The Economic Crisis and the Limits to Growth

Thanks for all the responses on my query of how to link the resource question and the current economic crisis. I really do intend to follow up soon; an unexpected project dropped in my lap this week though.

Meanwhile you can get Herman Daly’s most recent take on things at The Oil Drum:

The level of physical wealth that the biosphere can sustain in a steady state may well be below the present level. The fact that recent efforts at growth have resulted mainly in bubbles suggests that this is so. Nevertheless, current policies all aim for the full re-establishment of the growth economy. No one denies that our problems would be easier to solve if we were richer. The question is, does growth any longer make us richer, or is it now making us poorer?

We have many problems (poverty, unemployment, environmental destruction, budget deficit, trade deficit, bailouts, bankruptcy, foreclosures, etc.), but apparently only one solution: economic growth, or as the pundits now like to say, “to grow the economy”– as if it were a potted plant…

So—if we can’t grow our way out of all problems, then maybe we should reconsider the logic and virtues of non-growth, the steady-state economy. Why this refusal by neoclassical economists both to face common sense, and to reconsider the ideas of the early Classical Economists?

I think the answer is distressingly simple. Without growth the only way to cure poverty is by sharing. But redistribution is anathema. Without growth to push the hoped for demographic transition, the only way to cure overpopulation is by population control. A second anathema. Without growth the only way to increase funds to invest in environmental repair is by reducing current consumption. Anathema number three. Three anathemas and you are damned—go to hell!

Well, let us not do that. Let us ignore the anathemas and instead think about what policies would be required to move to a steady-state economy. They are a bit radical by present standards…

If that’s not enough to convince you to go read it, I can’t imagine what you are doing hereabouts.


2 thoughts on “The Economic Crisis and the Limits to Growth

  1. Chuck says:

    He lost me at:{quote}“to grow the economy”– as if it were a potted plant with healing leaves, like aloe vera or marijuana. {/quote}

  2. coby says:

    Thanks for the pointer, Michael, I'm reading it now and getting alot out of it.

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