Posted by: tnowotny | September 4, 2013

No Growth

THOMAS NOWOTNY

 

Green growth – the stakes, issues, interests and views differ between rich and poor countries

 

Faced with “negative environmental externalities” of economic growth, proposals have been forwarded of attenuating these negative effects by  halting economic growth; or of halting it at least in those countries wealthy already. In considering such proposals, we have to face two facts:  

First: rich and poor countries differ in their assessment of environmental costs associated with economic growth

Second: Rich and poor countries both still need that “growth”. But they differ not just in the pace and nature of their growth; but also in the value they assign to it.

Disregarding these differences will complicate, and might even abort  the search for global solutions to those global problems caused by world-wide economic growth. Poor countries resent being lectured about the need NOT to follow the production and consumption patterns of the already wealthy[1]. At worst, such lecturing is interpreted as a neo – colonial attempt to keep them from catching up with well – to – do former imperial masters. The wealthy, on their side, resent as callous and shortsighted the refusal of the poorer countries to adapt their policies to the contingencies  of a world of limited resources  and with a limited ecologic carrying capacity, jeopardizing the very base of survival of the soon 9  billion humans populating the  planet.

Such difference have surfaced massively, for example, at the Copenhagen conference on the extension of the Kyoto protocol, and, most recently, at the RIO + 20 summit. In both cases, they had aborted serious negotiations on legally binding international engagements.

Xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

 

Rich and poor countries differ in their assessment of the environmental costs  associated with economic growth

  “Development” has many more dimensions than just the increase in the consumption of goods and services.  Most recently, this has been highlighted  in the Fitoussi / Sen /  Stiglitz[2] report that presents and evaluates all the various efforts of measuring true wealth and progress. Well before that, the UNDP “Human Development Report” had already added various other indices – such as those on  health and education – on to the index measuring ( purchasing power adjusted ) per capita GNI. Somewhat later, attention given to these other dimensions of development had translated into concrete policy guidelines through the Millennium Development Goals.

Well – Being  as measured by indicators such as life expectancy or literacy is affected by factors others than the higher or lower per capita GNI.  A more or less equal distribution of income, for example,  has quite some bearing on well – being; as has the lower or higher quality of political/ social institutions.  Countries with equal per capita GNI may thus rank somewhat differently in indicators such as the Human development Report or in many of the indicators compiled by Fitoussi / Sen / Stiglitz.

That said, the correlations between ( purchasing power ) per capita GNI and  all these indicators of well being is a rather tight one[3]. Life expectancy and literacy is lowest in very poor countries, and highest in very wealthy ones.  Wealth and economic growth is not everything. Nonetheless, they remain the essential precondition for the improvement of life quality in poorer countries.

 

Per capita (PPP) GDP and

well – being according to the Human Development Report

 

Frequently though,  such economic growth is associated with “negative externalities[4]”. Frequently, it will use up  scarce, not – renewable resources, Frequently too, it will damage the environment and disturb the ecologic balance and damage to the environment.  These negative externalities can be attenuated by appropriate public policy. But doing so comes at some cost to the public or to the private sector.  Policy – makers  thus have to balance such costs against the advantages gained from policies that promote more “sustainable” forms of production.

 That trade – off is different in rich and in poor countries. This difference remains, even if such a calculation is done not just terms of individual, material consumption,  but by using other  gauges like the number of lives prolonged or saved.   Many thousands lives will be saved when average income in a poor country is raised by 500 US Dollars. Considerably fewer lives will be saved if in wealthy countries income grows by the same amount. Poorer countries thus act rationally when they accord priority to economic growth and accord second place only to the goal of making ecologically  sustainable such an economic catching – up.

In already wealthy countries,  rates of potential  economic growth are lower than the rates of potential economic growth in the poor countries[5]. Over the last century, these differences in the pace of potential economic growth have widened. It took the United Kingdom 60 years ( from 1900 to 1960 ) to triple its per capita national income from 5.000,- US $ to 15.000,- US $. The same distance was covered by South Korea  in just 20 years ( from  1970 to 1990 ).

 

 

While it is true that even in these wealthy countries, further economic growth will also bring  non – monetary benefits such as  better education and longer, healthier lives, such further  increase in advantages is relatively small in comparison to the non – economic benefits  that will result from a more rapid economic growth in poor countries.  There, an increase in personal and public consumption will be paralleled by an even more rapid betterment in health and literacy. These improvements come even at a very early stage of economic development, with access to water, sanitation, to birth control and to basic health services such as vaccination.

The last two decades thus saw an unprecedented decline in the percentage of the world population living in absolute poverty; a sharp reduction in illiteracy; and a precipitous slowing  of population growth.  Within mere decades, average life expectancy increased dramatically. These changes were more rapid by far than changes in average income.

The fast growth of poorer countries nonetheless entails substantial negative “externalities”[6].  These detract not just from the well being of their citizens. In the world beyond, they also damage the “global commons”. Such negatives are even quite massive in the early stages of economic growth as this first phase is marked by the rise of industries – such as steel, cement, coal fuelled power plants, heavy construction, etc. Even with the use of the most modern and the most environmentally friendly processes, this first phase of economic modernization will thus result in a disproportionally high consumption of raw materials and in rather heavy damage to the environment. Yet in view of citizens from these still poorer countries, the cost of such damage is more than compensated for by the positive consequence of economic development.

The balance in this trade – off between the positive effects of economic growth and of its negative environmental externalities will shift with the increase in wealth. The rates of potential economic growth shrink[7].  Moreover, the overall benefits of this already lower rates of growth become smaller too. With the most urgent needs for food, clothing, shelter, health and basic education satisfied already, political attention will tend to become focused on the negative externalities caused in the previous phase of rapid expansion of wealth and income. If one still lacks access to electricity or to clean water, getting them is an absolute priority. Being able to add meat to a formerly poor, protein – deficient diet is being experienced as a vast improvement in the quality of life. Once these goods and amenities have become accessible though, citizens will start to worry, for example, over the highly negative environmental impact of coal fired generating plants;  or over the damage done to aquifers by intense  irrigation, or by the heavy use of chemical fertilizers. 

This shift in preferences translates into changed political preferences and choices. Reducing the negative externalities of growth will become important politically. Depending on the issue at stake, this tipping point in preferences comes at different stages of economic growth. The desire to reduce  sulfur dioxide emissions of power plants or the desire to revert the decline in the water quality in lakes and  rivers might come rather early in economic development – perhaps already at an average per capita income of 4.000,- Dollars [8]. The shift in preferences from private cars to public transport might arrive at a far later stage of economic growth[9], possibly at an income level of more than 30.000,- US Dollars.

The above is, of course, a very broad generalization and it is argued that that reasoning is no longer cogent. It would reflect past experience  but would no longer be valid under present circumstances . The notion of a necessary trade – off between negative environmental costs and economic growth would no longer corresponds to reality. Not just in wealthy countries, but in poor ones too, we would no longer deal with a “zero sum” situation, where any gain in wealth would, by necessity,  impact negatively upon the environment. Instead, new technology would now permit us to pursue both goals at the same time. Even in still poorer countries it now would be possible to use new modes of production; and to do so profitably with their impact on the environment being  less heavily negative than the impact of prior modes of production.

Clearly, such options now exist. It is, for example possible to produce electricity from renewable sources like wind generators and solar panels. Thus even poorer countries would therefore no longer have to rely on coal powered plants for the generation of electricity, but could avail themselves of these new and environmental friendly technologies. Some “emerging”  countries have actually done so.  The still relatively poor Peoples Republic of China, for instance,  has even become world leader in the production of solar panels and of wind powered generators. But such achievements have to be seen in an overall context; and held against the fact that,  notwithstanding its leadership in solar and wind  energy, the Peoples Republic of China still adds two coal power generating plants to its grid every week. Coal powered generating plants are one of the major contributors to environmental pollution.

The use of “green technology” by emerging countries thus make just for a small dent in an overall trend. Generally and on the average, in the first phases of economic development, the associated negative environmental externalities will be disproportionally higher than the negative environmental externalities caused by the – much slower –  economic growth in high – income countries.

There are various reasons  for the more benign – or less negative – side effects that accompany the economic growth in countries rich already. Consumption shifts from the consumption of resource intense goods ( eg investment in heavy industry and heavy construction ) to the consumption of less resource intense consumer products; and finally from the consumption of such goods to the consumption of services mainly, most of which are produced with little negative impact on the environment.

 But to a greater extent still,  this lessening of the negative impact is due to political choices that push the production in the direction of sustainability. That is reflected in the Environmental Performance Index that gauges the results of a country’s environmental policies in 22  different fields ( such as CO2 emissions, habitat protection, coastal shelf fishing pressure, access to sanitation etc.).

The correlation is a clear one. The wealthier a country,  the better its environmental performance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Environmental Performance Index

 

This mitigates against a proposal, frequently made with the intent to permit the economic development of still poor countries while not heightening the negative environmental impact  of overall, world – wide economic activity. It is proposed that economic growth should take place just in poor and in middle income countries and not in countries that are very wealthy already. At first sight, that seems to be a proposal that is not just a fair one but also one likely  to result in the aimed for lessening of environmental damage. Compared to a person living in a poor country, a person living in a wealthier one will, on the average,  consume more of some scarce resources  –  such as fossil fuel or fish from the oceans.  In many instances, such an elevated level of consumption and production will also result in greater damage to the global commons – for example by much higher per capita emissions of greenhouse gases. Seen from that vantage point, it only would seem fair to demand that citizens of wealthy countries halt a further increase in their consumption, so as to facilitate rising consumption of those still poor.

But, as we have observed, some of the environmental damage associated with growth is heavier in the first stages of economic development. Second, the rates of growth are much higher in early stages of development. And finally: those in the world with low incomes are simply much more numerous. Arguments based on the notion of justice and fairness would support the claim that economic growth in the wealthy countries cease, so as to facilitate the rise of those still poor. Yet if we focus not on the damage already done to the environment, but focus on the further damage likely to occur in the future, halting growth in the wealthy countries would bring little benefits, as these would be vastly overcompensated by the negative impact of economic development in low – income countries.

With some efforts, consumers in wealthy countries perhaps also be persuaded  to do without  some non – essentials: to drive smaller and fewer cars; to eat less meat; to set the thermostat lower and use less air – conditioning in summer. Yet all of that would have negligible effects only.  If wealthy countries were to really effect such changes in the consumption pattern of their citizens; and if they really were to altogether halt economic growth, that would not arrest negative trends of global environmental degradation;  of damage done to global commons; and of the depletion of non – renewable natural resources. It would not even very much slow such trends.

Some other ambitious goals that often figure in the discussions on a sustainable global order are even more beyond reach.  We will not be able to alter the basic nature of the world- wide economic system. We will not be able to return to more local patterns of production and consumption[10]. We cannot revert to a broad use of more primitive technology;  or – on the global average -to an agriculture that is less intense. Even if we were to wish for it, we could not restrict the ever broader global flow of information; etc.

To sum up: We should not simply dismiss warnings on the grave consequences when in a world of soon nine to ten billion humans, the great number of the still poor will try to duplicate the patterns of consumption and production  as they prevail among the wealthiest of the earth.

But with an equal and even superior claim to plausibility, the argument can also be turned on its head. A world of nine to ten billion humans is not sustainable if not based on an order of ever rising productivity, of economic division of labor  and competition; if not based on further advances in knowledge and in general education; on continued rapid urbanization; on greater use of energy.

To sum up: low income countries are likely to grow fast. They will accord priority to this economic growth, even though this their growth is associated with relatively heavy negative impact not just on their local, but also on the global environment and this their impact will be decisive in altering the ecological burden of the planet. Whatever the already wealthy countries do or do not do, will not very much change this state of affairs.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

 

 

Rich and poor countries both still need that “growth”. But they differ not just in the pace, but in the very nature of their “growth

We have argued that a world of nine to ten billion inhabitants cannot do without some continuous and broadly conceived economic growth. No one could seriously argue against the need of poorer countries to increase per capita income. But what about the wealthy ones? Is it really necessary that they too, still augment their already high level of income? After all – when is enough enough[11]?  In these countries, shouldn’t the ambition to add yet another item to the list of possession yield to other goals, such as esthetic and cultural ones?

Before entering into that question let us ask first, whether stopping economic growth in the wealthy countries would really be in the interest of the poor countries? On this issue, recent history has provided us with an answer. As has become evident in the present world economic crisis, low income countries have an substantial interest in the continued growth of their wealthy counterparts. The two sides have become to depend on each other. Most of those low income countries now set on a path of rapid economic development, have been enabled to exit from absolute poverty by raising their exports. The more rich countries can import, the better for the export dependent poor ones. Poor countries also profit from the remittances their emigrants send home from their wealthy home countries[12]. They also profit from the visit of tourists and from foreign direct investment[13] –  the level of both being very much affected by the economic ups and downs in countries that send tourists and that do foreign direct investment.

In view of such facts, one should be baffled by a wide spread failure to acknowledge them and by the insistence on viewing relations between high income – and low income countries as a sort of “zero – sum game”, as if the gain of rich countries would automatically detract from the well being of poor ones.  Against such prejudices we might hopefully conclude that slowing or ceasing the economic growth of rich countries is not in the interest of the poor.

But is their continued economic growth in the long – term interest also of the rich themselves? For obviously, economic growth  has diminishing returns. In countries that are poor, life satisfaction and happiness is low. It is notably higher in countries that have achieved higher levels of wealth, but then the curve flattens. In the upper ranks of the wealthy countries, differences in happiness and life satisfaction correlate but very loosely with their having a per capita income that is a bit above or a bit below that of all wealthy countries (see the upper right part of the graph below).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happiness/life satisfaction and average per capita GNP

 

Source: world Value Survey

 

Notwithstanding this its uncertain relation to increased happiness / life satisfaction, continued growth might still have some other beneficial consequences  even in rich countries.  Life expectancy, for example  still grows, as does the level of education. Inevitably though, an  ongoing rise in income comes at some costs in wealthy countries too; such as the social costs of disintegration of primeval social communities; the costs of longer and more expensive health care; the costs of raised insecurity due to succeeding dramatic changes in the social surroundings and in the economic base of existence; the price of longer commutes to and from work;  the growing costs of security arrangements needed to thwart the threats and risks that jeopardize the complex infrastructure that is necessary  to sustain the high level of production and consumption; and last not least the costs  of a degrading biologic environment.

At the same time, individuals reap ever lower benefits from rise in their individual incomes.

-A good share of it pays for essential services, the prices of which rise faster than their earnings; as for example the prices for  healthcare, schooling and housing.

– Previous technological advances, such as the availability of running water and electricity, the invention of the car, the access to radio and cinema, or the discovery of antibiotics – brought vast improvements in life quality. With the exception of information technology [14], few of recent innovations had resulted in such vast gains. The change from black and white television to color television, or the substitution of a newer  version of software for an older one did  not add to life quality in a similar fashion.   

– Once a high level of general wealth has been reached, much of the consumption becomes “conspicuous” or “competitive”, intended to signal an elevated social status. That forces consumers into a never- ending race in which they never may feel safe in having secured the status they aspire to[15]. If everyone owns a car, owing a car no longer is something special. Car ownership no longer signals an elevated status. New symbols have to be sought and acquired. Sooner or later the masses will follow the leaders into this new field of consumption; and the competitive race will thus continue.

From a certain point on, increased wealth therefore ceases to “buy” substantially greater quality of life [16]. Shouldn’t that motivate to substitute, in   wealthy countries, other goals for the still dominating one of striving for further economic growth?

The answer to that question is “yes” and “no”.  We should be able to moderate the pace of the race.  We may moderate the pressure of competitive consumption. We may expand the time of leisure at the expense time devoted to paid work.  We may expand the scope of the common. We are well placed to continue what we successfully have done in the past and lower some “negative externalities” associated with a rise in national income.  But there are things beyond our reach. We cannot substitute a radically different world order for the one based, on competition, continued innovation and the commercial exchange of goods and services.

We have observed that with a rising level of wealth, production becomes less environmentally damaging. Economic growth in the high income countries therefore does not imply doing more with more inputs, but doing more with less inputs; not just with less human labor, but also with a less intense use of energy and raw materials[17]. The drivers of the process are competition and technological progress. They have to be given reign in order to be effective. That is, they can work only, if continuous change is possible, that is only,  if economic growth takes place.  

There are also some more political but nonetheless rather cogent motives that force even wealthy countries into a process of further economic growth: the realm of what is common to all citizens is expanding, and with it the task that have to be tackled by common efforts[18]. Notwithstanding all neo – conservative rhetoric, an ever greater share of the GDP will have to be absorbed by the public realm. It will be politically impossible to buy that increase of public budgets with an absolute lowering of private consumption and private investment. The “cake” of national GDP will have to continue growing

Yet the most powerful motive for keep even wealthy economies growing is neither such an political an environmental one. It is a more basic still. A world order based, in essence, on the commercial exchange of goods and services provides for, and facilitates change. It thus prevents a slide into stagnation. Societies are being kept fluid by succeeding waves of “creative destruction[19]”. As they depend on the acceptance and the good – will of consumers/citizens, dominant elites must always fear being replaced. Unlike in feudal societies their power is thus never secured for longer period of times[20]

Unlike in feudalism, in an order of global  economic exchange, the  status of persons is defined  not by “what they are”. Their position is a function in a web of interdependence, and thus a function of what  they can do for others in providing goods and services others might wish to purchase.  That enhances both competition and cooperation, absent in societies were status and wealth is based on the capacity to extract income from the less powerful ( as has been the case over most of human history ).

That description of the prevailing world order must seem overly rosy and generous, especially in view of the present world financial crisis which has highlighted the extent to which political and economic elites may escape control and reap a “surplus value”, not derived from any real services they might have rendered to the public; but exactly  from “rent seeking” made possible by their use of unchecked economic and political power.

Such objections are well taken. But the above arguments are based on the long, the centennial perspective. Once this new world order based on the commercial exchange of goods and services had become established, power changed hands repeatedly. Formerly powerful countries like the Netherlands had to yield their place at the top of the pecking order to  Great Britain, which in turn had to yield its place to Germany and later to the United States; with the United States now about to be replaced by East- Asia.

Once dominating economic elites also had to make place to newer ones: The Astors and Rothschilds to the Siemens and Rockefellers; and these, in turn to the Bill Gates and Steven Jobs. These changes in the position of nations and of economic elites occurred not because of wars or the exploitation of slave labor; but because nations and economic elites were useful in producing for others the things generally wanted. In a feudal order – so to say the default arrangement in human affairs – that was different. Elites and nations dominated because they had the power to dominate; and not because they were useful in the general order of things. 

We cannot solve the world`s problems, and the world problem of poverty in particular,  by substituting a radically different world order for the existing one. We cannot improve the lot of the poor and we cannot  provide for a “sustainable” world economy by limiting growth, and not even by altogether halting economic growth in already wealthy countries. Suggestions to do so just obstruct the search for solutions that are feasible There are plenty of them.

Continued economic growth need not imply the strife for the ever bigger automobile; the ever larger house on the ever vaster lot; the ever taller sky- scraper or evermore lavish casino. Rising productivity need not result from ever more intense work; it could feed not just in a rise of profits and of already high wages; but also into the rise of lower wages or into greater leisure time. Not necessarily does the irrepressible competition for social status find expression in  the purchase of ever more expensive consumer products. It very well might express itself in the pursuit of cultural and aesthetic goals[21] and while some of the damage done to the environment  to the environment is inevitable much of such damage can be avoided or healed [22].   

 Limiting economic growth, and even limiting it just in the wealthy countries, is no useful method to reach such goals. It might even impede reaching them[23]

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

 

Implications for the global regime

Cohabitating on the same globe, wealthy countries, poor ones and “emerging” ones nonetheless live in different worlds, so to say. The latter accord – as they have to – priority to economic growth. While high income nations too, cannot do without economic growth, the question as to the quality of that growth becomes more cogent, and non economic choices, life – style choices –  increasingly determine  individual and collective behavior. The wish to preserve and protect the bio – environment, in particular, is gaining political weight

 

This cleavage between the rich and the poor of the earth has serious political implications. Humans in all parts of the world are faced with problems most of which can only be resolved  by common, world – wide efforts, engaging both the wealthy and the poor:

-management of the world monetary system

-maintenance of a system of global economic interchange

-prevention and control of pandemics

-shielding from organized crime and terrorism

-securing the trans-border travel of persons and trans-border flow of goods, services and information

And last not least: dealing with those environmental problems that affect the global commons – such as air borne emissions, fishing in the oceans, preservation of bio – diversity, desertification; etc.

The tackling of such tasks is impossible in face of the lack of a global consensus on priorities and dominant values; and also the lack of common institutions that make operational these priorities and values. Yet not being able to find such common ground and thus not being able to join in common, global efforts may seriously impair future lives on this planet.

Both sides, high income countries, emerging countries and low income countries will thus have to move. They have to find common ground and will have to agree on some priorities[24] in global governance.

After the failure of Copenhagen and the disappointing immediate results of  RIO + 20, the follow up to this conference  might offer an opening for such a search; as will the need to define new global targets which, after 2015, will substitute for the Millennium Development Goals.

 


[1] As the UNIDO Director General  put it at a Washington conference: as they become  a bit wealthier, citizens in the still poorer countries will also want to eat meat. Do you seriously propose to limit them in this their option??

[2] Compiled on behalf of the former French president Sarkozy

[3] The correlation between economic growth and per capita GDP is a very tight one for an income level of up to about 15,000.- US $. It become less so from then on, political and individual choices ( more or less equality  ) ,  plus the institutional set – up can make for very different outcomes in “human well being” even in countries with comparable ( high ) per capita income

[4] In this paper I concentrate on the negative environmental externalities of economic growth mainly, recognizing, though, that in the long run, the negative social externalities might be even more consequential

[5] Countries exiting from poverty now can learn from those who went the same path before; they even can learn learning;  and can apply existing technologies ( and even the most recent ones ) without having to develop them. They also profit from a global environment, more hospitable to their  being integrated into the web of international exchange of goods and services

[6] Subtracting them from the rate of increase of wealth and income would cut the growth rates substantially; in  China – for example  – allegedly by up to 4 percentage points.

 

[7] In the richest countries probably to an average rate of no more than two  percent.

 

[8] This  shift in political preferences in  the ensuing change of course  is being portrayed by the so called “Environmental Kuznet’s Curve”,  showing that at least some types of negative environmental externalities that ensue from  economic growth, may diminish  from a certain point on, after having first risen in tandem with economic growth.

Originally, the  “Kuznet’s Curve” was meant to portray the correlation between rising wealth and economic inequality. Inequality would first rise with increasing general wealth, in order to decline after a certain level of wealth had been achieved.  That used to be the case;  but it no longer is. Even in rich countries, inequality is rising again.  The discussion is still open on whether this is so out of necessity, or whether that is something that could be reversed by political action.

In a similar vein, there is discussion on whether the “Environmental Kuznets Curve” should be considered a  rather general rule; or whether is applies just to a few  of the negative environmental externalities of economic growth ( such as the emissions of SO2 and NO2 ). Anyhow, there are clear instances where the metaphor of the Kuznets Curve is misplaced; namely where the environmental damage inflicted has become irreversible – such as in the case of declining bio – diversity . or the case of greenhouse – gas – emissions.

 

[9] It is just in the very last few years, that car use has started to decline in the very wealthiest of nations

[10] With some exceptions perhaps in a narrow segment of food production and consumption

[11] J.M. Keynes had argued in his essay “ On the Economic Possibilities of our Grandchildren” that in two generations ( that would have been before the end of the 20th Century ) the “economic problem” would have been solved, with all material wants having been met; and humans then in an position to devote themselves  to nobler pursuits such as those in the arts. With the larger part of mankind still living in poverty in the 21st century, the musings of Keynes must seem beside the point. Nonetheless – it is a fundamental question he had raised; and in fact – we are sliding into some kind of answer, at least  in the wealthy “post – materialistic” societies. See also the graph from the World Value Survey in a latter part of this paper.

 

[12] At a rate of about 400 billion US Dollars – a sum vastly superior to all Official Development Assistance – ODA

 

[13] With some exceptions: effects of foreign direct investment might not be positive if done in the financial sector. They often are of dubious values if done in extractive industries or in utilities

[14] And perhaps bio engineering – the question is still open

 

[15] Persons compare their income to that of their co – citizens; and if the income of those rises at the same pace as their own, they do not feel happier or more satisfied as a consequence of an income that has become bigger thanks to the process of overall growth in the wealth of their home country ( “Easterlin Paradox” – after the economist Richard Easterlin ).  If the distribution of income has become more unequal –as it has  in most OECD countries – they even might become unhappier/ less satisfied

[16] A fact confirmed  by indices such as the “General Progress Indicator – GPI” which assigns weights to some of the negative components of economic growth; and which, for example, demonstrate that in the US, little “ true progress” had occurred over the last 40 years.

 

 

 

Several of such indicators provide an even more dismal picture.  According to indices such as the one below on “Social Health in the US” would even show an overall negative trend  since the 1970ies.

 

 

 

Some other indices assign even  greater weight to the environmental  cost of economic growth; and, in particular,  to  the emission of greenhouse gases ( “carbon footprint”) .  One may argue on whether that inclusion of the “carbon footprint” is justified, given the obvious inevitability of a further rise in the emission of such gases. But the scope and purpose of this paper does not permit to expand on that issue. 

 

[17] The energy intensity of each unit of the GDP become lower, the wealthier the country

 

[18] For example: the rising share of population living in retirement  or the higher cost of health services, also associated with the ageing of the population

[19] The term coined by Joseph Schumpeter

 

[20] I would argue that over recent decades, this social/ economic/ political fluidity has  become less pronounced in the wealthy countries, with clear pointers towards a “re – feudalization”. Again, the scope of this paper does not permit to expand on this argument

[21] I am tempted to even expand this argument, asserting that it is not just economic growth that is at issue; but the whole notion of human progress ( which,  of course, has many non – economic dimensions ). But as “non – growth” becomes societal stagnation, the option of striving for a better future disappears; as might even the mere capacity to imagine such a better future.

[22] As mentioned before:  the exception being he emission of greenhouse gases and the ensuing global warming. Here the linkage to global economic growth cannot be broken; at least not over the next fifty years

[23] As becomes obvious in the present world economic crisis, when a slow – down in economic growth has translated into a lower priority being accorded to the goals of environmental sustainability

[24] An example I offer tentatively: after the obvious failure to find consensus on fighting global warming through world – wide “mitigation”, that is abatement of greenhouse gas emissions,  it should be nonetheless be possible to find such consensus on “adaption”, that is on joint efforts to minimize the ill consequences of inevitable climate change.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: