Review of the Working Paper from the Post Carbon Pathways Project
Don’t miss this valuable source of useful options to move beyond growth economics. Alexander's article includes a thoughtful review of current and past thinking about classical and no-growth economics, an extensive list of references, and ten challenging prompts – read these, if nothing else – for anyone and everyone concerned with the global situation and a transition to a more rational future.
Post-Growth Economics: A Paradigm Shift in Progress (PDF)
by Dr. Samuel Alexander*
*lecturer with the Office for Environmental Programs, University of Melbourne, fellow with the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute and co-director of the Simplicity Institute.
This comprehensive paper clarifies the issues challenging economic growth in simple language that cuts through to our basic need for change. Alexander begins by recognizing today's political calls for economic growth and the contrasting paradigm defining growth as uneconomic. This growing paradigm, Alexander says, can “...solve more problems than the old one...” and is ”...changing the very nature of what ‘progress’ means.” Alexander's useful analysis summarizes classical economic theory and compares its assumptions with historical alternatives suggested in the literature, beginning with Thomas Malthus (1798) and John Stuart Mill (1848). Alexander notes that a "defining feature" in these works and all that follow is their “...questioning of the very pursuit of material wealth as a path to well being.”
Most helpful are Alexander's summary statements of prominent authors: Paul Ehrlich’s clear thesis that population growth tends to increase environmental impact; John Stuart Mill’s Stationary State, with its steady improvements in technology and the "Art of Living"; and the “growth skepticism” of Galbraith, Theobold, Boulding and Mishan, beginning in the 1950’s and 1960’s and continuing through to the present with Turner’s 2012 critique of the Limits to Growth, the Ernst Schumacher’s proposal to maximize well-being while minimizing consumption, and Herman Daly’s argument that GDP fails to define economic reality.
Alexander's article provides a useful survey of the challenges and imperatives for developing a post-growth global economy without repeating the extensive data and detailed options available in recent publications. He doesn’t shrink from the most difficult transitions, such as the need for population stability, economic contraction as fossil fuels become scarce, the "degrowth" necessary in rich nations as poor areas grow to catch up, important changes to the debt- and interest-based banking system, even our basic thinking about what can be treated as personal property.
Should we call the new economics ecological economics, complex economics, degrowth, steady or stationary state? Alexander likes the term "post-growth economy" to suggest real progress away from growth dependence. In keeping with that idea, he concludes this guide to constructive thinking with ten suggestions for action aimed at achieving a more stable, equitable economy—appropriately closing with the need to find “grounded hope,” while rejecting “...both despair and naive optimism.”