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Useful And Fantastic: Waste Of Growth

...'There's no point saving the planet if it wrecks the economy' said former New South Wales premier Maurice Iemma. But there's no point saving the economy if it wrecks the planet...

Valerie Yule considers the big ussue of the 21st Century.

Isn't it odd to hear all the time about the importance of 'growth', at the same time that we are hearing all the time about cutting carbon emissions and other greenhouse gases?

Every time someone talks about growth they should say what they mean by it.

If they mean more production then that means almost without doubt, more carbon emissions and other greenhouse gases.

If they are talking about worries that people aren't buying as much as they should, aren't consuming as much as they should, and so there will be less growth, and this will rock the economy, should we just take this as received wisdom?

'There's no point saving the planet if it wrecks the economy' said former New Soutyh Wales premier Maurice Iemma. But there's no point saving the economy if it wrecks the planet.

Voices are now becoming heard that say that our classical neo-com economists may be being wrong about what makes the world go round. What they have been backing is making the world reel on the verge of economic chaos as enormous financial institutions fail and have to be bailed out by governments, and a million Americans unable to pay their mortgages cause stock exchanges to tremble all over the world. Our market economy is beginning to look like the flawed madness it really is. Ripe for reform before it cracks.

We should be asking the questions that seem obvious to us, unawed by the 'experts' and gurus. They may be the real questions to ask, not the language of the computer modellers.

Why do we have to have material growth that is not needed in order to avoid economic breakdown? The waste at present is appalling. Half of everything produced is wasted at some stage or another.

Suppose we looked aside from the problematics of carbon trading as a way to cut emissions, to look more seriously at households and people who do not need to waste so much. Do not need to buy so much? Do not need built-in obsolescence and shoddy products that deteriorate quickly so that more have to be bought?

What then happens to jobs? To the retailers? To Christmas?

If we look at what really needs to be done, there would be no unemployment. We only need to find out how to pay for the needed work to be done.

If we look at what really makes money today, we may find that a great deal of it does not provide people with the goods and services they need, but are non-productive ways to collect money. How did the 100 Richest People make their billions?

Considering then, how they make their billions, could we next consider about what they could do with their billions.

Suppose half the billions that float around in the upper ether of the world of the super-rich did not simply siphon up more billions of the money in the world, but went into benevolence funds or even regional currencies to help pay for needed jobs which would help pay for more needed jobs as the money circulated around. America has a great tradition of philanthropy for their moguls to invest in foundations and culture for the benefit of all; some billionaires now go in for good works in poor countries. We could also have more injections of funds into supporting those needed jobs in local manufacture, repair, salvage, and environmental care, as paying a sort of benevolence tax, possibly from reintroducing a certain percentage of Death Duties, which could then be labelled Life Duties, because of the life that it gave to so many others.

Old economic systems pass away or develop into new forms - serfs and slaves, feudalism, mercantilism, old style socialisms and capitalism.

Now that we have to think of a third factor in all production, not just capital and labor, but the fact that our resources are not infinite, we could try to meet the challenges ahead more constructively and energetically than we are.

The historian Arnold Toynbee saw history as a series of challenges and responses. If the responses were not good enough, the civilisation collapsed.

We certainly have the challenges now.

It is time for a different sort of Growth. Growth in Quality rather than Quantity.

And a different sort of Gross Domestic Product that counted nothing that was environmentally or socially destructive, however in purely financially terms the numbers rocked up.

Valerie Yule


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