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Theology of Growth

“Growth, in a word, appears to be the only sacred doctrine of capitalism”

Lua:

It's funny that you mainlanders try to grow GDP, while we try to shrink it.

 

We view GDP as the economic cost of producing a given level of human well-being — as the rate at which society ensnares natural resources and most human activities, whether helpful or harmful, in a monetary economy.

 

GDP growth seems to correlate very tightly, in fact, with the rate at which the human economy is metabolizing the rest of the living world. Is that something to be unconditionally celebrated?

 

We, on the other hand, try to shrink that economic cost, not maximize it. Human well-being with social and ecological stability is our goal, not the endless growth on an artificial monetary economy.

 

Money flowing for treating large populations of chronically sick people from unhealthy lifestyles or for cleaning up after toxic chemical spills would improve your GDP from the associated economic transactions of cleanup, remediation, and legal work and therefore be seen as an economic good. The bigger the toxic spill, the better for GDP!

We, on the other hand, would prefer to promote healthier lifestyles, cleaner environments, and responsible business practices that would drastically lower or even eliminate all the 'economic transactions' resulting from reductions in overall societal well-being.

 

And why would any community welcome loosely regulated, money-seeking, power-concentrating, publicly-traded, limited-liability corporations?

 

Our institutions exist to serve a democratically determined public interest. Our companies are all human-scale, cooperatively owned, community-rooted enterprises. They serve the broad interests of local communities, not the narrow interests of distant corporate elites.

 

Have you noticed that there is a perverse tendency for GDP numbers to rise in many countries where powerful corporate and political interests destroy the lives of vulnerable communities in the name of progress? Obviously, GDP growth is not correlated with improvements in societal well-being in those places.

 

Growth, in a word, appears to be the only sacred doctrine of capitalism — grow the economy at any cost, or risk social collapse.

 

This theology of growth — growthism — is the way all Western governments manage and measure their economies today. It's how they compete on the world stage. Tragically, it is also accelerating the sixth mass extinction event in our planet's history.

 

GDP is the trans-cultural currency of global political power. Perversely, every political play is seen through the perspective of capital, not of healthy living systems.

 

But doesn't GDP growth simply express the overall welfare of capitalism itself, not the overall welfare of society?

 

What an extraordinary idealogical coup, that so many economists actually believe that GDP growth is an acceptable proxy for the welfare of humans. Seriously!?

Clara:

 

Oh, get off it. We don’t have to redesign any institutions or question the superiority of capitalism and GDP growth. Everything is fine.

 

Americans are innovators — we always come up with some new technology that continuously grows the economy and generates wealth for more and more people. It’s what we do.

 

We are the indispensable nation thanks to our unique culture of rugged individualism and risk-taking. Naysayers like you all always discount the human ingenuity and technological innovation we have to solve problems.

 

In America, everything is possible!

Tragedy of the Open-Access Commons

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