Sunday, April 09, 2006
Is Economic Growth Bad?
No. But if economic growth depends on the conversion of natural resources through a manufacturing process into products that are then used by people or businesses, and if those natural resources are finite, then the faster we grow, the sooner we run out.
Since there is no end-state, no winning condition, of capitalism, and since there are conditions where productivity gains can ratchet upwards without much in the way of control, it would make sense to actually start thinking about what "winning" or "success" in capitalism means.
A long list of people have tried to answer this question. Everyone's version of a sucessful life is different. Behaviour of people in aggregate, however, shows little to no possibility of ending the consumerism without some sort of external or internal intervention. So, what to do?
If defined only in relative terms (standard of living compared to a baseline, or how much more money you make than average) then the ratcheting continues unabated. If everyone strives to make more money than average, and then succeeds, then inflation follows. Everyone would like more for less.Capitalism very often delivers exactly that - more for less.
The barbed hooks hidden in the velvet pillow are the depletion of finite resources, exploitation of the less powerful leading to amazing amounts of wealth disparity, and epic greed crimes.
What about a separation of business and state? A real one, modeled after the separation of church and state, which has served both spheres quite well in the US. Would it work?