The proposition :
something to chew on… What are alternatives to economic growth?
The response :
Dear Professor :
When you boil it down, there’s really only one alternative to economic growth : it’s called “Africa.” This is perhaps best summarised by a picturei :
To which I’ll add the following : Without economic growth, there can be no progress,ii no civilisation, no culture worth the mention, and little to differentiate man from a highly superstitious form of bipedal beast. After all, economic growth is little more than the aggregate contribution of value-adding individuals towards society’s betterment.
If you’re starting with a mud-eating village and you’ve decided that it can’t have economic growth, then you’ve decided that this village can’t have so much a shoemaker, a barber, a butcher, a tailor, a blacksmith, much less any trading with neighbouring villages or any immigration / emigration. This is quite obviously such a
utopiandystopian impossibility, like the proverbial spherical cow in a vacuum, that it beggars belief.
But if economic growth cannot be, for whatever magical-thinking reason, then only economic decline is left on the table. (No, there’s no “stability” for sale, not for love or money ; not now, not ever.) As such, it would only be a matter of time before the unenviable residents of this nightmarish project were standing on their heads, praying for
rainpickles, and eating the brains of their dead, likely contracting prion infectionsiii in the process.iv This is, not coincidentally, what large portions of the Great Nation of Africav look like even today – not so much despite the moronic merit washing, lamentable offloading of excess corn, and the similar such crimes against humanity committed by the USG and its accomplices in (what remains of) the NATOReich – but because that’s the sorry state of affairs that their “help” all but ensures.
Ultimately (and unfortunately), Africa is what happens when you can’t figure out economic growth, when you’re satisfied with “enough,” when you fail to explore opportunities,vi and when your head is full of so much dumb that you spend your days trying to find alternatives to what works instead of maximising it.vii
So if it’s alternatives to economic growth that you’re looking for, there’s already a continent with your name on it.
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- As seen in my review of O Brother Where Art Thou ? [↩]
- Progress is, after all, defined as increasing control over one’s material environment. This necessarily has economic value, which is equally necessarily lost in nogrowthlandia.
Progress surely exists, it’s not entirely a fiction, but don’t be fooled into thinking it has anything to do with the rights railroad served to you in grade school. It has nothing to do with giving and everything to do with taking. And if you set your aim on taking, don’t settle for meaningless words on a page. That’s not the real deal.
- eg. Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. [↩]
- Or worse, Obola. [↩]
- The “Nation of Africa” is a bit of an inside joke meant to reveal the patent insanity of calling the United States “a nation” in any sense of the term. The Federated Amurican states are about as connected and united as the Hottentos and Kaffir, or Hong Kong and Xinjiang. Texans are not New Yorkers in the exact same way and for the exact same reasons as lions are not pumas and Chinglish Brits are not Uyghurs, any pretensions to the contrary notwithstanding. [↩]
- Famously, Africans never discovered Madagascar, despite its incredible proximity to the continent and its considerable size. [↩]
- This same point brings us back to the old working from causes vs. towards purposes discussion, more on which can be found in the seminal Finding Your Life Purpose Isn’t Your Path To Improving The World. Survival Is. [↩]