G is for Growth, Economic.
“Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of a cancer cell.”
- Edward Abbey
Economic Growth; (noun) the 21st century's version of the philosopher's stone.
The unshakeable conviction of economists and graduates of BUSINESS SCHOOL is that growth is the way out of our current economic crisis. The “green shoots of growth” will lead to economic recovery, which will lead to more jobs. Then, once the crisis is over, we can search for more ways to improve and build on growth rates to become fantastically wealthy. This wealth will have a positive impact on society and everyone will be happy.
It is interesting to note then, that growth has typically been associated not with wealth and plenty, but instability and social chaos. Indeed, one can trace the rise of Communism to the dislocation that arose as part of the Industrial Revolution, and the brutal treatment of the Luddites as a response to it.
Indeed, modest growth or even stability were preferred by societies looking to preserve their existing social structure. Many of these societies did not necessarily have a social structure which was worth preserving, but that is a separate point.
Our attitudes in growth stem from the post-WWII period, where the need for reconstruction, an empowered military-industrial CORPORATIST complex and the fledgling field of Propaganda came together in shared purpose. The underlying theme of much advertising of the period is that of self-satisfaction via unending consumption – an advertising technique which is still popular to this day.
However, there are limits to the amount a society can consume – especially one where economic wealth is not as widely distributed as it could be. A concentration of wealth among the ELITE is a particular problem, as there is only so much they can consume before the act becomes a burden to them, that items lose utility value which said ELITES prize so much.
As a consequence, economic growth stalled in the 1970s, helped along by other factors naturally. To stall this, new methods of increasing growth, such as an increased emphasis on the arms industry and financial speculation were introduced. Clearly, this worked out very well for everyone involved, except those who ended up paying for the bailouts in 2008 to finance this ponzi scheme.
Obsession with economic growth is often aided by an obsession with efficiency. Given we are in a position where we are already overproducing yet suffering from unemployment, such a focus is misguided, to say the least. Equally, while the United States has managed modest economic growth during the economic crisis, it has also been suffering an extreme unemployment crisis.
Clearly, there is something very wrong with our assumptions about growth.