Jason Zweig writes a column for The Wall Street Journal called, "The Intelligent Investor." In the November 18-19 issue, Zweig headlined his column, "When A 10% Gain Makes You Feel Like A Loser."
Zweig was speaking, specifically, about stock market gains, noting that investors now think that if the value of their stock market investments grows by only 10% a year there is something "wrong."
I am not involved in the stock market, at least in any direct way, but the Zweig column made me think about "growth" in general, and how we have come to accept the fact that "growth is good," and that a failure to "grow" means that something is wrong. In the context of land use development issues, I have often heard people say, "If you're not growing, you're dying."
Not to be too morbid about it, the fact is that we are all "dying," every day, and no amount of growth will eliminate that fact of life. To the contrary, biology tells us that organisms that grow further, after having already reached maturity, are the opposite of healthy. They die sooner.
And then there is cancer. Unbridled, unending growth is the signature of what is probably our most feared disease. The proposition that "growth is good" is actually not true, stated as an absolute. Cancer provides the real-world test.
Thinking about our economy, which is based on taking raw materials from the natural environment, fashioning them into "products" of various kinds, selling the products, and then doing that again, for ever, it should become very clear that continued economic growth is not good at all; it's the path to ruin.
If Stephen Hawking is sending us off to Mars, because we have exhausted Earth (and that's what he is preaching), his prescription for human survival should give us a clue that there may be some fundamental problem in the way we have set things up. Our Natural World is limited. Continuing "growth" puts us all in peril.
Here is the big question: Can we change our behavior, and restructure our economy, before we turn Earth into a "sizzling ball of fire," which is what Hawking predicts?
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