Historically we think that economic growth leads to higher standards of living, lower death rates and so on. So don’t we have a moral obligation to pursue it? In ecological economics, we’ve tried to make a distinction between development and growth. When something grows, it gets bigger physically by accretion or assimilation of material. When something develops, it gets better in a qualitative sense. It doesn’t have to get bigger. An example of that is computers. You can do fantastic computations now with a small material base in the computer. That’s real development. And the art of living is not synonymous with “more stuff.” People occasionally glimpse this, and then we fall back into more, more, more.
Wednesday, November 9, 2022
#314 / Growth ≠ Good
For the twenty years that I served as an elected Member of the Board of Supervisors in Santa Cruz County, California (from 1975 to 1995), I was known as the guy who didn't want more "growth." I led the fight to set aside important environmental areas, and to ban developments that could damage them. I led the fight to prevent any development of economically productive agricultural lands. In lots of ways, I was the "No Growth" candidate and the "No Growth" public official.
The person pictured above, Herman Daly, who died on October 28th, this year, and whose obituary was published today in The New York Times, was a respected economist. Daly took a similar "no growth" position. I was happy to read his thoughts in the Sunday, July 24, 2022, edition of The New York Times Magazine, in one of David Marchese's "Talk" columns.
Online, the conversation between Marchese and Daly is titled, "This Pioneering Economist Says Our Obsession With Growth Must End." The paywall gods permitting, I hope you'll be able to read the entire thing for yourself. Here is one, brief excerpt:
Bottom line? Just like my headline says: "Growth ≠ Good."
Accelerating global temperatures make clear the importance of this lesson:
Learn or Burn