The Reemerging No-Growth Economics

by Mayuri on December 11, 2010

Living Instead of Consuming

There is a great article in the Nov/Dec issue of Utne Reader entitled “Nothing Grows Forever”, which is a reprint of the article from Mother Jones by Clive Thomson. It is a very hopeful article both for us and for the planet, as it not only questions the consumption economics that we have been living in, but provides a viable alternative. It provides a third way other then the dilemma that has been presented to us by growth economists, that without growth we would spiral into poverty and with it we deplete the planet. This third alternative is aptly names no-growth economics.

It asks the questions of whether we could have a healthy economy that doesn’t grow. It also asks if we could halt the inescapable movement toward ecological catastrophe. The point of view of no-growth economics fits perfectly with the movement toward more consciousness in our economics.

According to Thompson, in then 19th Century the economist John Stuart Mill had the point of view that growth only served up to a certain point where everyone would enjoy a reasonable standard of living. After that point he believed, people would be able to live their lives with a focus on things like child rearing, art, leisure and not get caught up in the “trampling, crushing, elbowing, and treading on each other’s heals” that he saw in unrestrained capitalism.

This chase of more is better is part of  what I have spoken about earlier when I spoke about consciousness.This chase  has been part of our mantra of not enough that lives at the heart of our jealousies, greed, and arguments with life. Success has been measured in terms of how much we can store instead of our beingness, of who we are. It is interesting to note that in the 1950’s there was very little private storage in America, but now there is something like 200 million cubic feet of private storage filled with stuff. Is stuff really a measure of our success as a human being?

When we are cut off from our beingness, we act out the lust of the the animal part of us that  is dissociated from being. Lust becomes excessive because of the emptiness from the separation from being. And our economy has banked on that lust. So we try and fell the hole with food, sex and objects. So it is a deficiency motivated drive. And we believe that the answer to the deficiency is outside of oursleves. What we don’t realize is that this external focus for more and more uses up our life energy, and doesn’t fulfill us. We try and define ourselves by external and financial achievements, and becuase everyone else is doing it too in our society, we buy into that cultural mindset.

When we recognize that we have been living in a world of lies,  we will want to to find out more about that and create a support for a new perspective, one that supports more truth in our life. We do need money in our lives, not only to support ourselves physically, but also for our interests, our dreams, our families, our personal fulfillment. But that does not mean focussing on getting rich or having everything where money and what it can get us becomes the primary thing, but rather as a support for our lives. We have been more interested in what we believe money brings such as prestige, power, security, or position and forget that is a support for bring who we truly are into the world. So we don’t spend our time finding out about other things that support us physically in terms of time, energy, of relationships, of community, of organization, knowledge or understanding.

Going back to no-growth economics, it has become a real consideration  since the concern for climate change and the sustainability  has moved from the science community more into the mainstream. One of the things the no-growthers  conclude is that with technology, there is more efficiency in the workplace. This could be used to shorten work weeks which would give more free time to pursue other interests, like community,family, or spiritual growth.  They also propose clean energy tax, consuming less, population control,creating a world with fewer economic inequities which would be a more stable world. With consumimg less, we might then value more durable goods that require more labor but fewer materials.We’d have to be seeking fulfillment from activities with a lighter footprint. Some of these could be politically troubling.

The question no-growth economists  raise is how do you prevent people from producing and buying needless stuff which has been the engine of the growth economics. The answer is consciousness. When people recognize true fulfillment is from beingness and not more stuff, then it won’t be as much of an issue. The answer is always consciousness. So no-growth economics and consciousness seem to dovetail.

The Utne Reader article concludes with the fact that no-growth economics could be forced on us in a few decades- that the earth itself will compel people to act when resources become scarce, and climate change is causing global conflict. So the planet herself may be leading us into a new level of consciousness.

If we were enlightened, we would already be living in that way. The answer is always consciousness.

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