Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Growth is the Solution. Really?

The political chatter on Radio 4 this morning is being very predictable. Our country will start to be fixed when we get growth. Growth. Growth. Bloody (excuse me) growth.

It was deemed a sign of great failure that, instead of being filled with an excitement for shopping during the Olympics, day-time retail destination sales (sorry, I'm married to a shop-keeper) and on-line sales in the evenings were down. It was as if, shock horror, people chose to watch the sport on the TV rather than buy stuff.

We bought less stuff. And that's bad is it?

Giles Fraser put me onto this article from Charles Eisenstein in The Guardian yesterday. I know that these two credentials - Fraser plus Guardian - will put off my reader of a sensitive disposition, but take a deep breath and have a go, there's a love.

We need to find some way to share the existing wealth better without seeing conspicuous over-consumption as the target. As the article says, economics is chuffed when more people go out for meals. Surely it is at least as good when we cook at home and invite our friends round.

At the last election we  were faced with a choice between a 'cut-the-debt-at-all-costs' party and a 'cut-the-debt-gently' one. We chose neither. Maybe it wasn't that we couldn't choose between the parties but that we didn't like either. Is there an increasing sense that growth - making things and providing services for people to buy - is no longer the be all and end all.

I think it is. We are growing our own, making do, enjoying time at home, not upgrading everything willy-nilly and being content with that.

Trouble is, there isn't an economic theory around that will make this work. But look around. Everything that grows or has ever grown, stops growing. It reaches maturity. We can't asume it will keep going.

Eisenstein says, 'But it need not be that way. Unemployment could translate into greater leisure for all. Lower consumption could translate into reclaiming life from money, reskilling, reconnecting, sharing.'

And those of us who have familiarised ourselves with the important teachings of Jesus know that our treasure is not located in our things. Never has been.

When our politicians call us to regain our confidence and go shop we can say no. We are confident. We are happy. We are content. We are staying in and watching the tele. And we prefer it paid for by a licence fee and with no adverts.


97mwill said...

"Everything that grows or has ever grown, stops growing. It reaches maturity. We can't asume it will keep going."
Does this mean a mature christian is no longer growing?

Anonymous said...

Hi Steve,

There may not be much in stabndard economic theory that challenges ideas about growth, but there is plenty of credible stuff on more of the fringes that does, and it is moving moreinot the mainstream. The father of non-growth ('steady-state') economics is Herman Daly, who wrote the classic "For the Common Good" with theologian John Cobb about 20 years ago. More recently Tim Jackson wrote "Prosperity without Growth" which is an excellent read for those who think that endless growth may not be the answer.

Sorry if that's too much for non-economics geeks!

Jason Garrett

Kev Webb said...

It seems to my simple brain, that in order for there always economic growth we need to buy more stuff we probably don't need.

Doesn't there come a time when we have enough stuff and we should be content with what we have?

St said...

Thanks Jason and yes Kev, that is exactly the point.