Why the EU must dare to debate ‘degrowth’


The continuing expansion of the global economy is confusing, but is it also making us poorer?

What if, instead of saying that Europe must get back to growth, European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso decided to say the opposite?

For all of its bluster, the current EU budget battle is being waged over fairly narrow stakes: whether Europe will get back to growth more quickly by spending a little more or a little less at the EU level. The stakes are narrow, firstly because what is spent at EU level is only a fraction of public spending in the 27 member states, and secondly because all of the bickering is focused on how to get growth, and not on whether it is actually necessary or desirable.

Do alternatives to growth really exist? The debate remains on the margins of the public political sphere, but in Europe and elsewhere serious academic theories and grassroots movements are building around the idea of a ‘steady state economy’ with zero growth, or even ‘sustainable degrowth’.

What is degrowth?

The degrowth movements believe that producing more year on year will not make us truly better off, and cannot go on infinitely due to ecological limits.

US ‘steady state economy’ advocate Herman Daly argues that we have already hit a threshold where growth no longer brings net gains even in purely economic terms, i.e. the costs of all the damage done by additional growth (e.g. paying for environmental clean-up and health afflictions linked to pollution) already outweighs the benefits.

 

Daly argues:

‘No one denies that growth used to make us richer. The question is, does growth any longer make us richer, or is it now making us poorer?’

Degrowth theorists also rubbish the idea that economic growth can realistically be decoupled from growth in resource use and carbon emissions.  According to UK economist Tim Jackson:

‘In a world of nine billion people all aspiring to western lifestyles, the carbon intensity of every dollar of output must be at least 130 times lower in 2050 than it is today’.

What’s more, this growing body of thinkers and activists does not believe that additional growth in advanced economies is socially desirable. Data used by degrowth theorists point to rising wellbeing up to modest per capita income levels of around $20,000, after which it depends much more on other factors such as love, family and friendships. So the extra things that extra growth produces, and our extra per capita income allows us to buy, do not lead to extra wellbeing.

Nudging into the mainstream?

How significant is this movement? Mainstream political parties have been reluctant to debate, let alone to defend, a concept that runs so deeply against the grain of current political discourse. The Greens, in several European countries, are a notable exception (see previous blog on green parties).

The closest that degrowth has come to the corridors of political power was the publication in 2009 of a report drawn up by Tim Jackson for the UK Sustainable Development Commission, an advisory body to the government that was subsequently abolished by David Cameron. Jackson’s ‘Prosperity Without Growth‘ report drew plaudits but has remained on the margins of the debate as politicians in the UK and elsewhere have gone firmly into recession-mode, asking only the old, familiar question: how can we get back to growth?

Meanwhile, grassroots movements have been growing in strength. Over the last two months alone the 3rd International Conference on Degrowth, Ecological Sustainability and Social Equity has taken place in Venice, while the Global Women’s Forum in Deauville held debates centred on degrowth. Meanwhile the local initiatives that underpin the movement are flourishing. In Italy, where a strong Decrescita Felice (‘happy degrowth’) movement has sprung up, the ‘Cittaslow’ network has brought together dozens of towns and communes in the interests of slowing the pace of urban life and repurposing urban space away from commercial uses – a movement that has now spread to more than 20 countries.

Why should this be the EU’s battle?

But why should EU policy-makers pay attention to these alternative voices if they barely feature in the political debate at national levels?

Firstly, because they can. The EU executive is used to raising the uncomfortable questions and being blamed by national politicians who are themselves more constrained by the short-termism of electoral cycles. ‘Bonkers Brussels wants to ban growth’ and other such headlines would of course abound from the British tabloids if the EU were even to open a reflection on degrowth. But headlines like this are business as usual, and unfortunately are the price that must be paid for bringing a new and sensitive debate into the mainstream.

Secondly, the European Commission should embrace the degrowth debate because disillusionment with growth-based strategies is Europe-wide, and is growing. Across Southern Europe determined protest movements are building against the price of past growth (mountains of debt) and the prescribed remedy for returning to growth (austerity).

The whole bloc is facing hard questions about how to squeeze more growth out of its factories, farms and financial centres. The answers all point towards an unappetising race to the bottom: Europe must work more, work longer, and regulate and spend less for health, wellbeing and the environment.

For many, these are necessary compromises. After all, what are the alternatives? Without more growth, and with an expanding population, everyone’s piece of the pie gets smaller – meaning reduced employment and reduced income.

This, however, is not the whole story. Jackson’s ‘Prosperity Without Growth’ theory openly acknowledges the need to shift to labour-intensive, resource-light activities, where existing work is shared around and people have more time for leisure, volunteering, and tending to themselves and their relationships.

As a result we would earn less, but we would not necessarily be less wealthy – even in strictly monetary terms. Debating growth vs degrowth can help us to understand the cycles we are in: we need lots of money so we work hard; but we also need that money because we work hard.

Paying for crèches, stress and fatigue-related medical expenditure, commuting expenses, on-the-road snacking, comfort purchases, insurance payments for our comfort purchases, expensive getaways… it turns out that many of our financial ‘needs’ are contingent in some way on working (too) hard. Of course if we weren’t taxed so much we wouldn’t need to earn so much in the first place… and yet much of this tax is levied to fund the public services whose need arises from our individual over-working and over-consuming (e.g. healthcare) and our collective over-working of the environment (e.g. the clean-up of water courses from agricultural and industrial run-off).

Can these cycles be broken? Can there be another way? Could it be the European way? Surely this is too important a debate not to have?

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author alone

Photo by Valentina Pavarotti

  1. #1 by Hoover on November 15, 2012 - 6:02 pm

    If the OECD’s latest forecasts are right, there’s no debate needed. Growth will be anaemic for the next decade at least.

    So another word for degrowth is ‘reality’.

  2. #2 by kjetil on November 15, 2012 - 6:07 pm

    Good article! this is the debate we need to have. but who is going to bring it to the right levels and how to make sure the message doesn’t get lost on the way? what are the chances that EU policymakers will listen to something that goes against major policies such as Horizon 2020? either way we are in for “creative destruction”. how creative, and how destructive remains to be seen.

  3. #3 by Victor on November 15, 2012 - 7:19 pm

    How can you have an honest debate about growth when most of the premises are intellectually dishonest. If growth per se was the problem, how come this wasn´t apparent before the financial crisis?

    When Latin America and Asia had financial crisis nobody though it was GDP´s fault.

    The anti-globalization, pseudo-environmentalist, anti-capitalist movements that are sprouting up in response to some of the failures of capitalism/globalization in the West are understandable. Not because people don´t need “growth”, but because growth has moved elsewhere.

    With the population in the West declining, the measurement of GDP growth rates becomes confusing. And the way to both cater for older and younger generation seems an intractable problem.

    The problem of accounting for externalities is not a new one. Neither is capitalism´s natural tendency toward concentration of wealth, exploitation of workers, pollution of the environment and production of harmful goods and services.

    But we need not embrace Neo-Malthussian or revolutionary tendencies that confuse the actual problems with overly idealistic concepts that either turn people away or confuse them.

    If people want to “brand” or market old ideas in new packages, they should at least try to make the new packages palatable. Unless they (like the Communists) think it is just a matter of inevitability.

    Every modern advance in human productivity has led to high unemployment. We are not witnessing a crisis of growth, but a typical surplus of the labor factor of production, coupled with a resurgence of neoliberal economic and political ideas. The wheel doesn´t need complete reinvention. There´s little new under the sun.

    Regretably, history shows that political systems go to the point of breakdown before being able to deal with major structural changes. The financial crisis didn´t lead to an examination of the current failures of globalization. To the contrary, for the moment it seems as if it has entrenched the status quo even more.

    A debate about degrowth or zero growth is even more irrelevant than the current one about ways to get growth up again. It has nothing to do with actual quality of life of ordinary citizens.

    When we last had a major collapse of the economy, degrowth wasn´t a policy option. People talked about working hours, safety nets, access to technology, etc. Things to make people´s lives better.

    Also, we don´t need to limit growth to protect the environment. Protecting the environment can actually lead to higher growth, given how most polluting production wastes away so much resources (that go unaccounted for in GDP measurements). Corruption and regulatory capture are the real problem here. We don´t need a revolution to stop global warming, just like we didn´t need one to stop the disappearance of the Ozone layer.

    It is ironic how people that advocate revolutions that depend on faith in humanity actually forget how much it is able to accomplish through simple reforms when the system works.

    The biggest failure in our current system lays in the left´s dispersion into incoherent groups that pursue contradictory objectives without an overaching ideological framework or the slightest idea of how to reach their goals. The collapse of European and American socialdemocracy is both cause and effect for this vacuum.

  4. #4 by jon livesey on November 15, 2012 - 11:29 pm

    “Secondly, the European Commission should embrace the degrowth debate because disillusionment with growth-based strategies is Europe-wide, and is growing.”

    I had to laugh out loud when I read this. No, what is Europe-wide is not disillusionment with growth-based strategies, but with the *failure* of strategies aimed at creating growth.

    I suggest that the author go to Athens or Madrid, and explain to the people in the street what what they need is a bit of de-growth.

  5. #5 by David Lilley on November 16, 2012 - 2:24 am

    We are all political. We cannot write a valve spec without advising our audience that this is “objective knowledge” and “if in doubt,ask”. We have contempt for opinion but respect for “objective knowledge”. When our findings meet the test of independent “corroboration” they become true/”objective knowledge” and not mere opinion (subjective knowledge) but always remain tentative/ our best hypothesis.

    Economics is the science of the laws of supply and demand and meets the “falsifiability criterion” that demarcates science from pseudo science. Science is evidence based and only makes statements that can be tested, falsifiable statements. If it fails the test it is rubbish.

    The Nobel Institute does not even meet the requirements of the Oscars. It is first and foremost political. He is cool, she is cool, but the road to hell is paved by good intention. The only thing that is cool is that that is evidence based.

  6. #6 by Nick Jacobs on November 16, 2012 - 12:35 pm

    @Hoover
    Indeed growth will probably be absent for a while anyway, but we still need to understand the problems with growth (e.g. the ecological limits) so that when it returns we know what we’re really talking about.

    @Victor: ‘When Latin America and Asia had financial crisis nobody though it was GDP´s fault.’
    Indeed these crises are not ‘the fault’ of GDP growth. They are interruptions in GDP growth which can sometimes signal the strains that come with constantly trying to squeeze more out of our economies – and the underlying ecological limits which, at a given point, make extra growth ‘uneconomic’

    @VIctor: ‘When we last had a major collapse of the economy, degrowth wasn´t a policy option. People talked about working hours, safety nets, access to technology, etc. Things to make people´s lives better.’
    Working hours etc are precisely the things that zero growth/degrowth is about, even if ideas such as work sharking have not yet been framed in the political mainstream as part of a broader strategy to stabilise the economy at current levels and share around the benefits.

    @Jon Livesey
    Even where growth strategies are succeeding on paper, they are still going to run into ecological limits, and the growth achieved on paper is still failing to deliver the kind of wellbeing that people really want and need. What people in Athens or Madrid don’t want is the mythical growth they had prior to the crisis, that comes crashing down following finanical implosion. Future growth bubbles are likely to come crashing down for similar reasons, and ultimately because ecological limits are being hit and the unseen, unrecorded costs of expanding the economy are too high. People value stability and quality of life very highly – and many would likely accept less money (and a less stressful, less expensive life), in exchange for a share of work in an economy that as a whole is not running straight into the next boom/bust cycle, and is not running into an ecological wall. It is indeed a hard sell, but mostly because of the deeply inbuilt dogma that growth is needed for any good to come to society.

    • #7 by Victor on November 16, 2012 - 5:09 pm

      “interruptions in GDP growth which can sometimes signal the strains that come with constantly trying to squeeze more out of our economies – and the underlying ecological limits which, at a given point, make extra growth ‘uneconomic’”

      Asia has been roaring economically since their crisis, so this is false.

      And you give no evidence for your assertion as regards the environment and the economy. Are people just supposed to take this based on faith? Environmentalists are supposed to be about science or not?

  7. #8 by Gbezera O. on November 16, 2012 - 1:50 pm

    Nice post Nick, good thing is it opens up the debate. I’m personally not really convinced by the “de-growth” approach and would prefer the concept of “better” growth. In developed countries, the population is aging rapidly –thus requiring more expensive care, pensions and whatnot-. On the other hand, the growing population in poorer countries is mostly young, with huge needs in education, for example. All of that has to be paid for, one way or another. I totally understand (and agree) with the points you raise in the second part or the article, so maybe it just boils down to semantics: what some call “de-growth” may just be “better growth” for me, and better overall policies. The fact that the US spend more (on average) on healthcare and still end up with worse healthcare than most developed countries is an aberration that proves that more money isn’t necessarily better, it’s how you use that money obviously. Also, TRUE measurement of growth is needed: GDP does not take into account “negative externalities”, which means the environmental cost of “growth” is not measured, just as unemployment (due to outsourcing and downsizing, for example), health expenditures due to growth and pollution (stress, cancer, depression…)…so before we talk about “de-growth”, I think we should better define how we measure growth (like by systematically using the HDI or a “Gross National Happiness Index” like…Bhutan! If they can do it I’m sure EU MS can…) But I do believe that we need some level of growth to work with in the first place, we “just” need to change how we get that growth and how we use it. Easier said than done though!

  8. #9 by Clarissa on November 16, 2012 - 2:59 pm

    Two years ago I bought this tv set for my DVDs.
    http://viafoura.s3.amazonaws.com/www.alan.com/viafoura_7x6gktehbx4wcw4c48o088ccg8cwg8k_l.jpg
    I wanted that 24W device, because I don’t see the necessity to watch Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers on a bigger one. Why, I can see everything and a bigger screen wouldn’t entertain me any better.

    Actually those modern devices are pretty awesome, for a tv set of that size would have wasted much more electricity decades ago. But as I see in catalogs, screens get bigger and bigger! Must I have Ginger dancing in my room in life-size or what?!
    If people really think like these high expectations are normal, all those in the 3rd world will expect that too. And then they have a perfect right to! Happy, clappy global warming…..

    Politically I’m a lefty, but musically extremely conservative. I’m a traditional-jazz amateur and love to join jam sessions. And I hate to see any instrument amplified. Because it’s not necessary — in the 1920s it worked without amplifying and today it could as well. If the trumpet doesn’t play full blast, it’s not necessary to amplify reed instruments. In our days, most trumpeters think, they have a right to blow like an idiot. Ergo, you have to amplify at least piano and clarinet.

    This is nothing but lacking discipline and very selfish. To have fun at any cost shouldn’t be excepted any longer. But sadly I have the feeling, it’s still common sense. My critic isn’t very popular in the session scene. :(

    • #10 by Karan on December 10, 2012 - 2:55 pm

      I thought the same thing! Blow that piutcre of pure childhood JOY up! I love it.I can’t wait to hear about the rest, because this looks amazing so far. I was also blown away by the parenting culture shock while in Mexico. lol! Isn’t that funny? It’s almost like they all parent like, well, OUR parents! LOL!

  9. #11 by Clarissa on November 16, 2012 - 5:03 pm

    Clarissa :
    ….modern devices are pretty awesome, for a tv set of that size would have wasted much more electricity decades ago. But as I see in catalogs, screens get bigger and bigger!
    ….In our days, most trumpeters think, they have a right to blow like an idiot. Ergo, you have to amplify at least piano and clarinet.

    I missed the final point: My tv example shows a positive aspect of scientific-technical growth, which actually should help to safe energy. Though on the market there’s the negative effect of growing screen size. People want to feel like in a movie house at home, which I consider degenerated, negative growth.

    The second example shows negative sound level growth. People don’t see the necessity to hold back to consider weaker instruments: “Why, just use a microphone!” Which leads to over-electrification in music.

  10. #12 by Mark Huisjes on November 17, 2012 - 9:18 pm

    I agree with the initial premises of this article that we must prevent environmental degradation and global warming and that we must, if possible, repair the damage done already.

    However when people start talking about degrowth and related terms I always wonder: What if medieval Europe decided that they didn’t want economic growth. Would we still be living in stone castles, dying of plague every few years and be completely unaware that there were entire continents still out there left undiscovered?

    • #13 by Clarissa on November 17, 2012 - 11:25 pm

      You’re perfectly right, Mark. I just pondered positive and negative growth. I don’t know all branches, but I guess there’re both kinds of growth in all of them…..

      I’m happy to discuss with fellow Europeans, who are (as I am myself) not native English speakers, in the universal language of our present world (modern Latin so to speak). We shouldn’t be kept divided to easily be ruled….

      P.S.: Just found your India stuff and am impressed. :)

      • #14 by Maggie G on November 19, 2012 - 1:18 am

        By the way, English is Vulgar Latin, so you speak Latin anyway

  11. #15 by GrahamH on November 18, 2012 - 3:01 pm

    I support the thrust of the original article. Continual growth is not possible on a finite planet, and if we have now reached those limits (at least in the West), alternatives must be considered. I am concerned that increasingly desperate attempts to create growth “at all costs”, will see increased environmental degradation and inequality.

  12. #16 by Maggie G on November 19, 2012 - 1:11 am

    Albert Einstein once said: “Nevertheless, it is necessary to remember that a planned economy is not yet socialism. A planned economy as such may be accompanied by the complete enslavement of the individual. The achievement of socialism requires the solution of some extremely difficult socio-political problems: how is it possible, in view of the far-reaching centralization of political and economic power, to prevent bureaucracy from becoming all-powerful and overweening? How can the rights of the individual be protected and therewith a democratic counterweight to the power of bureaucracy be assured?”

    Did Marx’s and Einstein’s ideas finaly won over capitalism in right way? Find more here
    http://www.scribd.com/doc/113684529/Alt-Capitalism

  13. #17 by Purple on November 19, 2012 - 3:42 am

    The FTT Proposals estimated annual revenue of €57 billion coming from levies of 0.1 percent on bond trading and 0.01 percent on derivatives trading will do nothing of the sort unless those buying bonds and derivatives are subsidised by trading entities. The business WILL simply move to a country that does not apply the levy. There are 57 billion reasons why this will occur and the EC budgeteers, do not have clue what they are doing. As far as they are concerned, their budget is exempt from austerity at a time when VAT consumption tax income is falling off a cliff. They really do not care and think people are stupid.

  14. #18 by Purple on November 19, 2012 - 4:00 am

    The problems that now wrap themselves around growth are interesting in the way of puddles. The mainstream EConomists will never give up their economics demanding growth. The problem with its current incarnation is internationalisation of investors. If your own country is not up to the job of meeting its investment needs, get someone else to do it for you and pay them 15~20% a year for their interest. There lies the problem, Europe seems unable to invest in its own needs and is falling apart.

    Government revenue and expenditure do need to be balanced, and the money collected by governments is dwindling and obviously that means tough times ahead. But, why did this happen?

    Next time a wonk is bashing on about attracting investment, yawn and put the muppets on to watch. Your standard of living is going to fall unless you work in investment, which takes place on a planet far from here with very funny money. The era of free trade is over ~ an important pointer to this is the re~instatement of gold as tier 1 Capital under Basel lll. Gold was just elevated by 50% in capital terms.

  15. #19 by Andrea on November 22, 2012 - 11:30 am

    I used to like the idea of degrowth, but then I realised that degrowth doesn’t mean much, not more than growth. It is just a measure of the size of the economy. It says nothing about what that economy is made of. In fact, western societies have seen huge societal improvements in times of high economic growth, and shrinking freedom and life conditions in times of sluggish economic growth as the last thirty years (because neoliberal policies work great, of course, but just for some people). Economy is rather empirical, and conclusions should be straightforward.
    Economic growth may mean that more investments are made for energy efficiency, better transports, education… but this of course will not be done by a corporation, which just aims at profits for shareholders. Changing the economic system, unfortunately, is much harder than saying some moralistic things about consuming less (but is it good if public spending decreases? it means less health care, education, environmental protection…) and enjoying more.
    Focusing on degrowth is just a fetish, that thrives on the guilt of a highly consumerist society too lazy to ask for a real change.

    • #20 by Clarissa on November 22, 2012 - 9:05 pm

      You’re very right, though I don’t wanna trash Nick Jacobs’ article entirely, because there’re many intelligent and important thoughts in it.

      The issue of problematic growth is very old in mankind. In our very early history for instance we experienced how hyper-growing goat herds can change grassland to deserts and after all starve us humans. The only way to fix this was sort of government — a clan chief, ruler, king, whatsoever. Government stepped in via laws. Which already is a striking argument against libertarians/free-market-freaks (who actually were those who would rather grow on goats and desertify the entire earth…).

      In modern Democracies this legislation process is difficult. It’s not just a prince deciding. We have to battle that out in parliaments and committees. The voter watches all this impatiently: “Why, I have not option to influence all this nonsense!” Indeed every voter secretly dreams to be that absolutist ruler…. Which is the actual reason why some fellow Europeans dislike the E.U.: It’s even further afar than their national parliaments, as more difficult to oversee. It’s like even more disempowering all those millions of little dream-princes. The reaction of those folks too often is withdrawal: “Ah no, the E.U. is all about regulating banana shapes ect. — I’m not getting into this nonsense.”
      This ignorance can be very dangerous, if too many of our European fellow-citizens should have that attitude. Every political institution or level brings forth strange things at times. But the European Parliament also passed many important regulations on environment protection, human rights and animal rights ect./ect. …

      The question how much and what kind of growth we should encourage within the E.U. isn’t strange at all. As I stressed above, to me the question is the QUALITY of growth. THIS has to be discussed with ALL European citizens. The more of them join the discussion-parts of this blog project, the better. I don’t know to what extent corporate greed already controls our European Parliament. A few days ago I called the bureau of my Green Party representative to address a few points. My dialog partner there was like, “Well, actually our field is industrial development…”
      Is that still that old Green Party?! Did corporate greed already buy off the Green caucus of the European Parliament? Whatsoever, this should be a wake-up call to every citizen in the E.U.; for if we sleep, corporate greed will put us in chains. And they will limitlessly hyper-grow their industrial ‘goat’ herds, not paying a damn for our environment. We citizens haven’t been doing our job, as we should have. We’re supposed to participate and watch, which always is the most important thing in Democracy.

      We need a huge pan-European discussion in English. It’s not about making English first language in all countries. But we need more English media pan-European — also for tv and radio. Progressive call-in radio talk has been a huge success in the United States. It was actually part of president Obama’s reelection. We Europeans have to get together and discuss. I thank God for this EurObserver, but it’s not enough.

  16. #21 by Nick Jacobs on November 26, 2012 - 10:06 am

    @Victor
    “you give no evidence for your assertion as regards the environment and the economy”
    Here’s one calculation about the environmental costs of China’s economic growth
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/dec/28/china-130-bn-economic-growth
    If you want more evidence look at the TEEB report about the economic costs of depleting biodiversity.

    @Andrea
    “I used to like the idea of degrowth, but then I realised that degrowth doesn’t mean much, not more than growth. It is just a measure of the size of the economy”
    Indeed degrowth is not an end in itself. The point of debating it is to come to an understanding that increasing the net size of the economy is a) not the most important factor in people’s wellbeing, and b) not sustainable on an infinite basis. Allowing an economy to degrow, where necessary, would be a first step. Then the real change would have to take place within that, e.g. investments could be shifted towards energy efficiency etc. The problem is that even if you make systems more energy efficient, if the overall goal is still to grow the economy, then emissions and resource depletion will continue to rise. The ‘prosperity without growth’ theory indicates that decoupling on the scale needed to sustain growth with a growing population is basically a myth

    • #22 by Victor on November 26, 2012 - 7:02 pm

      I gave a citation of what you said for a reason.

      The article you quote doesn´t answer my question, nor is it related to your assertions.

      Is growth being interrupted or made uneconomic due to environmental factors? (In China of all places?!)

      How can people embrace something for which no evidence is produced?

    • #23 by Andrea on November 27, 2012 - 10:48 am

      No economic model predicts or aims at infite growth, so degrowth is not very new in this respect.

      “increasing the net size of the economy is a) not the most important factor in people’s wellbeing”
      Well, maybe you’re lucky, but for a lot of people the net size of the economy is a very important factor in their wellbeing. Because growth means more public services, full employment and environmental protection. If growth is private-consumption driven, I agree with you, it brings not much good.
      From what you say, it seems that the issue is free market “neoliberal” capitalism, why then discussing about something else?

      • #24 by Clarissa on November 27, 2012 - 11:37 pm

        This is the traditional capitalistic view. Within this capitalist model your argumentation makes sense. Which doesn’t change the pathology of a capitalist mind. If you consider the capitalist society just a mentally ill patient, who strongly feels like he/she makes sense, this is not new. Psychiatrists hear that every day from some of their patients.

        In fact I am convinced, our western societies are insane. And what makes me even more concerned, is that constantly dumbing down, as you see on tv programs. It gets crazier all the time….. until enough people get wet and lose their homes ect./ect. …..

        I’m strictly against revolution — let people feel the consequences of their own mistakes. Socialism needs to be voted in.

  17. #25 by Victor on November 26, 2012 - 7:14 pm

    @N.Jacobs

    Saying in abstract that growth causes environmental degradation is as fallacious as saying environmental conservation causes recession. Both are based on ideology and fearmongering. This is why in my view this is not a way forward.

    • #26 by Clarissa on November 27, 2012 - 11:56 pm

      You fairly much sound like that hard-core smoker who already lost one leg — still not ready to stop smoking.

      Please have a little vacation at the seaside of New Jersey to experience some fear(‘mongering’). This was the area that was hit real hard by super-storm Sandy.

    • #27 by Clarissa on November 28, 2012 - 12:10 am

      I read some more of your comments, and must say, actually you’re fairly smart and not a totally uncritical mind. Although this statement of you was a little shocking. Whatsoever, googling out some pics and vids, about what Sandy did in New Jersey, might be a good deed for anybody. ;)

  18. #28 by Waylon Thompson on November 26, 2012 - 7:27 pm

    Thanks for the helpful write-up. It is also my belief that mesothelioma has an extremely long latency time period, which means that the signs of the disease won’t emerge right up until 30 to 50 years after the primary exposure to mesothelioma. Pleural mesothelioma, that is certainly the most common style and is affecting the area about the lungs, could cause shortness of breath, breasts pains, plus a persistent coughing, which may lead to coughing up blood vessels.

  19. #29 by casachivasso.it on November 27, 2012 - 7:21 pm

    Plan on doing a bit of changes for your new professional room in order to live in it.
    The changes don’t have to be considerable. You may simply want to repaint or rearrange household furniture. Most of the time, the changes involve shifting walls to arrange the floorplan. Make a deal these changes ahead of time using the landlord. He could be prepared to talk about these charges needed to ensure that you to move in.

  20. #30 by Nick Jacobs on November 27, 2012 - 9:38 pm

    @Victor
    The idea that growth, at this point in our development, inevitably worsens the environmental situation is not an abstract argument – i’ve included an excerpt from Tim Jackson’s theory on the myth of decoupling, i.e. how the pursuit of growth will continue to exacerbate climate change however well technology allows us to ‘decarbonise” our output. This is a blog, so there’s a limit to how much of the scientific/data can feasibly be included, but i’d invite you to read Jackson’s theory.

    @Andrea
    Indeed, up to a given point, the net size of the economy is important – that’s why in these theories, e.g. Tim Jackson’s, there is a clear distinction between developed and developing countries, and it is explained that economies do need to expand to a point where there is then enough to go round. In a sense the argument does come down to what kind of growth you have, but the benefit of discussing it from a degrowth perspective (and not just a discussion about free market capitalism vs other forms) is that it makes you consider whether growth should be a policy goal at all. You say that growth means, inter alia, full employment. But degrowth theory is useful in saying that the pursuit of growth as a policy goal makes us lose track of those things, because the combination of measures taken in the service of getting growth can work against goals such as full employment. See this passage from Herman Daly:

    “The Full Employment Act of 1946 declared full employment to be a major goal of U.S. policy. Economic growth was then seen as the means to attain full employment. Today that relation has been inverted — economic growth has become the end. If the means to attain that end — automation, off-shoring, excessive immigration — result in unemployment, well that is the price “we” just have to pay for the supreme goal of growth. If we really want full employment we must reverse this inversion of ends and means.”

    • #31 by Victor on November 29, 2012 - 12:50 am

      Labelling resource decoupling a myth is based on a ceteris paribus premise. There is as much evidence in favour of it being possible as against. So saying it is inevitable is just being deterministic, and pessimistic at that.

      The most egregious examples of environmental degradation always happen during the development phase. Developed countries either stop or reverse the pollution.

      The fact that some habitats won´t or can´t be restored is undeniable. But development also leads to the slowing of population growth and an increase in environmental awareness.

      Non-Western developing societies rightly see all this de-growth discourse rightly as out of touch. And so do our own populations.

      With growth in the West naturally growing to a halt, we are no longer the main drivers of degradation.

      The real challenge is not to convince Westerners to stop pollution, but to convince non-Westerners that pollution is not an inevitable part of the phases of development.

      Both the West and the rest can do a lot better in not wasting resources, but the West has huge legacy costs for obsolete policies, which the rest can avoid.

      @Clarissa (After all, we can´t just tear down all of our cities and built environment so it will no longer be exposed to the forces of nature or will not depend on cars, etc, etc.)

      De-growth and the likes are seen as neo-colonialist (Western superiority and/or entitlement) or neo-protectionist (disguised Western exploitation/deception). So they are a no-go.

      (It is interesting for example your mention of excessive immigration as something negative, a point any non-Westerner would see a proving that you intend to deny wealth to them.)

      If the West reforms definitions of GDP and the like, there will be an overall West/rest incentive for everyone to pollute less.

      By quoting the Full Employment Act you implicitly recognize that it is not capitalism itself that´s a problem, but our current political culture.

      Both environmentalists and socialists achieved a lot more when their ideas were based on common sense and could be understood without a PhD. Elitism is as much a problem as corruption.

  21. #32 by Clarissa on November 27, 2012 - 11:02 pm

    I’m pondering this degrowth point a lot and came to the conclusion it cannot work in capitalism. Which actually made me a socialist already years ago. Of course to me only DEMOCRATIC socialism would be acceptable….. which today doesn’t seem to be what people want and vote for.

    Although I don’t like the idea too much, severe storms like Sandy might spike some more motivation. People are still suffering a lot in the north-eastern U.S. — and I hear on American progressive radio stations, it makes them reconsider the destructiveness of greed and growth and be more critical. Maybe it is so, that our human societies have to feel climax change much directer, in order to change ‘common sense’ to real sense. There has to be a strong majority, to actually criminalize Ronald Reagan’s idea “greed is good”. This perverse attitude isn’t being considered a felony yet, but in future it could be: Harming society by acting selfishly unconsidered should be outlawed.

    We don’t have these Democratic majorities yet, as we need them worldwide (because socialist societies cannot match capitalist predator nations). Which again is a strong argument for transnational action: We need organisations like the U.N. — and of course it’s backwardly silly to rave against the E.U.

    We need even more transnational cooperation and action!

    • #33 by Victor on November 29, 2012 - 12:04 am

      Using human suffering inducing storms as arguments in favor of greenhouse gas regulation are the kinds of things that make people run away from “socialism”.

      There are much better and intelligent arguments to use. And there are much more humane ways of presenting them.

      • #34 by Clarissa Smith on November 29, 2012 - 10:10 am

        You have the mushy, sentimental view on politics. Sorry, but politics is not about having pleasant things in public you don’t have to worry about. No, it’s about solving problems — pretty much facing things that threaten our future. And one of the biggest threats in future are the ecological ones. Maybe you’re running away from reality, but others do see the essential points. I am rather writing for those kinda people, not for you Victor.

        Frankly, I see way more possible threats, and those are not about DEMOCRATIC socialism. I am definitely looking out for a path into DEMOCRATIC, green socialism. But many humans are different: As soon as they get too wet, they might vote in sort of eco-fascist regimes one day. Today, the masses pretty much are phlegmatic in things ecological problems — when climate change gets really tough on too many of them, they might blame it on Democracy.

        Sorry Victor, go back to sleep…..

      • #35 by Clarissa Smith on November 29, 2012 - 10:24 am

        Victor :
        Using human suffering….

        Reading that again, it gets stranger still. Yes, we are trying to ease human PAIN in politics — grievances. I am here because my fellow human beings are SUFFERING too much. I am addressing human SUFFERING indeed.

        Whenever ya need a scoop of reality, my friend…. ask Clarissa. I’ve been online-nurse for the weirdest American right-wing nuts who believed Jesus was riding a dinosaur, climate change wouldn’t exist and God wanted rape to happen. Compared to that you’re really a mild case. ;)

      • #36 by Clarissa Smith on November 29, 2012 - 10:38 am

        As we cannot afford political autism. Raving against organisations like U.N. or E.U. or whatever. We got to get together to solve the problems of the modern world. We’re NOT living in the world before ww1 anymore. Easing human SUFFERING in the modern world cannot be done without the E.U. and that’s why I’m here. Whenever it seems our union doesn’t work well enough, it’s not a pretext to do away with it. We have to improve the E.U.

        Are you dreaming of the old days in the 19th century, Victor?

      • #37 by Clarissa Smith on November 29, 2012 - 11:03 am

        The tweeted version to make it easier to get:

        Clarissa Smith ‏@ClarissaSmith2
        Is addressing human suffering in politics like abusing suffering? Isn’t politics about easing human pain? blogs.euobserver.com/jacobs/2012/11/15/why-the-eu-must…

    • #38 by Victor on November 29, 2012 - 5:52 pm

      People in America don´t like “socialists” like you mostly because they´re perceived as elitist, arrogant and disrespectful. You may be right in all the arguments, but the personality counts. And it is such a turnoff.

      • #39 by Clarissa Smith on November 29, 2012 - 11:19 pm

        I know the political scene in America. Neither my fellow liberals over there, nor the righties I debated ever assumed I was not an American. And I really think I convinced at least a few people to vote for president Obama. Scaring people away from the GOP very much was the strategy in this election. And it WAS scary. Warning people isn’t a bad strategy at all if it makes sense.

        You’re right on “socialists”, for this is actually not part of typically American vocabulary. Most Americans use this term without knowing its meaning. Indeed, I dropped the term “socialism” within my U.S. campaign. You probably know, the U.S. Social Democrats weren’t a success, presently not existing as party on the federal level anymore. I really think, this was a trial to install something European within U.S. politics, which flat-out had to fail. Generally, Americans aren’t able to explain the difference between social democratic and communist ideas. That’s the actual reason why they don’t like “socialism” at all. Senator Bernie Sanders calls himself a progressive and liberal and I think he’s pretty much like a European left-wing Social Democrat. Love that guy!

        Here in Europe, the term “liberal” is a mess, which is clearly defined in U.S. politics. In the U.S. I proudly tagged myself a liberal — here it’s impossible. On the very left of U.S. liberals you find people who think like socialists indeed and a few even think like Marxists. But generally I campaigned more to the center, because there was no alternative to Obama — sadly.

        Now I’m ‘back’ in Europe and able to be a Democratic socialist again. But I wasn’t able to do this right away on November 7 — needed time to readjust and this article here actually helped me. People won’t be turned off so much, it’s all about Europe now. ;)

        Before my action in the U.S. I hardly understood the European debate on Keynes and Freedman, which always referred to U.S. politics. Interestingly I had to learn it over there (without of course changing geographically). I feel like I very much do profit from my American experience now. And I cannot totally abandon America, for culturally it’s my home, which I really HAD to defend it in 2012. :)

      • #40 by Clarissa Smith on November 29, 2012 - 11:36 pm

        It always hurts me if especially the north-eastern U.S. is hit. But even Americans say, Sandy absolutely hit the region that wastes more energy than any other in the U.S. Many Europeans have no problem so conclude, these Americans would’ve deserved that. But I cannot speak that out without hurting myself.

        Anyway, it hit New Yorker liberals as well, which are fairly green. Whatsoever, if all this started new ideas about degrowth, I’m most certainly gonna love it.

      • #41 by Joe on December 3, 2012 - 5:38 pm

        We don’t like socialists because their theories are meant as a sales pitch to surrender more of the power individual may maintain over their lives to a state. – A state for which has a monompoy on power, and can therefore be used to great ill.

        Nor is it even necessary. There private sector does a better job at distributing wealth, eliminating poverty, and the like. It’s when government tries to engage in it “to be relevant” that thing start to go wrong.

        I, for one, lived in East Germany, and can objectively tell you that Socialism is not “nice” or even humane. In fact it is the least humane choice a society can make, despite the nice-sounding sales pitch and the demonization of freer societies by institutional entities.

  22. #42 by Clarissa Smith on December 1, 2012 - 11:29 am

    Clarissa :
    I’d also like to see a second public power supply system on about 20V basis. This would make it easier to use solar power and spare lots of energy. And safe: under 30V DC is harmless. For most devices in private households we don’t need high AC voltage.

    Here I’m quoting my comment from March, on Thom Hartmann’s blog.
    http://www.thomhartmann.com/blog/2012/03/estimates-gas-might-hit-5-gallon-summer-americans-are-screwed-pump#comment-121843
    This was a degrowth-idea. So government could make the high-voltage system, as we know it, very expensive, by taxing it — and at the same time offer a cheap and tax-free second low-voltage system.
    Democratic Green Socialism would NOT mean, ending the free market (by prohibiting private entrepreneurship, as Leninism did). No, it would be more regulations and government going into the market as well. For example, make laptops with small screens tax-free, taxing meat very high. A society struggling with lots of flood disasters might be ready for laws which prohibit any kind of illuminated advertising.

    “The prices for solar panels hardly dropped over the last five years. Something is wrong with the market. I’m very much afraid this is a matter of lacking competition. The manufacturing techniques changed very much, but I don’t have the feeling you see that in corporate price policy. This is why I want government to go in this business too.”

    Same page I just linked to on Thom’s blog, just another comment. Actually I’d like to see government manufacturing various kinds of technical devices and make them extremely cheap. Today’s technical standard makes it possible to design devices which hardly need electricity. We don’t need those rotating CDs anymore, for wave files can be played via flash memory. There are already speakers on the market which are extremely efficient. My one has a very good sound, lots of bass — it’s just not very loud. I tried to check how many watts it would use, but it was immeasurable, because too low.

    I am convinced, we could run our civilizations on amazingly low wattage. The technical options are already on the market, but the free market is too selfish to concentrate on environmental protection. In this matter the free market is NOT efficient and government manufacturing could be better.

    Just some examples how to degrow our present insanity.

  23. #43 by Joe on December 3, 2012 - 5:31 pm

    “Degrowth” is a theory which only affluent urbanites who don’t know where their resources and services really come from, can indulge in.

    It’s a perscription for the structural enlargement of poverty, the truncation of human life expectancy, population, and individual potential in every and any area. In fact if you get a sufficient number of chumps to buy into the idea, you have the perfect means of creating a means by which totalitarianism can emerge, all for the sake of “the good of man”, a term used for decades behind the iron curtain to justify the limitations forced on people.

    It’s hardly even fit to argue over. It presumes the power of the state over that of the individual in a fashion no different than Nazi euthenasia and race theory which attempted to construct deliberate contraction in some populations.

    It also childishly assumes a static state: than somehow, we’ll still have the good and human things available in the present age, and that nothing will change that.

    It’s morally repugnant to promote a theory that, for all the smokescreen chatter about “how we’ll all live better”, will not result in anyone living better, and will enduce misery. It will require the curtailment of medical treatment, even palliative end of life pain aleviation.

    • #44 by Clarissa Smith on December 4, 2012 - 4:49 pm

      Wow, Marcel, you’re really more radical than me!

      Deeply impressed. ;)

    • #45 by Clarissa Smith on December 4, 2012 - 5:07 pm

      Joe, your stuff is so deeply weird and your thoughts so messed up — I can’t refer to all your points.

      Only this: People like you are like the smoker who refuses to stop smoking after amputation of already one of his legs.

      Or how about this: The old woman who already has hundreds of cats in her small chaotic apartment, and still feels like getting in more.

      Scientists say, it now looks like their worst prognoses of global warning will come true and you call it “childish”.
      By the way, my quarter is up the hill — maybe I will have the pleasure to watch ya get wet…..

  24. #46 by Marcel on December 3, 2012 - 8:46 pm

    The real issue is that perpetual economic growth is not actually possible.

    This is why bailing out criminal thieving banksters at the expense of ordinary people is such a bad idea.

    Bankers should be hanged, not bailed out.

    • #47 by Clarissa Smith on December 4, 2012 - 5:16 pm

      Yikes, my last reply to you ended up above!
      __________________________

      Those who talk against degrowth have only one option to explain their attitude:

      “Dammit, we rather die than change our life style!”

  25. #48 by Aymi on December 12, 2012 - 7:57 am

    that only 30% of the Va kids are “proficient” and NAEP is how we compare to the International PISA stradands where we rank 15th.So we do not spend money on the problems that need solving which is pure academic basics while at the same time offering all manner of higher level “enrichment” classes that are paid for with the money not spent on core academics.this is why I say that the “extras” need to be paid for by the parents in part because it’s those parents that are not satisfied with one sport, they want 8, not two foreign languages but 6, no advanced Calculate complete with those hated word problems but AP branded for college resumes.You’ve called me a Liberal before, even an Obama Liberal even though I’ve take tough fiscally conservative stands supported tolls roads, advocate cutting Medicare and extending the retirement age for SS, etc, etc.We cannot afford the schools we now have that are ineffective at producing an educated workforce.Most all of Europe and Japan spent less than we do at schools and outrank us yet we blithely continue and yammer on.Both education and health care need to be Universal and both of them need to be focused on the basics and to hold people accountable for the add-ons.That’s a fiscally conservative position guy.It’s more fiscally conservative than your positions and it gets to the nub of why we waste money with entitlements.My position used to be found in a particular wing of the Republican party that are now banned by the way.

  26. #49 by Clarissa Smith on December 14, 2012 - 10:58 pm

    @Aymi: You’re wasting your time here. Europe will never go Texas’ path, growing redneck stupidity by neglecting public education and talking anti-science/Bible-fundamentalist lunacy. If you talk that way to Europeans, this flat-out is like preaching to the moon to become a big cheese. You’re actually kinda talking to yourself here. LOL

    Cutting on Medicare? Nope, only if you pay Walmart employees darn well. As long as wages are as unjust in the U.S. as they are — no way! Raising retirement age? Goody, but only if you pass a Constitutional Amendment like, “Bricklayers are required to only play with LEGO, in order to not ruin their health.”

    In Europe “liberal” refers to one of the original Latin meanings and means *libertarian* (neo-liberal). The U.S. refers to the 1700s’ French meaning, which is “generous, kindhearted ect…” Indeed, I like the American meaning better than our European one. ;)