A world without growth?

Posted by deleted 6 years, 6 months ago to Economics
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This is a bizarre article and is so deliberately perhaps. It would seem to stem from the base assumption that the Industrial Revolution is unsustainable and that there is some "natural state" where human beings stop improving the world and just... blank out. I am not sure if I am upset about the article, or just confused as to how the author could find it in himself to present the anti-industrial perspective as a necessary fate. The quote that comes to mind is one of Peikoff's (about axioms): "[H]e blanks out the fact that he has accepted it by uttering that sentence, that the only way to reject it is to shut one’s mouth, expound no theories and die." The thought that improving life somehow fatalistically produces its antithesis is quite contrary to every fundamental tenet of Objectivism and to common sense Aristotelianism as well. After all, A is A. And knowledge is contextual. We will not, having discovered science and industry, negate it - we can only modify the definition as new information becomes available. I am no economist, but I think it stands to argument that growth is necessary even for a static population to improve its lot. Thoughts?
SOURCE URL: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/02/business/economy/imagining-a-world-without-growth.html?_r=0

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  • Posted by freedomforall 6 years, 6 months ago
    Thoughts ...
    The author is an idiot or a propagandist.
    My bet is propagandist.
    This article reeks of false assumptions preached as scientific fact.
    Reading the NYT is a waste of time. Just my opinion, broskjold ;^)
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    • Posted by DrZarkov99 6 years, 6 months ago
      Actually, he's trying to point out the box that the greenies have put themselves in. By insisting on the immediate imposition of present inadequate, inefficient, costly renewable technology, they endorse the resulting economic burden that destroys the opportunity for economic growth. His subsequent argument is that we should seek to use our creative efforts to develop renewable technology that serves to promote growth. Of course, what he doesn't say is that such a policy of development first supports the continued use of carbon-based energy until the new and improved renewable technology is available.
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      • Posted by freedomforall 6 years, 6 months ago
        Agreed. I read it that he refuses to dispute the falsified "science" and that cowardice should be exposed and condemned.
        He pretends to be an ally of free markets and he is a shill for the statists.
        imo ;^)
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        • Posted by blackswan 6 years, 6 months ago
          In every true development, there was no movement to "improve" things. There was no movement to save the whales; there was just JD Rockefeller, with his Standard Oil. There was no movement to get rid of candles and gas lighting; there was just TA Edison, with his light bulb, and N Tesla with electric power. In fact, there was no group proposing how the future should look. All we had were inventors, doing their thing, with the result that the standard of living exploded. The punch line is that an inventor is a doer. He doesn't sit around and pontificate about how industries should be subsidized or destroyed to make way for the new and improved. He INVENTS the future. I'm bored to tears by all these pundits, talking about how the future can be improved, and they can't change a light bulb. The ones who can make a difference are those who will make a dent in the universe. The rest are ballast, not worth listening to.
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          • Posted by plusaf 6 years, 6 months ago
            I voted your post as a "Best Of.." and here's why...
            Thanks, Blackswan!

            "Yes, it would be swell if the Greens could prevent the 'grow-to-the-sky' future of energy consumption, world population, pollution and Everything Else...

            What they're missing is that the same people demanding those changes would also and at the same time, fight against anyone, anywhere, suffering a job loss or any economic hardship as a result of those policies!

            I could try to imagine a 'future' where companies and individuals figure out how to be safe and happy without targeting 5-50% annual growth rates for their salaries or shipments.

            Could anyone imagine a course like that in B-School?
            Me, neither.
            The key elements of such a discussion are in the post I marked as 'best of.' Thanks!"
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    • Posted by $ Abaco 6 years, 6 months ago
      My first impression was, "total bullhocky"
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      • Posted by plusaf 6 years, 6 months ago
        Abaco, IT'S THE NYT, frevvins' sake!
        I don't expect anything logical or economically feasible or 'wise' to come from their keyboards...
        Likewise Bloomberg on financial 'ideas,' too...
        Totally dogmatic and information-free in just about everything they say.

        But often amusing... Sort of like Krugman if he had half a brain and less mouth.
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  • Posted by $ jlc 6 years, 6 months ago
    I think that the author deliberately accepted postulates he knew to be false in order to present how unworkable 'no growth' would be.

    That being said, there are many assertions that need to be set straight:
    - No growth is not novel: is actually the default state of humankind (Australian abos are a good example). Think about it – there were very few nexus of development in the world. People from those locations conquered the rest of the world. Everywhere that they did not conquer remained Paleo-Neolithic (Central Africa, S. Am, Siberia, etc). If you leave us alone and do not introduce competition via warfare (the river valleys) or trade (Minoan empire, early Peru) then humans tend to remain at a steady state of no-growth.
    - There have been Many declines in human tech. Farming was actually invented about 17K years ago, but then the Younger Dryas (mini-ice age) occurred and humans went back to a Mesolithic technology, because it was better suited to the cold weather. The Minoan age had Flush Toilets! and running hot and cold water. If Thera had not gone boom, we might have been on the Moon 1-2 thousand years ago. There was a proliferation of commerce and technology in the 3k-2K BC range. This fell in the 2M BC collapse. Again, we have the invention of the alphabet and differential gears at around 600 BC, but these are lost again. Then, finally we get recent enough for most people to call it ‘history’ – the Roman period, and subsequent collapse into the Middle Ages. At any of these points if you measure from the height of one civilization to the depth of the next period of collapse, you will find a decrease in per capita income, technology, and often population. So, yes, the Middle Ages were not as good as the Roman period. This is hardly unprecedented in the history of humankind.

    So while I think that the author is using a straw horse well, he is also taking aim at the Achilles’ heel of lack of knowledge of the wavy growth pattern of human history.

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  • Posted by $ Commander 6 years, 6 months ago
    I always have a curious question. What is "Growth"? Is it volume? is it based on "efficiency"? Is the "growth" "affective"? We use word-symbols in such vaguery and subjective context......I must be the burr under under the saddle.......hoping I'm pardoned for using metaphor.
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    • Posted by 6 years, 6 months ago
      Growth is typically associated with GDP or at least the DOW Jones Industrial Average. No?
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      • Posted by blackswan 6 years, 6 months ago
        GDP "growth" can be quite misleading. Between 1865 and WWI, we were mostly operating in a deflationary environment, where prices were FALLING. That means that you could have an increase in living standards (growth in volume) without necessarily having a growth in GDP. Thus, when Carnegie began manufacturing steel, it was selling for $120/ton. By the time US Steel was created, steel was selling for less than $20/ton, on a much, much larger base of steel output. It's not a trivial issue to decide on the metrics of economic growth.
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    • Posted by $ jdg 6 years, 6 months ago
      Growth is any economic improvement. So long as reason exists and is used, there must be growth.

      There have been societies that didn't grow, but they were stagnant and generally died out without accomplishing anything. That's not how humans should live.
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  • Posted by $ blarman 6 years, 6 months ago
    What he is actually contemplating is a world without meaning or purpose. It's ridiculous from every standpoint. The sheer act of employment is a value-adding activity. The only way to exist is to add value through effort and activity. If one argues that no growth is the eventuality of the human race, it is a completely absurd argument which is in fact postulating the non-existence of humanity.
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  • Posted by Herb7734 6 years, 6 months ago
    This is a very old story. When it comes to Mankind, a static anything dooms the race to a Dark Ages. It does, however, give power-mongers the opportunity to easily conquer and set up tribal fiefdoms and turning you and me into the pawns dedicated to increasing their power. Any attempt at innovation or betterment is rapidly put down using religion, environment or whatever is the anti-reason law of the time.
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  • Posted by $ allosaur 6 years, 6 months ago
    If you would like to read some baldfaced PC EcoNazi propaganda that comes with the article, click on "Short Answers to Hard Questions About Climate Change."
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  • Posted by wiggys 6 years, 6 months ago
    the man is an idiot!
    first of all the world as we know it is NOT getting warmer, it is cooling. one should never listen to any politician because when ever one opens his/her mouth they are lying. as for consumption declining which i think it is, is because of economic conditions and war. we are involved in a world war at the moment and it is having a negative effect on the economy unless of course you are selling guns and ammo. i hope this guy lives 100 years in good health so he can see he was absolutely wrong
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  • Posted by Zenphamy 6 years, 6 months ago
    It's bizarre as the result of attempting to meld two incompatible concepts into one.

    The first is the anti-human and anti-life goals of the Eco-nuts.

    The second is to prioritize current technologies against hydro-carbons instead of halting human population growth and technological progress to reduce carbon.

    In the second scenario, the author neglects to include the possibilities of technological progress and invention, and also accepts human caused climate change as proven and real. He's then trying to be 'a reasonable and sane' client change controller similar to progressive's 'reasonable and sane' gun controllers.
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  • Posted by tkstone 6 years, 6 months ago
    Although Dale probably does not agree with the main premise of this article, he sure deserves a footnote from his book "Source of Economic Growth" The author clearly buys into the carbon scheme, but believes technology will be the savior. He is right economic growth only comes with innovation, and
    his insight however into the real diehard greenies is spot on. They are clearly the degrowthers and are the ones who are denying reality and somehow think all there trappings of civilization will remain once the engine that made them possible is removed. This author is just beginning to see the light and is trying to justify in his mind that all the mental effort he has put into global warming was a waste. Sorry buddy but A=A
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  • Posted by $ Olduglycarl 6 years, 6 months ago
    The assumption is that there is only so much to know or that we will at some point in time, know everything...Both are false. Creation or the Cosmos if you prefer, only continues with the creation of value seen as order; otherwise we are subjected to the forces of, (not heat related), entropy. There will always be something to learn, there will always be something to create, to improve. Creation is never static therefore conditions will always change and we must adapt or die.
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  • Posted by CircuitGuy 6 years, 6 months ago
    The article is based on the false premise that the ratio of GDP to carbon emissions must fall into a narrow band. It's not true for two reasons:
    1. Once we provide for people's basic needs, they start demanding more aesthetic things. For example, they don't want three phones but want to pay three times more for a really cool looking one. Businesses now need to figure out what people want rather than just find ways to get people more.
    2. There are other sources of energy. If there weren't the world's ability to provide an affluent life for billions of people would end soon.

    The article is a great example of applying the industrial mindset to the post-industrial world.
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    • Posted by blackswan 6 years, 6 months ago
      One amazing source of energy that's being ignored is the thorium molten salt nuclear reactor, which is destined to replace the uranium/plutonium nuclear reactor. Once that's in place, all the hand wringing about greenhouse gases will go away, to be replaced by some other attempt at stopping growth.
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  • Posted by johnpe1 6 years, 6 months ago
    success doesn't require growth -- hey, we're retired and
    spending our inheritors' money -- plus the gov't isn't doing
    the COLA thing this year. . reminds me of a certain DOE
    chief who "volunteered" to eliminate merit raises one year.
    Hazel O'Leary if memory serves. . and she also did the
    Hillary thing with classified info -- let it go;;; it doesn't
    really matter. . Dummy. . so success is horizontal for us,
    right now. . but Thomas Malthus was WRONG. -- j
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  • Posted by term2 6 years, 6 months ago
    I dont have real data to support this, but I would suspect that if there was no population growth, zero growth would be sustainable assuming people didnt want new things. Also for thousands of years, there were occasional plagues that decimated the populations.

    Now, I suspect that there is an exponential growth in world population that would make a no growth proposition very unsustainable.

    Governments have tried to prime the growth pump through printing money and promoting credit, but the piper must be paid for unsustainable growth. It gets paid for by depressions and wars.
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    • Posted by DrZarkov99 6 years, 6 months ago
      You've made the correct inference that ties his point that zero growth periods in history were marked by savage conflict that slowed regional population growth. The interesting question that results is whether or not there is an unconscious, primal motivation to kill off others to insure one's own survival in periods of limited resources.
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      • Posted by term2 6 years, 6 months ago
        I am leaning towards what you are saying about primal motivations like are in the lions when they see wildebeasts. The difference between african beasts and humans is that we have the ABILITY to think and go past the emotional desire to kill off any competitors, but to find ways to respect each other and live together and cooperate for the benefit of all. Over time, the civilizations that have taken advantage of this ability thrive, and the lion-wildebeast ones fail.

        If we have the equivalent of the zombie apocalypse (more like a currency collapse than actual zombies !), there will be roving hordes again of people ( who were used to the now nonexistent government handouts) trying to take from those who have planned and saved.

        Human nature when reduced to unthinking emotion isnt a lot different from animal nature really.
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