to be higher so people have more kids because not all of them will make it to adulthood.

Again, if certain needs are met by society, such as healthcare, the need and desire to have big families will diminish.

If you can get to a point where people will have kids just because they want them, not out of necessity, then society is in a good place.

Pull people out of abject poverty and it will solve the population problem.

I am afraid that you are speaking too optimistically--even wishfully . Thr inexorable exponential growth of population, whether from lack of education, misplaced incentives, lack of reflection, whatever, will cause a mathematically inevitable drawdown of resources. It doe not matter what we think or how we feel about that. We seem wired to ignore this, but you can't change it.

Problem is the lag times. It's true that the "developed" countries have barely replacement birth rates however lots of young fertile people in most of the world and of course everyone wants lots of stuff. Going to be a very close call whether we can stabilize at reduced numbers without all kinds serious consequences.

I never usually write comments. I usually just read them but i never write.

I'm so restless. I want real, physical, change... We need to rally together.. All the occupiers, all the activists, the anti-consumers, the socialists, the hippies and hipsters and the who ever' s. Too long will it take to change the overly corrupt countries we live in. We need to act now. we need need to collectively purchase land and start a new country. A country with our idea of government, with our ideals, a green/environmental country. Reclaim and redefine our society, rewrite our constitutions. A country that its mere existence stands as f*ck-u to corporate greed and capitalism

And it will be a model for the rest of the world.

And it will be glorious.


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