Growthism: Its Ecological, Economic, and Ethical Limits

| August 4, 2019 | Leave a Comment

Warning by Karl Herler | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Item Link: Access the Resource

Media Type: News / Op - Ed

Date of Publication: March 2019

Year of Publication: 2019

Author(s): Herman Daly

Newspaper: Real World Economics Review

Categories: , , , , , , ,

We have many problems – poverty, unemployment, environmental destruction, climate change, financial instability, etc. – but only one solution for everything, namely economic growth. We believe that growth is the costless, win-win solution to all problems, or at least the necessary precondition for any solution. This is growthism. It now creates more problems than it solves.

A journey of no return, not a circular economy

The economic process is not a mechanical analog that can be run forward and backward, nor a circular process that can return to any previous state. Rather it is an irreversible and irrevocable process moving in the direction of time’s arrow of increasing entropy.[1]Finitude and entropy guarantee that the economic life of our species will be a journey of no return. Therefore even a stationary economy, in the classical sense of constant population and constant capital stock, is ultimately a journey of no return, because the metabolic throughput of matter and energy required to maintain constant stocks of people and physical capital, in the face of depreciation and death, is an entropic flow from ever less concentrated sources to ever filling sinks – and both sources and sinks are finite. Consequently, technology must change qualitatively to adapt to entropy increase, to depletion and pollution of the environment, even in the stationary, or “steady-state economy” as it has been more recently called.

Read the full article here. 

This article was originally published in Real-World Economics Review, 19 March 2019  and republished in Local Futures, 21 March 2019. 

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  • Steven Earl Salmony

    How is it possible for human beings to have artificially designed and constructed a colossal global political economy, including its
    financial system and (even to this moment in space-time) not to have ever given so much as a thought to limiting food production as means of warding off extinction? Has the presumed and non-negotiable ‘necessity’ for economic growth mesmerized us to the point of blinding us to limits to growth, limits that are immutably bound within the structure of natural reality?

    The global political economy is a pyramid scheme, but it could not have ever grown into the “economic colossus” it is today if the size of the human population of Earth had not been allowed to grow exponentially in a seemingly endless way.

    We have to choose a different and better way toward a sustainable future, one that is consonant with universally shared, distinctly human values. That means something is going to have to be done ably to limit the increases in the patently unsustainable growth of human population overshoot, even if the choice is to deny an overgrowth problem exists and do nothing. That too, is a decision. Or we could make the choice of willing what is inevitable and by so doing choose consciously and deliberately to follow Nature’s way as the means of warding off mass extinction.

    Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.

    – – – Lao Tzu

  • Given the current colossal scale and fully expected global growth of overconsumption, overproduction and overpopulation activities by the human species, growthism is madness.