Growthism; like trying to cure an alcoholic with vodka…


I know that this blog has been full of discussions about politics and economics recently- sorry to those of you are are not interested, but here is another one…

I have been looking for new ideas, alternatives to the monocultural madness that seems intent on cycling us through boom and bust, and subjugating all morality to the single imperative of economic growth, or Growthism. 

Cameron has been at it again- warning us all that another economic crisis is on its way. Naomi Klein and her Shock Doctrine comes immediately to mind. Whip up the fear then continue to push through all those exploitative policies while we are sll too emotionally and physically distracted to mount an effective resistance.

And what is the disaster that Cameron is prophesying? Simply this- the bursting of another bubble of business confidence and the terrible spectre of the lack of economic growth. 

Real people can and do suffer during such times (although not Cameron and his ilk it seems) so this should be a matter of concern, but quite frankly we have been here before, and we will be here again. The alcoholic analogy works I think- we are addicted to the consumption of our planet, even though it makes us sick and may ultimately kill us all.

Monbiot, writing today in The Guardian, say as much and says it well;

If it goes down soon, as Cameron fears, in a world of empty coffers and hobbled public services it will precipitate an ideological crisis graver than the blow to Keynesianism in the 1970s. The problem that then arises – and which explains the longevity of the discredited ideology that caused the last crash – is that there is no alternative policy, accepted by mainstream political parties, with which to replace it. They will keep making the same mistakes, while expecting a different outcome.

To try to stabilise this system, governments behave like soldiers billeted in an ancient manor, burning the furniture, the paintings and the stairs to keep themselves warm for a night. They are breaking up the postwar settlement, our public health services and social safety nets, above all the living world, to produce ephemeral spurts of growth. Magnificent habitats, the benign and fragile climate in which we have prospered, species that have lived on earth for millions of years – all are being stacked on to the fire, their protection characterised as an impediment to growth.


Is it not also time for a government commission on post-growth economics? Drawing on the work of thinkers such as Herman Daly, Tim Jackson, Peter Victor, Kate Raworth, Rob Dietz and Dan O’Neill, it would look at the possibility of moving towards a steady state economy: one that seeks distribution rather than blind expansion; that does not demand infinite growth on a finite planet.

It would ask the question that never gets asked: why? Why are we wrecking the natural world and public services to generate growth, when that growth is not delivering contentment, security or even, for most of us, greater prosperity? Why have we enthroned growth, regardless of its utility, above all other outcomes? Why, despite failures so great and so frequent, have we not changed the model? When the next crash comes, these questions will be inescapable.

Well said George.

1 thought on “Growthism; like trying to cure an alcoholic with vodka…

  1. And in her latest book, ‘This Changes Everything:Capitalism vs The Climate’, Naomi Klein spells this out even more starkly. The alternative is “growing the caring economy, shrinking the the careless one” [p.92]. I recently had the privilege of attending the inaugural Scottish Rural Parliament in Oban and was encouraged by the rooted and resilient communities who are resisting the dominant paradigm, and prospering. Do not apologise for raising these issues. We all need to face them because we are all, or most of us anyway, complicit in perpetuating the way the world is, not how it might be.

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