Does the economy have to be 'consumption-driven'?

Last summer the Chancellor Rishi Sunak said 'This is a consumption-driven economy,' when he announced the 'Eat out to help out' scheme.
Isn't this the root cause of the environmental damage our planet is suffering from?
Is there another way to run things, and is it feasible?
A fiscal policy that taxed polution and environmental damage much more would be a good start but surely we have to ask ourselves is there a more sustainable way to live than just wanting more and more things and a higher and higher 'standard of living'?
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Comments

  • Gross domestic happiness.
  • There's this concept that I think has a lot going for it, called "relative deprivement". Basically, it means that people in general have this idea of where they deserve to be, socially, economically and materially. If you're below the material wealth, social standing, etc. that you think you deserve, you're far more likely to respond to that with violence, conflict, etc.

    There's a fair bit of support for it. The path to WW2 in Germany is a sometimes used example, for instance. The distance between the life that a lot of germans felt they were entitled to, and where they actually were, became a key trigger for a lot of bloodshed. Somewhat more moderate examples can be governments today trying to reduce expenses on various pensions, social securities, etc. in the face of growing debts - causing an uproar among the people.

    To my mind, that's the greatest difficulty to adopting a "green change". Telling people that they can't have the lifestyle and the luxuries that they've grown accustomed to / feel they deserve, can (if the losses are significant enough) lead to social and political upheaval that might undermine the positive changes made.

  • Simon ToadSimon Toad Shipmate
    That's an interesting concept that is new to me, at least the name. Do you know of any reading on it FF?
  • Simon Toad wrote: »
    That's an interesting concept that is new to me, at least the name. Do you know of any reading on it FF?

    I first came across it in Charles Tilly's "The politics of collective violence", which I whole-heartedly recommend.
  • Simon ToadSimon Toad Shipmate
    Cheers. I've made a note
  • RicardusRicardus Shipmate
    This may be economic dumbness on my part, but is there such a thing as an economy that isn't ultimately consumption-driven?

    I.e., if someone is paying me to do stuff, then presumably that stuff is either wanted by someone, or forms part of a supply chain that services stuff that someone wants. IOW, all economic activity ultimately has an end-user, and the only variable is how far away from that end-user an individual worker is.
  • Terminology query: What are the alternatives to 'consumption-driven economy'? And is this the same as demand-driven? Are economies which are led by manufacturing or services or tourism or commodities, or agriculture, raw materials including oil alternatives or classed separately?

    Whatever the alternative types are, the real world will always be a mix, with some types being more prominent in any given economic zone. Anyway, almost the whole world is interconnected and trades with others.
  • Dave WDave W Shipmate
    It’s common to divide GdDP into four components:
    • Private Consumption Expenditure
    • Investment Expenditure
    • Government Purchases of Goods and Services
    • Net Exports
    In the UK the first component is the largest, but that isn’t true of all countries at all times.
  • ThunderBunkThunderBunk Shipmate
    We need far more of the second, but because we are a country of shysters, we see it as waste. We need a huge cultural change, to look at maintenance as being the primary need, and consumption that drives growth very much a secondary. Really quaternary, in that it has to be of that order of significance for the immense environmental destruction caused by our lust for growth has to be stemmed.
  • RicardusRicardus Shipmate
    edited April 4
    .
    Dave W wrote: »
    It’s common to divide GdDP into four components:
    • Private Consumption Expenditure
    • Investment Expenditure
    • Government Purchases of Goods and Services
    • Net Exports
    In the UK the first component is the largest, but that isn’t true of all countries at all times.

    This is probably more dumbness on my part, but isn't the first one dependent to some degree on the other three?

    I.e., for people to buy lots of nice things, they must be getting a significant surplus income from somewhere in order to have money to spend on those nice things.

    Otherwise it feels* like that extremely dated joke about the economy that survives because everyone takes in each other's laundry.

    * Deliberately using the word 'feel' to acknowledge I'm not I can justify this rationally ...
  • ThunderBunkThunderBunk Shipmate
    Yes, it absolutely is. The whole basis of the economic case for Brexit, as far as I can see, was that we can survive on taking in each other's laundry (and otherwise providing immediately consumed services) to each other. The fact that this is evident bullshit is only just emerging.

    As we have no money for the other three, expect decay for the next decade, while reality slowly dawns.
  • Dave WDave W Shipmate
    Ricardus wrote: »
    .
    Dave W wrote: »
    It’s common to divide GDP into four components:
    • Private Consumption Expenditure
    • Investment Expenditure
    • Government Purchases of Goods and Services
    • Net Exports
    In the UK the first component is the largest, but that isn’t true of all countries at all times.

    This is probably more dumbness on my part, but isn't the first one dependent to some degree on the other three?

    I.e., for people to buy lots of nice things, they must be getting a significant surplus income from somewhere in order to have money to spend on those nice things.
    Well, it's just an accounting identity - that is, it's a way to break the total economic activity of a country into separate categories to inform discussion about what's going on. Broadly speaking, this is what the country is producing, separated into four buckets.

    There's another, more esoteric accounting identity for the other side to describe where the income goes (because one person's expenditure is another person's income) but those categories don't map directly to the ones on the production side. "Private Consumption" can be paid for by income from any source (wages and salaries, profits, rents, or whatever.)
    Otherwise it feels* like that extremely dated joke about the economy that survives because everyone takes in each other's laundry.

    * Deliberately using the word 'feel' to acknowledge I'm not I can justify this rationally ...
    To a pretty large extent, it does though. Economies of big developed countries are mostly (~70%) people producing goods and services for other people. (You have to be more diversified than laundry, of course.) It's pretty circular (setting aside concerns about consumption of non-renewable resources.)
  • Marvin the MartianMarvin the Martian Admin Emeritus
    Dave W wrote: »
    Economies of big developed countries are mostly (~70%) people producing goods and services for other people.

    Globally, that’s what the economy has always been.
  • Dave WDave W Shipmate
    edited April 4
    The situation has been very different in (e.g.) China.
  • Dave WDave W Shipmate
    For comparison, here's the same data for the US and the UK.
  • A problem is the arrangement of economies to disproportionately benefit wealthy people and companies. Who run governments for their benefit.
  • Merry VoleMerry Vole Shipmate
    @Dave W what does 'Consumption Share of Purchasing Power Parity Converted GDP Per Capita at constant prices' mean for someone who has not learnt economics?
  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    It would seem odd to have an economy in which things were produced that nobody consumed.
  • JonahManJonahMan Shipmate
    But equally odd to have an economy where things are consumed simply because they are produced - rather than because people want or need them.
  • Merry VoleMerry Vole Shipmate
    Here's a quote from Naomi Klein: 'high-consumer lifestyles.... lots of disposable income and it all gets spent on throwaway crap imported from China destined for the landfill'.

    I suspect that Rishi Sunak wasn't saying 'the economy is consumption-driven' to distinguish it from other types of economy but rather just to 'blind by science' the average person, encouraging them to spend -on whatever -just spend: meals out, clothes, a new kitchen, new car etc etc -and (I can imagine him saying) if you haven't got the cash well then borrow -after all that's what the government does!

    Clothes/textiles is just one big issue with so much being worn maybe once or twice. Worldwide textile manufacturing produces more carbon than the aviation and shipping industries combined, consumes over 5% of global supply of freshwater and sends a truck full of clothes to landfill or incineration every second.

  • Dave WDave W Shipmate
    Merry Vole wrote: »
    @Dave W what does 'Consumption Share of Purchasing Power Parity Converted GDP Per Capita at constant prices' mean for someone who has not learnt economics?
    Fortunately I believe that boils down to just Consumption Share of GDP, or consumption / GDP.

    The other terms are modifiers to "GDP" which would be useful if you were comparing GDP between countries or across time. "Per capita" just means per person, of course (e.g. America's GDP is bigger than Germany's, but part of that is just because America has more people which may not be interesting.) "At constant prices" just means that any dollar/pound/yuan/whatever quantities have been adjusted for inflation (when you want to know the change in the size of GDP or its components over time, you're usually interested in how much stuff is actually produced and not in how prices have changed because of inflation.) "Purchasing Power Parity converted" means that other currency values have been converted to dollars not with the market exchange rate but at a rate that reflects how much it would cost to buy an equivalent basket of goods and services.

    You would normally apply these qualifiers to GDP by itself, or to any component of GDP (like consumption, or investment.) But none of these matter if you're looking at the size of shares of a country's GDP, because you'd apply them to both the numerator and denominator. For example, (consumption per capita) / (GDP per capita) is exactly the same thing as consumption / GDP. All the other qualifiers would cancel out similarly.
  • Dave WDave W Shipmate
    edited April 4
    mousethief wrote: »
    It would seem odd to have an economy in which things were produced that nobody consumed.
    By the conventions of national accounts, the production of things like buildings and machines used for manufacturing are considered capital investment (#2), not private consumption. Goods and services purchased by the government (#3) have their own category, even if they're things like school lunches that would be considered literally consumption in the everyday meaning of the word. Exchanges of goods and services with the rest of the world are also tracked separately (net exports, #4) - if Germany produces a lot of goods for foreigners, they won't be counted as part of Germany's private consumption (or Germany's capital investment, if they're machine tools.)
  • Merry VoleMerry Vole Shipmate
    Thanks @Dave W but I notice in those graphs: China, US and UK the y-axis scales aren't the same so, er, what does it mean in very plain English pls!
  • tclunetclune Shipmate
    JonahMan wrote: »
    But equally odd to have an economy where things are consumed simply because they are produced - rather than because people want or need them.

    That's why God created advertising.
  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    tclune wrote: »
    JonahMan wrote: »
    But equally odd to have an economy where things are consumed simply because they are produced - rather than because people want or need them.

    That's why God created advertising.

    Oh I'm pretty sure that was the Other Guy...
  • Dave WDave W Shipmate
    Merry Vole wrote: »
    Thanks @Dave W but I notice in those graphs: China, US and UK the y-axis scales aren't the same so, er, what does it mean in very plain English pls!

    It means that in 2010, private consumption (household spending on goods and services) accounted for 76% of economic activity (GDP) in the US, 77% in the UK, but only 35% in China. Capital investment (things like buildings, machinery, factories) was a much larger share of production in China than in the US or UK. If Rishi Sunak said the economy of the UK was consumption driven, he would have said that the economy of China was capital investment driven (at least in 2010.)
  • Leorning CnihtLeorning Cniht Shipmate
    edited April 4
    Merry Vole wrote: »
    Clothes/textiles is just one big issue with so much being worn maybe once or twice.

    I've heard this before, and I wonder, again, who on earth these people are, and whether they are made of money.

    I mean, technically Mrs C only wore her wedding dress once, although it was purchased second hand, and has since seen new life as a christening gown and a pair of cushions, but who are these people who are regularly only getting a handful of wearings out of a garment?
  • Merry Vole wrote: »
    Clothes/textiles is just one big issue with so much being worn maybe once or twice.

    I've heard this before, and I wonder, again, who on earth these people are, and whether they are made of money.

    I mean, technically Mrs C only wore her wedding dress once, although it was purchased second hand, and has since seen new life as a christening gown and a pair of cushions, but who are these people who are regularly only getting a handful of wearings out of a garment?

    I can imagine that if you're one of those people who see shopping as a leisure activity and have fashion as a hobby (as opposed to an unfortunate necessity and a bewildering exercise in vapidity respectively) might spend the sort of money someone else might spend on golf or model railways on clothes, and when they're cheap that means lots of clothes and lots of clothes means not wearing them very much. Whereas I consider cheaper clothes a cost saving or a reason to upgrade quality, and wear my clothes until they fall apart (I'm still wearing shirts and jumpers I bought 20 years ago, including one £6 Matalan acrylic jumper that is currently awaiting my wife's kind attentions after I stuck my thumbs through the collar pulling it over my head once too often).
  • Marvin the MartianMarvin the Martian Admin Emeritus
    Dave W wrote: »
    The situation has been very different in (e.g.) China.

    You misunderstand me - I was talking about the world economy as a whole. China may do more of the making and the UK/US more of the consuming, but ultimately it still boils down to people producing goods and services for other people.
  • Merry VoleMerry Vole Shipmate
    Merry Vole wrote: »
    Clothes/textiles is just one big issue with so much being worn maybe once or twice.

    I've heard this before, and I wonder, again, who on earth these people are, and whether they are made of money.

    I mean, technically Mrs C only wore her wedding dress once, although it was purchased second hand, and has since seen new life as a christening gown and a pair of cushions, but who are these people who are regularly only getting a handful of wearings out of a garment?

    I can imagine that if you're one of those people who see shopping as a leisure activity and have fashion as a hobby (as opposed to an unfortunate necessity and a bewildering exercise in vapidity respectively) might spend the sort of money someone else might spend on golf or model railways on clothes, and when they're cheap that means lots of clothes and lots of clothes means not wearing them very much. Whereas I consider cheaper clothes a cost saving or a reason to upgrade quality, and wear my clothes until they fall apart (I'm still wearing shirts and jumpers I bought 20 years ago, including one £6 Matalan acrylic jumper that is currently awaiting my wife's kind attentions after I stuck my thumbs through the collar pulling it over my head once too often).

    I think my daughter (27) may be guilty of a fast turnover of clothes and shoes..

    But around here a lot of surplus textiles get turned into rags used in factories -and then , together with most non-recyclable waste, gets incinerated producing a bit of electricity -not everyone approves of incineration though...

    Tangent: Model railways :smile: worthy of a thread in Heaven?!
  • To end up as factory rags those unwanted clothes have to be given for recycling, not just thrown away. Charity shops can only sell a small percentage of their donations, much of what they are donated is sorted and sold on, some for recycling as rags or insulation felt, but it needs sorting first and the fastenings removed, link to BBC article discussing why clothing is difficult to recycle.

    Much clothing is not recycled and a significant proportion ends up in landfill - 30% according to this ClothesAid article (link). That article is from 2017. This Reuters article from September 2020 discusses how Covid19 regulations have prevented the international trade in recycled clothing meaning that less is being sold on. So what recycling was happening is being curtailed.

    This article from Eco-Age from August 2020 looks at the second hand fashion market in Ghana where much of the UK recycled fashion ends up, as part of an upcycling culture:
    However, this upcycling vibrancy is being overshadowed by the endless overflow of goods. Kantamanto sees 15 million garments coming through it every week, in a country of 30 million people. ...

    Over a three-year study ,we found that 40% of the clothing that is unbaled in Kantamanto leaves the market as waste. ..., that is between 4-5 million items of clothing leaving the market as waste every week.
    ....
    However, most of Kantamanto’s clothing never gets to landfill in the first place because the AMA does not have the budget to transport it all. Instead, some of this waste will be swept into the open gutter system where it absorbs all sorts of industrial and human excrement before being pushed out to sea.
    ....
    Once clothing makes its way to the sea some of it will wash up onto the beaches where it will then be burned. We organised a beach clean-up in January and it took 40 people more than three hours to recover 600 garments. These 600 items of clothing were not floating on the surface of the water, they were embedded in the sediment. When we managed to dig the garments out of the earth, we found that the sand was black.

    The article includes a photograph that was widely shared last year showing a beach strewn with clothing. And includes a discussion about the other health issues.
  • Merry VoleMerry Vole Shipmate
    edited April 5
    Thank you @Curiosity killed . The situation is far worse than I imagined. Maybe Ghana could make and sell insulation felt?
    Interested in Planet Positive Textiles? have a look at saltyco.uk
  • Whereas I consider cheaper clothes a cost saving or a reason to upgrade quality, and wear my clothes until they fall apart

    Child #1 was laughing at me the other day, because I was wearing a t-shirt commemorating an event that I took part in in 1993. It's a colour I don't wear often, so it hasn't had as much wear as its similar vintage siblings.

  • tclunetclune Shipmate
    Child #1 was laughing at me the other day, because I was wearing a t-shirt commemorating an event that I took part in in 1993.

    A time-honored dis from geezers is, "I've got underwear older than you."
  • Merry Vole wrote: »
    Thank you @Curiosity killed . The situation is far worse than I imagined. Maybe Ghana could make and sell insulation felt?
    Interested in Planet Positive Textiles? have a look at saltyco.uk

    That does look interesting, but the small print was more so - the coat they are showing only has their fabric as stuffing, the outside, from the look, is polyester, so plastic from a petrochemical source. The problem with most of these so called planet positive textiles is that there are often problems with the production methods, or that the materials have to be grown to start with - lots of so called green fabrics like Lyocell and Tencel are not that green when all the issues are considered.

    I'm currently recycling denim - some bought from the charity shop, by asking for jeans they couldn't sell and coming home with a bag for not much money, some reusing the jeans I've worn out, those I'm not patching and re-wearing. Or making fabric from scraps. My favourite top last summer was patchwork made from the scraps after cutting out other garments.
  • orfeoorfeo Shipmate
    The issue is not consumption as such. The issue is constantly seeking to drive consumption upwards in order to achieve 'growth'.
  • BoogieBoogie Shipmate
    orfeo wrote: »
    The issue is not consumption as such. The issue is constantly seeking to drive consumption upwards in order to achieve 'growth'.

    Exactly.

    What is ‘growth’ for?

  • Growth allows for spending more on education, welfare, infrastructure, etc. There's a high chance that maintaining a welfare state at the level we're accustomed to, will be difficult in the years ahead.

    We're at the beginning of an age wave where pensions will become a huge drain in the Western world. Baby boomers are retiring in huge numbers. Given their numbers, and increased life expectancy, the cost in countries where pensions are partly or wholly government funded, will be massive, due to there being so many more retired people compared to people still working.

    Add to that the very real risk that a lot of jobs will be made redundant by new technology, causing a high chance of large numbers of unemployed - perhaps forcing a change towards a system with a basic universal income - then most Western governments are quite dependent on economic growth in the coming years. Balancing the need for a "green change" with the need for an economy that can maintain a welfare state, is a difficult balancing act.
  • Marvin the MartianMarvin the Martian Admin Emeritus
    Boogie wrote: »
    What is ‘growth’ for?

    Without growth the economy becomes a zero-sum game where the only way any particular person can improve their lot is by worsening the lot of someone else.
  • DafydDafyd Shipmate
    However, making one's aim 'growth' as such doesn't differentiate between people at the bottom of the income distribution improving their lot and people at the top of the income distribution acquiring more money that they'll hardly notice.
  • orfeoorfeo Shipmate
    edited April 6
    Growth allows for spending more on education, welfare, infrastructure, etc. There's a high chance that maintaining a welfare state at the level we're accustomed to, will be difficult in the years ahead.

    Eh? You're thinking of taxes.

    Which is all very well if economic growth in the private sector actually leads to growth in the government's income. This is by no means guaranteed. Nor is it guaranteed that growth in the government's income actually leads to growth in spending in those areas you've nominated.

    Frankly, what is more likely to happen if the government's income increases is that the government will say "good news! we can cut your taxes!", which makes the voters temporarily happy... and which most certainly does not lead to spending on education, welfare, infrastructure, etc. Instead it leads to spending on consumer goods.

    At which point the government pats itself on the back and declares that cutting taxes boosted the economy.

  • orfeoorfeo Shipmate
    edited April 6
    Boogie wrote: »
    What is ‘growth’ for?

    Without growth the economy becomes a zero-sum game where the only way any particular person can improve their lot is by worsening the lot of someone else.

    Well, no.

    First of all, there's a natural rate of growth so long as the population is growing. You can achieve a certain rate of growth just by virtue of there being more consumers, without constantly trying to make per capita consumption go up.

    Alternatively... well let's be blunt about this, if the population is not growing, then various resources get freed up as people die.

    Either way, the notion of stasis doesn't hold up because the population itself is not static.

    The other falsity in your proposition is that it assumes that every way of spending a dollar has the same net effect. It denies the possibility of synergies or efficiencies.
  • orfeo wrote: »

    Eh? You're thinking of taxes.

    Which is all very well if economic growth in the private sector actually leads to growth in the government's income. This is by no means guaranteed. Nor is it guaranteed that growth in the government's income actually leads to growth in spending in those areas you've nominated.

    Frankly, what is more likely to happen if the government's income increases is that the government will say "good news! we can cut your taxes!", which makes the voters temporarily happy... and which most certainly does not lead to spending on education, welfare, infrastructure, etc. Instead it leads to spending on consumer goods.


    I certainly agree that growth doesn't automatically lead to higher government income - but it makes it a lot easier for the government to get a higher income. And while there certainly has been a lot of times when a higher government income has led to tax cuts, then I doubt that would be the case when the government expenses radically grow.

    IMF suggests that: "that between now and 2050, absent policy changes and reforms, outlays for pension and health care could increase by around 7 and 6 percentage points of GDP in advanced and emerging G-20 countries respectively. Such increases in spending could lead to unsustainable public debts, require sharp cuts in other public spending, or necessitate large tax increases that could stymie economic growth."

    I think most countries facing such increased costs, would refrain from tax cuts. (Although you never known..)
  • orfeoorfeo Shipmate
    Last rumination for now:

    I am regularly reminded of a book I have by David Suzuki called "Good News for a Change", which explores various stories of people making sustainable businesses.

    One story in particular often stands out to me and is apt here. It's about a family forestry business that, at the time the book was written, had been running for several generations. The family knew the rate at which they could log their forest without losing the forest. They had been able to sustain an income across all that time... and they still had just as much forest as when they started.

    The mantra of "growth" would dictate that they had to log more of the forest. Which undoubtedly would have created a larger income, for a period. Until eventually they ran out of something to log, unless of course they went and acquired more forest, and logged that... and just continued that cycle.

    And that's the whole issue with the notion of growth. The planet is not growing. Our resources are not infinite. Infinite growth is unlikely to be achievable. Continuing to grow is possible so long as we get smarter and more efficient with our use of resources, and there's no doubt some fantastic things happen with technology in that regard. But too often those sorts of issues and questions are pushed aside. There's a focus on growing the economy without really asking what the economy is for, what the point is. It's treated as an end rather than as a means.

    We've got @Marvin the Martian talking about how growth is needed because otherwise you can only gain at another person's expense. But that's only measuring people. It's not measuring the rest of the organisms on the planet, or the consumption of inanimate resources. There's so often a cost somewhere but a heck of a lot of the time we manage to externalise that cost and not measure it.

    I think some of the most interesting work that's happening in economics is trying to put a dollar value on things that we typically don't quantify, such as environmental damage. Which can lead to a project that looks like it's going to achieve "growth" with jobs and an injection of money into a local economy not look like such a fantastic rosy deal, because the cost of restoring the environment in 20-30 years after the factory closes would actually be more than the supposed profits.

    We would be much better off if we stopped obsessing about growth and focused on sustainability instead. What can we keep going? If public companies weren't required, by law, to try and maximise profit for shareholders, I can't help thinking that a lot of behaviour could change.
  • orfeoorfeo Shipmate
    edited April 6
    orfeo wrote: »

    Eh? You're thinking of taxes.

    Which is all very well if economic growth in the private sector actually leads to growth in the government's income. This is by no means guaranteed. Nor is it guaranteed that growth in the government's income actually leads to growth in spending in those areas you've nominated.

    Frankly, what is more likely to happen if the government's income increases is that the government will say "good news! we can cut your taxes!", which makes the voters temporarily happy... and which most certainly does not lead to spending on education, welfare, infrastructure, etc. Instead it leads to spending on consumer goods.


    I certainly agree that growth doesn't automatically lead to higher government income - but it makes it a lot easier for the government to get a higher income. And while there certainly has been a lot of times when a higher government income has led to tax cuts, then I doubt that would be the case when the government expenses radically grow.

    IMF suggests that: "that between now and 2050, absent policy changes and reforms, outlays for pension and health care could increase by around 7 and 6 percentage points of GDP in advanced and emerging G-20 countries respectively. Such increases in spending could lead to unsustainable public debts, require sharp cuts in other public spending, or necessitate large tax increases that could stymie economic growth."

    I think most countries facing such increased costs, would refrain from tax cuts. (Although you never known..)

    I'm not sure where you live with a government that actually focuses primarily on what's going to happen in 2050. That's far too many elections away.

    We had the Stern report on climate change that observed that action at that time could be achieved with only a small impact on economic growth over a long period, whereas later on action would have to be more severe and have a bigger impact. The politics in such situations is that action is deferred, to become someone else's problem. I would not be remotely surprised if the same happened in many places with pensions and health care.
  • orfeo wrote: »

    I'm not sure where you live with a government that actually focuses on what's going to happen in 2050. That's far too many elections away.

    "Between now and 2050". It's already happening. But yes, I agree. It's not high enough on politicians agendas.

    Incidentally, I live in Norway. We have the biggest sovereign wealth fund in the world, currently valued at over 1.2 trillion USD. And government-funded analysis indicate that it will far from be enough to fund our current welfare programs to 2060, even if completely drained.
  • BoogieBoogie Shipmate
    Boogie wrote: »
    What is ‘growth’ for?

    Without growth the economy becomes a zero-sum game where the only way any particular person can improve their lot is by worsening the lot of someone else.

    Why not have the economy work like the co-operative movement? Every worker owns the company, so all have a stake in its success.

  • Marvin the MartianMarvin the Martian Admin Emeritus
    orfeo wrote: »
    First of all, there's a natural rate of growth so long as the population is growing. You can achieve a certain rate of growth just by virtue of there being more consumers, without constantly trying to make per capita consumption go up.

    Population growth without a commensurate growth in how many resources are being consumed just means fewer resources per person.
  • RussRuss Shipmate
    orfeo wrote: »
    ...that's only measuring people. It's not measuring the rest of the organisms on the planet, or the consumption of inanimate resources.

    There's so often a cost somewhere but a heck of a lot of the time we manage to externalise that cost and not measure it.

    I think some of the most interesting work that's happening in economics is trying to put a dollar value on things that we typically don't quantify, such as environmental damage.

    That's actually the issue.

    In conventional economics, the cost of coal is what you have to pay someone to dig it out of the ground and carry it to where you are. The cost of a log of wood is what you have to pay someone to cut down the tree (and carry it to where you are). You pay the people; you don't pay the planet.

    Economic growth without increased resource use is entirely possible. For example
    invent a more thrilling sport (*) that people will pay more to watch, and the economy grows. Buy plain wood, sell wood carved with intricate attractive patterns; the economy grows.

    We've become a throwaway society because producing new things is easier to automate and scale up than repairing old ones. Resource use is too cheap when all costs are labour costs.

    (*) tempted to mention cricket here, but it would distract from the argument...
  • Boogie wrote: »
    What is ‘growth’ for?

    Without growth the economy becomes a zero-sum game where the only way any particular person can improve their lot is by worsening the lot of someone else.

    But the economy is currently a zero sum game while we continue to consume more than the planet can sustain. You personally may hold on to your life style, but if you insist on doing so your children or grandchildren will not be able to and will have a reduced life style. Or we can choose to reduce our consumption and hope our children and their children still have a planet to live on.

    No, I don't think moving into space is the answer, it isn't going to resolve the issue that we are consuming more than is available.
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