Creating global prosperity without economic growth

Are we ready for tomorrow?

Certainly we are more ready today than we were yesterday.  We finally seem to be on the verge of making real progress on climate change, despite current US setbacks.   Discussions are starting about food and water supply.  Discussions are getting more focused about what a post growth economy would look like.  Several areas have emerged where changes will be required for the transition from a growth oriented economy to a post growth economy.

Rich high rise building inequality

From page 21 of Enough is Enough, Ideas for a Sustainable Economy in a World of Finite Resources, The Report of the Steady State Economy Conference sponsored by CASSE (Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy), here are a some topics under discussion.

  1. Limiting Resource Use and Waste Production
  2. Stabilizing Population
  3. Distributing Income and Wealth
  4. Reforming the Monetary System
  5. Changing the Way We Measure Progress
  6. Securing Employment
  7. Rethinking Business and Production

I would explicitly add stabilizing the financial system, though it may be included as part of reforming the monetary system.

One main issue with a post growth economic system is that it is a zero sum game.  If I get richer, someone else must get poorer.  If I consume more, someone else must consume less.  This is a constraint but it needn’t be as gloomy as it sounds.  We can still improve fulfillment through more connectedness, volunteering, hobbies, family time, education, etc.   Most research (see Enough is Enough  report pages 29 and 30 for example) shows that happiness increases with income up to a relatively low level, say about $20,000 per capita and then levels off.  More income doesn’t bring more happiness, just more stuff.  Most rich countries far exceed that per capita income.  The Spirit Level primarily shows that many improved social measures are correlated with more equality.  They make a good case that more equality causes these social improvements, but as always causality is more difficult to prove than correlation.

In this blog post, I am focusing on income and wealth distribution.   [Read more…]

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