Where is real ‘opposition’ in the West when all major parties support cancerous, perpetual growth? Surely it’s time for major political figures to stand up and say that the quest for perpetual economic growth is the engine behind the destruction of the biosphere, and will eventually kill us unless we stop. Here, Brian Czech of the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy in the US makes the case for the Democrats embracing a stable, non-growing economy that will allow us to live within nature’s limits, and therefore survive. We think it’s a very important message. Over to Brian
Democrats are stunned by Donald Trump’s lack of culpability for racist rhetoric, Twitter tantrums, and international insults. They shouldn’t be. They’re the party of “It’s the Economy Stupid.” They should know that if a president inspires a bull market, creates a few jobs, and grows the GDP, he can “stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody” without losing voters.
Elected Dems can’t hold Trump accountable because they can’t break their own addiction to growth. They’re defenseless against a growth-mongering president. They want the credit for economic momentum from the Obama era, yet they just know that stock market boom is all about Trump.
Hearkening back to Obama’s economic performance makes the Democratic Party look like a Super Bowl loser taking credit for the half-time show. They’re in the process of being long-forgotten. Trump owns the Department of Commerce, the fiscal policy pen, and the printing presses for reports on growth. Not to mention the Twitter Feed from Hell.
There is a solution for Democrats, if they dare take it. It’s a simple solution but a real paradigm shifter: It’s a new outlook on growth. Ironically, Trump’s going to help them more than anyone in their own party. By the end of his term, economic growth will never look the same. Consider three ugly lessons:
1) Trump proves it doesn’t take a stable genius to grow the economy. Any old dummy can do it by trashing the planet. All you have to do is dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency, dispose of public lands, and generally run roughshod over the hard-won environmental institutions of earlier administrations and congresses. Don’t worry about offshore oil spills, the Arctic, or endangered species. Just drill baby drill, and grow the economy!
2) Trump doesn’t want his Americana – especially his American economy – saddled with poor and huddled masses from the “shithole countries.” He’d rather have the entrepreneurs, industrialists, and inheritors who bring instant big money to his hotels, golf resorts, and casinos. His personal financial obsession melds into a brutal economic philosophy: Keep the little money out, bring the big money in. That’s the quickest way to excite Wall Street, grow the GDP, and take credit for both!
3) Trump doesn’t view the international community as a precious outcome of creation, evolution, or civilization. To him it’s a collection of potential customers or, at best, business partners to skunk. Trump pulled us out of the Paris Climate Accords. He’s threatened multilateral obligations from NAFTA to NATO. He’s an insult to the United Nations. Rather than pursing goodwill among nations, Trump pursues the terms of trade most likely to bolster American GDP, regardless of what it does to the hopes and dreams of less advantaged nations who once revered the USA for its generosity and its democratic approach to capitalism. The United States is losing respect like never before; a doubly dangerous trend in an age of international instability.
Trump gets away with it all by hiding behind the goal of GDP growth. His minions at the White House collude. How many times have we heard them tell us that Trump does more for blacks than Obama ever did, because he’s growing the economy faster and providing jobs for all? And how is he providing these jobs? By “taking historic steps to lift the restrictions on American energy, to reverse government intrusion and to cancel job killing regulations,” as Trump’s EPA Administrator puts it. Meanwhile he justifies his international bullying with, “When the United States grows, so does the world.”
Right now, due to the bipartisan obsession with economic growth, Democrats look like losers at the GDP racetrack, racist sentiments are fair game again, and the rapacious pursuit of growth is liquidating the environment. Democrats, racial minorities, and environmentalists can pine independently, “Woe is me.” Or, they can unify and announce to the president and Republicans, “It’s not just GDP, stupid.”
As a bonus, they might get the Green Party vote, and we all know how that can change history.
The views expressed in our blog are those of the author and not necessarily lowimpact.org's
1Mike Keighley February 6th, 2018
Human nature being what it is people who are not wealthy, can’t afford to have ‘green dreams’ perhaps and aren’t able or don’t want to see the big picture are going to be happy by having employment and watching news that gives an ‘American First’ message. There will always be a small hardcore who are dead against Trump and a small hard core who will support him through thick or thin so whoever influences the massive group in between wins!
2Dave Darby February 6th, 2018
The article is about economic growth rather than Trump – it will apply to the next president too. I think you’re right that most people are blind to the ecological collapse that’s coming because their livelihood depends on them not seeing it. It’s a bit like steerage passengers on the Titanic being too poor to hear that there’s an iceberg looming; and the wealthier passengers having too much of a vested interest to hear it. But it’s coming anyway.
3John Harrison - Allotment Gardening February 6th, 2018
The main difference between republicans and democrats, tories and labour is over dividing the cake. The theory being the bigger the cake the more there is for all. If you construct a building that will last for hundreds of years, that will increase your GDP. Build one that will last for 20 years and then require demolition, waste disposal and new construction and you add a lot more to the GDP.
Trump portrays himself as a radical man of the people – when he’s just another tool of the rich. A really radical politician promoting an equality and no-growth agenda will not get into power here in Britain or in the USA. Too much short-term interest in maintaining the system by those who really benefit (the wealthy elite), too much apathy and lack of understanding from those who could benefit from a fair system. Not surprising when you consider who owns the mass media.. not the poor.
4Michael baker February 6th, 2018
Factor in the future direction of this short sighted growth with the big time artificial intelligence robotic workers that’s just down the road. Oh dear, it’s time to organise a war. Too many humans!
5Steve Gwynne February 6th, 2018
It is interesting that Brian makes reference to making more energy available for economic growth.
This is the underlying thesis of Tim Morton except Tim specifically identifies surplus energy is needed for growth. However he has identified that the cost of surplus energy is steadily increasing and as a result if GDP is adjusted for debt then in fact there is no growth which he says explains the squeeze on real incomes.
His summary of ideas is here
In one of his blogs he writes
Regular visitors to this site will be familiar with a number of critical caveats around economic “growth”. For starters, the $2.3tn (14%) increase in American GDP between 2006 and 2016 was accompanied by an $11.1tn (31%) rise in debt over the same period, so each $1 of reported growth came at a cost of $4.75 in net new borrowing.
Here is a graph of the rising cost of surplus energy and how surplus energy per capita is actually decreasing
He also writes that eco-tech won’t save us since eco-tech still requires a huge input of carbon-based energy.
Well worth exploring his blog.
6Dave Darby February 6th, 2018
Two really interesting blogs (surplus energy and un-denial). Both see the folly of chasing perpetual growth, but come at it from different angles.