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  • Posted September 8th, 2015
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    Economists: listen to this man and if you are intellectually honest you will begin to question the basic assumptions of your discipline

    Economists: listen to this man and if you are intellectually honest you will begin to question the basic assumptions of your discipline

    This guy is a genius. His name is Miklos Antal – I’d never heard of him before, but his every word cuts through the nonsense that lies at the heart of classical economic theory.

    Here’s his TEDx presentation.

    Please listen to his words (whoever wrote the subtitles wasn’t such a genius) – they are a near-perfect explanation of what should be pretty obvious to everyone really, if you take a minute to think about it. We can’t have perpetual economic growth on a finite planet, and any attempt to do so will damage the biosphere (this is already happening), and if we continue damaging the biosphere, it will result in our extinction. The policy of eternal growth is a suicidal policy, and yet it is the policy of every government on earth (because the global economy is based on competition, and the earth is divided into nations that are forced to grow to be able to compete more effectively for scarce resources).

    This is the starting point for any meaningful transition to a new kind of world – a world where we’re not destroying our life-support system or passing on an increasingly damaged environment to our children and grandchildren (they’re not going to thank us for that, and nor should they, as it’s morally wrong). If stabilising the economy is not part of a political party’s philosophy, then their philosophy is fundamentally flawed. Let’s shout it from the rooftops. I think we might be getting to the point where enough intelligent people understand this to get steady-state economics onto the mainstream agenda.

    The problem from our point of view is that if it is generally accepted that economic growth has to stop at some point, as humanity has already exceeded a one-planet footprint (that is, we require more than one planet to maintain our current global level of consumption, and so from now on, we’re eating into the earth’s capital – a very, very bad idea), then corporate capitalism has to go. Because everyone wants more from their investments than they put in (obviously, or they wouldn’t do it), and because of fractional reserve banking and compound interest on debt, then corporate capitalism has to grow or die. We suggest that ‘die’ would be the better option – but not before we know what will replace it. That is the greatest intellectual task of our generation, and it’s being severely neglected.

    If you’re not convinced by Antal’s argument (and if you’re not, then go back and listen to it again until you are – it really is that important), then try this magnificent presentation by Professor Albert Bartlett about the mathematical impossibility of eternal growth. Any percentage growth at all will be exponential, and will cause massive problems very quickly. It’s happening now and we have to find a way to stop it.

    And if that didn’t convince you, here’s a very simple explanation as to why we have to stabilise the economy.

     

    1. Material growth can’t continue forever – i.e. we can’t have more fridges, more houses, more roads, more cars, every year forever.

    Do you agree (I don’t think anyone seriously disagrees with this one, but…..)?

    YES: go to 2.
    NO: please explain why in the comments below.

     

    2. Economic growth always results in an increase in overall spending power (if it doesn’t, you’re not talking about economic growth, you’re talking about devaluation of the currency).

    Do you agree?

    YES: go to 3.
    NO: please explain why in the comments below.

     

    3. The increase in spending power can’t be ring-fenced so that it’s never spent on material goods. So, the more money people have, the more cars (etc.) they can buy – there’s absolutely nothing to stop them (it’s encouraged, in fact).

    Do you agree?

    YES: go to 4.
    NO: please explain why in the comments below.

     

    4. That’s it – if constant material growth is impossible, increased spending power increases material growth and economic growth increases spending power, then economic growth can’t continue forever – it has to stop at some point. As we’ve already exceeded a one-planet footprint as a species (in other words, we have to degrade the biosphere just to maintain the current global economy), I’d suggest that that point is now. So that everyone has a decent life, there would have to be a resource transfer from rich countries to poor, so that we can have a world without billionaires, obesity, poverty and malnutrition.

    Do you agree (and if you said yes to the other three points, this is just a logical conclusion)?

    YES: congratulations – you now understand the insanity of the quest for perpetual growth.
    NO: please explain why in the comments below.


    The views expressed in our blog are those of the author and not necessarily lowimpact.org's


    4 Comments

    • 1Gill September 8th, 2015

      Because the powerful profit mongers will do nothing except what is most profitable at any given time, it will be up to individuals to create independent selfsustaining groups in defence of the planet! We cannot afford to wait until we can persuade everyone! It is a waste of time!

    • 2Dave Darby September 8th, 2015

      That’s what Lowimpact has been doing since 2001 – promoting and assisting individual and community change; and we will continue to do so – it’s essential. But on its own, that’s not enough, for three main reasons: a) not enough people will do it, b) if the corporate sector see something growing that might challenge them, they will buy it (the ‘hippie’ movement, Ben & Jerry’s, punk – notably Johnny Rotten and Iggy Pop, Green & Blacks, Body Shop, Co-op Bank etc.) or crush it (Syriza etc.). The reason they’re not trying to crush individual and community initiatives (yet) is that they’re no challenge to them; c) it’s too slow, and the threat to ecology is too urgent.
      Individual and community change within a corporate capitalist system is a case of one step forward and a thousand back. As well as incremental change (aka distributism), we need to talk about changing this system. Nothing can stop the slide towards ecological collapse within a corporate, growth system.
      Possibly, the starting point is a discussion around economic growth – after all, corporate capitalism can’t survive without it.
      But it doesn’t say anywhere that we have to wait until we can persuade everyone – quite the oppisite – systemic change has always been implemented by a minority.

    • 3Dave Darby September 8th, 2015

      By the way, I’m not sure that Miklos is even advocating systemic change – just stabilising the economy (although I would say that that’s not possible in this system), without which no amount of individual or community action will achieve anything. Did you watch his TEDx talk?

    • 4John Harrison September 9th, 2015

      I played the talk twice and all he said made sense. The thing is there’s a lot of vested interest in the status quo. There’s an old joke that sums up the approach of most people. A man falls off the Empire State Building. As he passed the 30th floor he was heard to say “so far, so good”.

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