Prosperity without Growth

by Stephan Kaufmann Wednesday, Apr. 20, 2011 at 5:45 AM

Production cannot increase forever. For the developed economies of the western world, prosperity without growth is a necessity and not a utopian dream any more. See the links to five free Internet books..


By Stephan Kaufmann

[This article published in: Frankfurter Rundschau 4/6/2011 is translated from the German on the Internet,]

People could have work and income. Economic- and debt crises could be solved and poverty and hunger reduced. What is the answer to the global aging: economic growth, the sacred cow of all governments of the world?

Production cannot increase forever, scholars admonish. Infinitely “more” is impossible in a finite world. “We must reflect on an economy without growth,” the British economist Tim Jackson urges. “Everything else leads to catastrophe.” Jackson directs the advisory board for sustainable development of the British government. His new book is titled “Prosperity without Growth.” There is no question-mark in the title. “For the developed economies of the western world, prosperity without growth is not a utopian dream any more but a necessity.”

Economic growth is stylized as the answer to economic problems. However economic growth creates new problems that become ever-greater. Many raw material supplies run out sooner or later. The battle over the remaining resources becomes more intense; wars threaten. Simultaneously the environmental pollution is already intolerable and must be reduced. Because of “infinite growth,” the climate falls by the wayside. In 2010 Germany rejoiced over its robust upswing. But at the same time the emission of climate gases rose 40 million tons. “The striving for economic growth destroys the social cohesion and quality of life of many people,” Jackson criticizes.

While scientists discuss the limits of growth, the political parties – including the Green parties – rely on its effect. Politics hopes growth can be more environmentally-friendly. This “green capitalism” should then grow for ever. Jackson regards that as an illusion. “It is purely and simply a delusion to believe the tendency of capitalism to efficiency will stabilize the climate or protect us from scarcity of resources.” Whoever recommends this as a way out of the growth dilemma should consider the historical findings more carefully. These findings show production becomes more efficient. However growth was stronger so that the whole consumption of resources and environmental pollution has constantly increased.

The Brit admits he doesn’t know what a “post-growth economy” would look like. Still he names steps that western industrial nations should take. First, a “meaningful concept of prosperity not based on growth must be defined.” Then greater investments in sustainable technologies, public goods and increased production of non-material services are needed. The reduction of working hours to limit production is also central. Jackson recommends a radical redistribution of work so this does not lead to increased unemployment

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