In Britain, a government commission has drawn up plans for a "steady state economy" that forgoes future economic growth in the name of sustainability by cutting work hours and banning TV commercials (to reduce consumerism). In Germany, new bestseller called Exit: Prosperity Without Growth is just the latest in a growing body of literature pleading for Germans to learn to live with less. In France, President Nicolas Sarkozy—who once came to power exhorting the French to work harder and earn more—has thrown his weight behind an expert report that declares the pursuit of GDP growth a "fetish" and strives to replace the GDP statistic with a broader measure of national contentment.
...today's no-growthers seem to make the same mistakes as their many predecessors, from Thomas Malthus—who predicted in 1798 that rising populations would inevitably starve—to the Club of Rome, a group of scientists who warned in 1972 that the world would start running out of key resources in the 1980s. Such movements extrapolate growth rates for resource use and pollution but don't take enough account of technical innovation, environmental regulation, greater efficiency, and behavioral change. Take Exit author Meinhard Miegel's claim that the world is running out of food. It largely ignores, among other things, the barely tapped potential of genetic engineering and other plant-breeding technologies.
Such faults are often overlooked because the no-growthers resonate in Europe today for intellectual and political reasons, not economic or technological ones. Critiques of growth have always been, at their core, about uneasiness with capitalism itself. That this critique becomes mainstream when capitalism seems to be failing us is no surprise. After all, the Club of Rome made its first splash in the 1970s, during a long slowdown when people were also becoming newly aware of environmental degradation.
...the no-growthers are unrealistic about how painful a no-growth reality would be. As the Harvard scholar Benjamin Friedman argues eloquently in The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth, a society that gives up on growth invites nasty fights over the distribution of limited resources and paves the way for intolerance and populism. That economic growth isn't everything—it doesn't measure the value of our relationships, our communities, our culture—is obvious. But so is the correlation between prosperity and quality of life, including health, longevity, and the freedom to pursue happiness. _Newsweek
Indigenous Europeans are failing to replace their own numbers through rudimentary childbirth, and are steadily being replaced -- at least in their cities -- by Muslim immigrants who may be on welfare, but can reproduce all the same.
The failure of Europeans to reproduce is part and parcel of the dying Euro spirit, the culture of the human dieoff. It is the essence of the modern green left, which is strongest and most suicidal in Europe. But it is almost as strong in Toronto, Seattle, and Sydney. The Obama - Pelosi reich is fanning the flames of the dieoff with every legislative drive and push -- in the quest to catch up with Europe.
But do Americans really want to be like Europe in that regard? Perhaps of those who voted for Obama, half do. But of those who did not vote and those who voted for other candidates, it is likely that over 80% oppose the dieoff mentality.
Certainly China, India, Brazil, and other third world nations trying to emerge into a more modern era have no wish to share the Luddite dreams of death with Euro-greens. The billions of the third world, in all of their wasteful polluting splendour, will hardly miss Europe when it is gone. They will simply move in and call it something else, something more populated and polluted, to be sure.
Cross posted at Al Fin