Why Greens need to embrace the idea of economic growth


2:34 pm - September 21st 2011

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contribution by Jonathan Kent

Greens don’t like growth. It’s the mantra. We like to talk about a ‘stable’ economy; one that neither grows nor shrinks.

The trouble with maintaining a zero growth economy is that you have to maintain zero population growth alongside it. Zero economic growth and a twenty percent population increase and you have the sort of contraction in living standards that we’re desperately trying to fight off at the moment.

I am not opposed to economic growth.

What I am opposed to is growth (and stability for that matter) in certain important areas.

I am not just against growth of greenhouse gas emissions; I am for a sharp reduction. More renewables (perhaps, currently a faint hope, fusion), energy efficiency, better public transport, reforestation, less livestock farming plus a few other measures could easily halve our emissions in twenty years.

I am against the unsustainable use of natural resources, the destruction of the environment, the exploitation of people and the natural world.

I am against consumerism. Consumerism is powered by an industry devoted to the promotion of unhappiness; advertising. Having made people miserable, advertising holds out the promise that the void within can be filled with consumer crap. It can’t. That void is a place which can be filled with faith, friendship and family, not with stuff, not even high grade stuff from Steve Jobs.
I am concerned by population growth. Population is a multiplier on all the other problems we face. Ironically better living standards bring down the birth rate. That, education and persuasion, are our only weapons. No green in his or her right mind ought to be talking about anything that smacks of coercion, let alone worse.

So I am against all sorts of things, but not growth per se. Economic growth can mean growth in human activity as much as it needs mean growth in production of raw materials and consumption.
We’re moving rapidly towards a knowledge economy.

Creative industries form a higher percentage of the UK’s GDP than of any other country on earth and are growing. Downloads are replacing discs. The X Factor may damage your brain, it barely harms the planet.

Even banking (boo hiss) has a small footprint compared to its contribution to the economy. (NB Yes, I’m quite aware that banks fund all sorts of stuff that causes massive damage to the planet – that’s an argument for better banking, not less knowledge driven economic activity).

Then there’s manufacturing and production. A table is a table is a table – except when that table has been crafted to perfection. Same physical resources, more human input, maximising its value, not its utility necessarily, but its desirability and the pleasure it gives; which is why antiques are typically nice things cherished for generations.

That’s the model Greens should be considering. Let’s call it quality over quantity; the antithesis of an economy that produces piles of stuff that is used, trashed and thrown into a hole in the ground. Let’s buy less stuff but buy better stuff.

That said separating growth in human activity from all the stuff that we all want to see less of is damned difficult. But let’s be clear about what sort of growth we oppose and what we don’t, and no, let’s not be naïve about how hard it’ll be to decouple the good from the bad.


Jonathan Kent was inexplicably voted a Top 20 Green Blogger by Total Politics readers and blogs at http://headstrongclub.wordpress.com/ and http://jonathankent.wordpress.com/

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Reader comments


Interesting, but IMHO advertising provides a useful function – it tells us about stuff independently of editorial selection and in a limited way it mitigates editorial bias or corruption. There are now approx 10,000,000,000 products and services in the World and the press can’t editorialise all of them.

For example, how else could a railway company inform non-travelling people about a ticket offer?

Apart from that, I think that you’d find a lot of ‘regular capitalists’ like me have very similar views to yours!

ps I love my iPad 2 – quality not quanity.

“Greens don’t like growth. It’s the mantra. We like to talk about a ‘stable’ economy; one that neither grows nor shrinks.”

You, along with just about everyone else, is misunderstanding what the Great Guru Herman Daly is actually saying. He’s arguing for a “steady state” economy. Not a stable one that does not grow or shrink.

Let’s push this to an extreme: we don’t take any new resources from the natural world. All energy is renewable and we recycle absolutely everything. This would definitely be a very green (and Green) economy and it would certainly be sustainable.

So, can we have economic growth in this? Yes, in fact we can, as Daly himself points out. For GDP is “the value of goods and services produced”. Clearly, we can increase the volume produced to increase GDP. But we can also increase GDP by increasing the value of what we produce. What do we call a new method of adding more value? We call it technological change.

Various different types of this of course: perhaps we’ve a new method of plating gold onto connectors on computer cards. This reduces the amount of gold we have to use to make a computer card. Thus we can make more computer cards in this next generation of them from the gold we get from recycling the old ones.

(As a matter of fact, such gold plating has gone from perhaps 200 nm to 2 nm over the past 30 odd years.)

Or perhaps we know more about how to route the copper threads through those computer cards. We can make the cards able to do more complex things using the same amount of copper. We’ve added value.

Excellent, even within our very strict green constraints on hte economy we’ve still got economic growth from technological advance.

Which is what Daly is saying about a steady state economy. It isn’t one which is stable, rather, it’s one that only grows at the speed of technological advance.

Perhaps 1 or 2 % a year instead of the 2-3 % a year of the 20th century.

“Same physical resources, more human input, maximising its value,”

No, that’s silly. More labour input does not mean a rise in value. That’s either Marxist silliness of the Labour Theory of Value or entirely barking mad. As with Caroline Lucas (good grief, this was even in your manifesto!) running around shouting that green energy is lovely because it requires more human labour. Fools: we want to reduce inputs, not increase them. By doing so we then have those inputs available to do something else.

You wouldn’t say that producing energy using twice as much oil as necessary is a good thing so why on earth would you say that using twice as much labour is a good thing?

Interesting post.

As ecosocialists like Derek Wall point out, economic growth is measured in terms of exchange values not use values. Consumerism is currently the main driver for this kind of “growth” but – similar to what you say about antiques – society would be far better served if we focused on creating products that endure, that can be maintained and repaired, rather than on making toys and trinkets to be discarded when no longer fashionable.

As an alternative both to unsustainable models of capitalist growth and the failed central planning model of undemocratic state socialism, Wall offers a model of the economy based on the commons and social sharing. You’re potentially moving towards the same set of ideas when you talk about separating good growth from bad.

However, I think your assertion that that “a zero growth economy” leads to “the sort of contraction in living standards that we’re desperately trying to fight off at the moment” is a little misleading since it implicitly defines growth as the exchange value model of growth. Nor do I think it’s fair to say that “Greens don’t like growth” for the same reason.

The last thing Greens need is to embrace the old, failed models of economic growth. What many Greens are doing is rethinking what economic growth means and looking at ways of building a more equitable and sustainable society. That to me is what we desperately need, not the dubious promises of a “knowledge economy”.

“Wall offers a model of the economy based on the commons and social sharing.”

What?

Umm, under a commons system, how do you limit access to scarce resources? Haven’t you ever heard of the Tragedy of the Commons? Good grief, just about every environmental disaster, from over fishing through the Aral Sea to climate change itself is based on this basic problem.

And you want to return to a system that is based on ignoring this problem?

“exchange values not use values”

Dribble, pure cant. Exchange values are simply people’s estimations of aggregate use value.

@3

Oh come on Tim, the conclusions of Tragedy of the Commons simply derive from Hardin’s assumptions that everyone seeks to maximise their returns. He’s fed in his prejudices and got them out again at the end.

There is absolutely no evidence that private ownership avoids the so-called problems he claimed to identify in that essay.

Access to the commons based on usufruct can work. Things like libraries, car pools and allotments are really not such an extreme idea.

A few rejoiners –
*When Sunny says keep it to 500 words some of the nuances get lost. So…
*Stuart – yes, advertising can be useful when it’s informational but a lot of advertising is more insidious than that. Somehow ad executives and fashion editors can publish sexualised images of 14 year old girls and that’s OK. And I know that middle aged guys should accept that a shiny new BMW neither makes them look like Daniel Craig, nor weakens the knees of 20 something women (not the ones I know anyway) but they play on our insecurities shamelessly. I like the Douglas Adams solution – sadly not yet available 😉 PS I’d love your iPad too, but I’ll live without…
*Tim Worstall – more labour input maximising (or perhaps better increasing) value – you think is a silly notion? Really? What the heck is technological advance then? What have you just pointed out Herman Daly argues (which sounds remarkably similar to what I’m arguing)? You can take a piece of wood and turn out a badly made chair or you can take a piece of wood and make a beautiful chair that will be cherished for generations. Same resources, more skill input. I’d say that was a pretty simple concept. We’re not talking digging holes and paying people to fill them in again here – we’re talking about how skilled human beings can add value to a given quantity of physical resources through ingenuity and through applying their skills and knowledge. We increase the human input into the value side… Where exactly are you going – I don’t follow at all. Using more labour is a good thing because resources are finite and human resources are a renewable…and are growing…
*Tim Hardy – I broadly agree with all that – the real point I’m making here is if we talk about no growth people read that as zero growth. Zero growth makes no sense… I’m talking about different growth. Moreover where more value is derived from the human input than control of resources it has the potential to promote greater equality. I’m not saying the knowledge economy is a panacea, just that certain types of economic activity tend to promote less growth of a bad sort than others.
*Tim Worstall again – if you read other contemporary sources, such as William Cobbett (partisan but also a farmer and an employer) you’ll hear another side to the issue of enclosure – that it was inefficient and actually lead to land being misused and trashed.
“Downs [i.e. hilly grazing land], most beautiful and valuable too, have been broken up by the paper system; and, after three or four crops to beggar them, have been left to be planted with docks and thistles, and never again to present that perpetual verdure, which formerly covered their surface, and which, while it fed innumerable flocks, enriched the neighbouring fields.”
So I don’t buy the ‘Tragedy of the Commons’ – commons, managed in common were often a model of sustainability – what Hardin talked about was unregulated and free access resources – think the gold rush or the underpoliced common fisheries policy – which have been destructive.

Sorry my last comment was meant for @4 not @3 (not talking to myself yet!)

@6 yes, I agree, it’s hard to get the terms right and it’s important to do so if we are to debate this without seeming silly or self-evidently wrong.

I appreciate that you’re not seeing the “knowledge economy” as a panacea – I just have a knee-jerk reaction to the term.

I think Tim Worstall makes some really useful points here frankly and it demonstrates why greens (and everyone else I suppose) need to get a better understanding of what they mean by growth.

It’s particularly galling to see people denounce GDP as a poor measure of the economy in one breath (which it is of course) and then demand GDP does not grow in the next, as if GDP was the most useful or even only decent measure of the ecological impact of the economy.

Personally I’d be for forgetting the obsession with ‘growth’ entirely and for focusing on measures that reflect more directly what we care about – in this instance our impact on the climate, on the environment more generally and social inequality/prosperity.

@9

Personally I’d be for forgetting the obsession with ‘growth’ entirely and for focusing on measures that reflect more directly what we care about – in this instance our impact on the climate, on the environment more generally and social inequality/prosperity.

I’ll drink to that – but the trouble is that we can’t ignore the issue of growth because it is being used to justify political changes that have a negative impact.

What you might call “the growth narrative” is used by Conservatives and Lib Dems to justify policies that harm the environment and workers and increase inequality: minimum wage, green legislation, etc are repeatedly sold to the public as harmful “red tape” that damages growth.

Because of this we cannot ignore the issue even if we think it is a distraction.

“more labour input maximising (or perhaps better increasing) value – you think is a silly notion? Really? What the heck is technological advance then? ”

Almost always the substitution of a machine for human labour actually.

“we’re talking about how skilled human beings can add value to a given quantity of physical resources through ingenuity”

I agree with that but that’s not “labour” in the sense economists usually use the term. It’s ingenuity, not labour.

“Using more labour is a good thing”

No, not at all. For two different reasons.

1) Opportunity cost. You lot always forget this. If we’ve got people spending 160 hours making a lovely table then that means we’ve not got 160 hours being used to tend to babies, finding the cure for cancer, supping pints or building windmills. We want to be economical withour use of labour just as we want to be economical with our use of any other resource.

2) The aim is to increase lesiure time, the time we’re free to do as we wish, not to increase the hours we have to work. If we really wanted to increase the amount of work to do we’d forget about windmills and just sit everyone on bicylces with a dynamo.

“what Hardin talked about was unregulated and free access resources – think the gold rush or the underpoliced common fisheries policy – which have been destructive.”

Yes, exactly. To state it as Hardin himself stated it: when you have free acess to a resource (ie, Marxian access) and demand for that resource exceeds capacity of that resource, then you must have a limitation on access to the resource. This can be done by private (capitalist) means or social (socialist) means.

That’s what he himself actually said and just forget all about the land commons, it’s a description of a much more basic problem than that.

“There is absolutely no evidence that private ownership avoids the so-called problems he claimed to identify in that essay. ”

Snigger. So private farmland in the UK is less productive than the few remaining commons, is it?

They’ve not had to close Kinder Scout to unlimited access as a result of the effects of unlimited access? Individual Tradeable Quotas are not solving fishing allocation and stock problems around the world?

“Access to the commons based on usufruct can work. Things like libraries, car pools and allotments are really not such an extreme idea.”

As Hardin himself pointed out. As I point out from time to time. As everybody who has spent more than 30 seconds agreeing with their prejudices agrees. Different resources will perform better with different methods of limitation to access. “It depends” see? But as also everyone agrees, limitations on access there must be.

It really is worth reading some of the mainstream research on this stuff you know. Elinor Ostrom got the Nobel largely for her work on this very point. Where will communal or social systems of acess limitation work and where won’t they? What are the things in common (sorry) with those systems that do work, what do those attempts that have not worked got in common?

One of her findings is that once you go past a couple of thousand people with access then social, communal, methods tend to stop working. So you’re left with only the other of Hardin’s possible methods: the private property one.

It’s a relief to see an environmentalist who has grasped that economic growth need not be a bad thing. However I think you’re in for a tough time selling the idea that the kind of austerity you envision, that Not Having Nice Things is a good thing.

One of the worst things about greens is how they seem to gleefully trumpet every hair shirt policy they advocate as if we all deserve it. There’s an unpleasant echo of puritanical immolation of the body for the good of the soul.

How do these ideas play out in the developing world, where economies need to grow to improve life expectancies and quality of life so that they can live well? How does that affect what you propose for us in the developed world?

@11

Snigger. So private farmland in the UK is less productive than the few remaining commons, is it?

Whether it’s more or less productive is irrelevant to the argument (unless you assume that population growth will continue unchecked until we’re desperately squeezing every last drop out of the natural world).

Thank you for the reference to Elinor Ostrom’s work. I don’t know it and I will take a look at it. Is there any particular essay or book you’d recommend I read?

Her Wikipedia entry has a good list of her work.

The actual entry isn’t all that good though, claiming that she shows how communal resource can be managed communally without government or privatisation. Umm, no, what she’s done is explore the limits of communal management, what is possible without Hardin’s either government or privatisation. Beyond her mlimits those are still needed.

And it’s very important indeed to note that she’s still not trying to overturn Hardin: she’s still insiting that it must be possible to exclude access to the resource, that it cannot be open access.

@14

Thanks Tim. I’ll start there then.

You going to explain where this 20% population increase comes from though?
It’s not from Brits (certainly not English) having lots of babies that’s for sure.

The increase is in immigration (mostly Asian/Muslim) and ethnic minority (mostly Asian/Muslim) birth rates.

Why not tackle that problem? Then you could have your greener stable economy.

Jonathan, have you heard of environmentalist writer Derrick Jensen? He puts it like this: you can’t have infinite growth on a finite planet.

I suggest you check him out. Especially his book “Endgame”.

@4 Tim Worstall: how do you limit access to scarce resources? Haven’t you ever heard of the Tragedy of the Commons?

Some goods, such as information, can be copied infinitely for zero cost, so they are not scarce. Of course, organisations such as the RIAA and MPAA want to make them artificially scarce, so they can extract an unfair economic rent from them, but history is against them as the Pirate Party’s historic win in Berlin on Sunday demonstrates.

Exchange values are simply people’s estimations of aggregate use value.

Nonsense. Exchange value, in general, tends to be lower than use value. For example, if I see a cup in a shop priced at £1, I’m not going to buy the cup unless I value it more than a pound. Nor is anyone else going to buy anything (to use), unless they think using it is worth more than what they have to pay for it.

For similar reasons, the cost of producing something is generally less than the exchange value. So production cost < price < use value.

“you can’t have infinite growth on a finite planet. ”

This is nonsense. As above, we’ve just agreed that we can have an increase in value created as a result of technological advance. Economic growth is defined as value created therefore, physical limits do not apply to economic growth as a binding constraint.

Now, if economic growth necessarily meant physical growth then the statement would be true. But, as above, we’ve just shown that this ain’t true and therefore this trite phrase ain’t so.

Oh, no, it’s very true. Unless “value created” never translates into “more stuff”. By which we will presumably have people working harder, but not making or consuming more than the year before.

@Tim Woorstall – are you simply trying to be cucced?;

“more labour input maximising (or perhaps better increasing) value – you think is a silly notion? Really? What the heck is technological advance then? ”

Almost always the substitution of a machine for human labour actually.”

> and the technological advance comes about how? Human effort. Just because there’s no pick axe doesn’t mean it’s not labour….

“we’re talking about how skilled human beings can add value to a given quantity of physical resources through ingenuity”

I agree with that but that’s not “labour” in the sense economists usually use the term. It’s ingenuity, not labour.

> in an age where white collar workers pay a fortune to live in victorian working people’s two-up/two-downs it’s labour. This is semantics. i’m talking about human input of all kinds, not just manual graft – I’ll take ingenuity. Ingenuity doesn’t consume resources as of itself. It can utilise them more efficiently. The human dimension as opposed to the resource dimension is the key area where we can make use of resources – and the physical resource area is the one where we have to husband what we have wisely.

“Using more labour is a good thing”

No, not at all. For two different reasons.

1) Opportunity cost. You lot always forget this. If we’ve got people spending 160 hours making a lovely table then that means we’ve not got 160 hours being used to tend to babies, finding the cure for cancer, supping pints or building windmills. We want to be economical withour use of labour just as we want to be economical with our use of any other resource.

> For Pete”s sakes Tim – I’m not pitching some agrarian paradise – I’m talking about all sorts of human activity from furniture making to finding a cure for cancer – or for the tea party for that matter – if there are limited physical resources using renewable resources to utilise them to the best effect, to make good, durable aesthetic items as opposed to ‘land-fill here we come’ is a good use of available human resources – so is finding a cure for cancer – something that generally consumers more brain wattage than trees or minerals.

2) The aim is to increase lesiure time, the time we’re free to do as we wish, not to increase the hours we have to work. If we really wanted to increase the amount of work to do we’d forget about windmills and just sit everyone on bicylces with a dynamo.

> well that’s something mechanisation hasn’t delivered on despite the promise of the post-war years. People are still working crazy hours. Yes – we could also have more leisure time and that would almost certainly make more opportunities for the creative sector as it’s leisure focused. It’s not really my point – you’re conjuring a mental image of something I’m simply not intending.

Snigger. So private farmland in the UK is less productive than the few remaining commons, is it?

> Come on – you’re clearly a pretty intelligent guy. You know that the remaining commons, in the sense of common land, have become a leisure resource and aren’t in production. It’s not a point that does you much credit. We’re talking about the commons of the 18th century and the notion that enclosure was necessarily efficient. If you want to talk about the modern commons tallk about the interweb – that is very much a commons, though one under threat, much of whose infrastructure (open BSD/FreeBSD/Unix etc) is the result of voluntary and collaborative efforts; (also think Wikipedia – measure that one against Ostrom’s findings). There’s a strong ccase that the open nature of the net actually fosters economic patterns (ones that bear a passing resemblance to the collaborative models of the commons of previous ages) than control would stifle and it’s a topic I will return to. It’s a phenomenon with considerable potential to create the kind of growth I’m talking about wanting to nurture while cutting the kinds of economic activity that is harmful to the planet.

@truth – there have been plenty of periods of population growth in this country which have had nothing to do with immigration. However the point was more a mathematical than a sociological one. Let’s just hope the Spanish, black South Africans, Maoris, the native Australians, even native Americans don’t kick out all their British immigrants. We’d be swamped…

@ Mary – will check him out – and I get the point. The question is how we can accommodate a growing population and make good use of the extra human capacity without plundering our environment. Of course we need to address population. If we don’t nature probably will, however I’d rather we were able to persuade, education and support rather than population building to the point of collapse. It’s a big issue and a very emotive one – any suggestion you want too see a population slide and Godwin’s law is proven true pretty fast – however as I said it”s a multiplier on all our other problems. We can’t wish it away.

@17. Mary Tracy: “you can’t have infinite growth on a finite planet.”

Our planet’s resources are not finite. The sun, an energy source, will be around for a while I understand. The earth and moon, as they wobble through space, create tides, another source of energy.

If you are bothered about making stuff, energy is a constraint. But for our planet, energy is not finite because the universe is throwing it at us.

“You know that the remaining commons, in the sense of common land, have become a leisure resource and aren’t in production.”

Tell that to the commoners of Minchinhampton.

Or didn’t you realise that enclosure was not 100%?

“This is semantics.”

Indeed, and defining your terms is extremely important. The Green Party Manifesto, at the last GE, actually said that renewables were better *because* they required more human labour. That is simple stupidity.

Now, if you want to say that human thinking, how to get away without having to use human labour, is a good idea then yes, I agree with you. But that means that neither you nor I do with the party that you seem to belong to.

“well that’s something mechanisation hasn’t delivered on despite the promise of the post-war years. People are still working crazy hours.”

Complete crap. Total working hours have been falling decade upon decade ever since the industrial revolution. You’re making the usual mistake of only measuring paid, market, working hours. Unpaid, household, production hours have been falling tremendously. This is why we all have more leisure time than our grandparents did.

Something which the usual idiots at nef seem to want to reverse. “We should do more for ourselves”, more allotments, more slow cooking, more domestic production of things. This is, even though they’re too stupid to realise it, an increase in working hours.

@23. Tim Worstall: “Unpaid, household, production hours have been falling tremendously. This is why we all have more leisure time than our grandparents did.”

When I first started to read this thread I was reminded of the “Tomorrow’s World” programmes that informed us that we’d be doing so little work (once the robots made stuff) that we’d be twiddling our thumbs. I pressed the button to tell the robot to hang out the washing; what do I do now?

“Tomorrow’s World” didn’t happen and it isn’t going to arrive soon. The human capacity to make unnecessary work is astounding. In 1980, Bob worked eight hours a day at his paid job and was worn out at the end of it. Tech improvements now mean that Bob works for seven hours a day, with higher productivity; and Bob goes home to spend his increased wage packet on household “improvements”, expending two hours of unpaid labour on a pointless exercise. I have to be blunt to Bob: your boyfriend’s choice of wallpaper is hideous and those tiles don’t line up. And you shouldn’t get into this “keep up with the Jones family” notion in the first place.

“Something which the usual idiots at nef seem to want to reverse. “We should do more for ourselves”, more allotments, more slow cooking…”

Slow cookers (devices that work on the principle of a hay box) deliver efficiency, in terms of time and energy.

23
Unfortunately Tim, your argument about leisure time suffers from the same false premise that using GDP to donate the wealth of a society does.
Putting aside the very wealthy, the largest number of people with the most leisure time are those who are unemployed, those on basic pensions and children.
Instead of redistributing wealth in the form of benefits, why not redistribute work and leisure?
Now I’m not being picky but aren’t you also being judgmental about what activities denote ‘leisure’, not very liberal is it, y’now, individualism and all that.

No, you need zero population growth and zero *inflation* to have a no-growth economy make sense…

And the creative industries in this country are up shit creek without a paddle. The games industry is dying, after the Tories cancelled the tax break we’d campaigned for a decade for (3.4 billion in investment lost, and counting), films central clearing house was abolished, giving them their worse year in a decade, and given lead times even more bad news is on the way, and and…

We *were* moving towards a knowledge economy. That movement is dead, slain by the ConDem’s. Take it up with them.

And “more renewables”, right, more people going cold and hungry in the winter. The green *dream*, unaffordable energy prices. No, Monbiot is right.

More renewables (perhaps, currently a faint hope, fusion), energy efficiency, better public transport, reforestation, less livestock farming plus a few other measures could easily halve our emissions in twenty years.

Ha ha ha ha.

Ha.

@27 pagar quoting OP: “More renewables (perhaps, currently a faint hope, fusion), energy efficiency, better public transport, reforestation, less livestock farming…”

None of us spotted the final three words of that quote. If there are fewer cows and pigs to shit on the land, there is less organic produce. Mixed agriculture is the norm for organic farmers.

29. So Much For Subtlety

More renewables (perhaps, currently a faint hope, fusion), energy efficiency, better public transport, reforestation, less livestock farming plus a few other measures could easily halve our emissions in twenty years.

So you want more organic farming with less animal manure to put on the fields? You will need more fields, but you want more reforestation which means less area left over for farming? You don’t think there is a little bit of a contradiction?

I am against consumerism. Consumerism is powered by an industry devoted to the promotion of unhappiness; advertising.

Sorry but what is the evidence of this nonsense? What is the difference between buying stuff you like and buying stuff you don’t like except you don’t like it?

That void is a place which can be filled with faith, friendship and family, not with stuff, not even high grade stuff from Steve Jobs.

Faith, friendship and family? So basically a call to return to an imagined theocratic past? Like Tibet under the Dalai Lama or Mediaeval Europe?

No green in his or her right mind ought to be talking about anything that smacks of coercion, let alone worse.

Why not? If you believe this tripe, isn’t it worth defending? If the world is about to end, what does it matter if you slaughter thousands to avert that? The problem is that apocalyptic views have their own logic. You cannot insist on the first part of that belief without accepting the second.

Let’s buy less stuff but buy better stuff.

So the proles have to do without tables?

“So the proles have to do without tables?”

Conversation ends. It is impossible to conduct a rational, polite debate with SMFS.

“Putting aside the very wealthy, the largest number of people with the most leisure time are those who are unemployed, those on basic pensions and children.”

Sure, and what’s that got to do with what I said? Which was that we all now have more leisure than our grandparents did? Which we do.

“Now I’m not being picky but aren’t you also being judgmental about what activities denote ‘leisure’, not very liberal is it, y’now, individualism and all that.”

In time use stdues we divide time into four parts. Personal time: no one else can sleep for you, eat for you. Unpaid household production (cooking, cleaning, laundry, maintenance), paid market hours and the balancing figure, leisure.

Things can move from one section to another of course: cooking can become a takeaway, instead of your household production you are consuming somone else’s market labour.

And yes, leisure had been increasing, dramatically. Market hours for women have risen, fallen for men. And household production hours have fallen massively for everyone, leading to greater leisure time.

And the international comparisons are very revealing too. American women have more leisure hours than German women. More market hours, yes, but many fewer household hours.

And France, you know, that short working week? French men have less leisure time than English men.

https://www.h2.scb.se/tus/tus/StatMeanMact1.html

“Slow cookers (devices that work on the principle of a hay box) deliver efficiency,”

Not what I mean. The slow cooking movement, people who really do believe that we shoudl all spend more time cooking.

32. Torquil Macneil

“Now, if you want to say that human thinking, how to get away without having to use human labour, is a good idea then yes, I agree with you. ”

I agree too. But, of course, to et more human thinking we need more human brains, which means more humans. That is why technological advance is linked so tightly to population growth in a (usually) virtuous circle. Just imagine how productive of new ideas China could be if it were released from the dead and of the Party. It stymies all those theories of ‘population control’ though.

33. So Much For Subtlety

30. Charlieman

Conversation ends. It is impossible to conduct a rational, polite debate with SMFS.

I have always found it impossible to have a dialogue with those who refuse to listen.

But go back and look at what the OP wants – he wants everyone to have nice tables like those they used to make and are now antiques. Sure. So do I. But of course if every table was a unique hand crafted piece made from walnut, they would be a thousand quid each. And of course no working class person could afford one.

Rolls Royce cars are made that way. The Volkwaggon was not. I would like everyone to be rich enough to afford a RR, but in the real world there is always going to be a place for the cheap and cheerful car. Otherwise the poor, the young, first car buyers and so on won’t have one. Now that may be a delight to Greens but it does mean the proles won’t get their tables.

Against consumerism…

Oh no not the anti-consumerism warriors dedicated to protecting us from advertising for our own good.

You’re going to spread your message without advertising it presumably? Or should you be the arbiter of what is virtuous enough to be advertised?

I am against consumerism. Consumerism is powered by an industry devoted to the promotion of unhappiness; advertising. Having made people miserable, advertising holds out the promise that the void within can be filled with consumer crap. It can’t. That void is a place which can be filled with faith, friendship and family, not with stuff, not even high grade stuff from Steve Jobs.

I’m not trading my iPhone for . If your alternative to consumerism is the consolation of Sky Pixies you can shove it.

If you don’t have consumerism – and advertising – you don’t have consumption

No consumption, no production

No production, no jobs/i (Steve or otherwise)

Italics fail

“I’m not trading my iPhone for . If your alternative to consumerism is the consolation of Sky Pixies you can shove it.”

Quite. Isn’t the issue wastefulness, rather than consumerism?

Here’s an idea: Gunter Pauli and his Zero Emissions Research Initiative, http://www.zeri.org/ZERI/Home.html . Innovation in finding users for waste rather than burying it somewhere.

We’ll be digging out our old landfills in time, when the price of the metals in them is high enough.

Of course, we could be mining them for the long chains of carbon in the plastics they contain, but hang on, those eco warriors insisted that bags should biodegrade, losing those valuable C-C chains. Talk about the road to hell being paved with good intentions.

We really need to be smart in dealing with the environmental issues we face. As others have said above, nuclear is the best option for our energy needs over the next couple of decades at least, preferably thorium fuelled. We also need to reduce carbon emissions and waste and find a way to grow enough food for everyone.

What stands in our way? AGW denialists, the teetering global economy and green politics. Why? Fossil fuel interests don’t want to lose their privileges (despite the fact that we’ll still need those C-C chains even if we stop burning them) and the Greens cannot drop their romantic opposition to genetic engineering and nuclear power.

31
The main problem with leisure is that it is unevenly spread with those who are unemployed having the time but not the money. whereas those in work have the money but less time. Instead of distributing wealth from the worker to the unemployed why not time and work. This way, those who are employed are not paying so much tax to keep those who are uinemployed. Job share is hardly a radical new idea.
With this new time, there are endless possibilites and choices eg cooking instead of buying food, dress-making, growing food, walking instead of taking the bus.
Sure there would initially be a decrease in consumer spending on things like travel, food etc but the market would soon balance out and the leisure industry would increase.
This would probably require a great deal of government intervention initially, but all would enjoy the time sections outlined in your post except pensioners and children who would not have market work time.

Steve, you’re missing the point.

“With this new time, there are endless possibilites and choices eg cooking instead of buying food, dress-making, growing food, walking instead of taking the bus.”

These things are all work. Doing less market work and more household work doesn’t increase the amount of leisure time that you’ve got.

Indeed, it probably (but not certainly) goes the other way. In market work you’ve got the division and specialisation of labour. Thus there’s more production for any given amount of labour input. In household work there’s much less of this. So we would expect less production for any given amount of labour input.

Less production for the same labour input means that we are poorer as a result.

“We’ll be digging out our old landfills in time, when the price of the metals in them is high enough.”

Amusingly, my current project is looking into exactly that. Is a dump of old crud from a communist mining enterprise currently worth enough to make it worth digging up again. Mebbe, mebbe not at present, should find out next week.

To talk about even a zero-growth economy, let alone a no-growth one, whilst millions of people in many countries do not have what must surely be the basic necessities of civilised life — sufficient food, running water, sewerage, electricity, proper shelter, education — is consigning the bulk of humanity to a miserable future.

Millions of people around the world need to have running water, the ability to dispose safely of waste, a dwelling that permits genuine shelter and comfort. Children and adults require education and a proper diet. All this requires vast resources. Think of all the materials that will be required just to provide running water, or to provide a reasonable dwelling. Think of the energy that will be required to be generated for this.

I think that the Green standpoints confuse two things: the lop-sided, wasteful system of production and consumption we currently have, and growth under a rational economic system. The world needs economic growth, and lots of it, to make life worth living; the question is to devise an economic system that permits this, one that is based first and foremost on human needs.

It’s good that the OP thinks we should be moving to a high value add economy, because that’s exactly what globalisation is doing to the West. Unfortunately, you haven’t specified what we do with all those people whose labour isn’t valuable enough in this environment to sustain themselves, which is what’s happening to the low-skilled.

These things are all work. Doing less market work and more household work doesn’t increase the amount of leisure time that you’ve got.

A point feminists have been making for decades.

45. Leon Wolfson

@31 – Yes, we just get paid for a smaller share of those work hours than the other EU countries, on average. That can and should be cracked down on, at a time of job shortages.

40
Tim, you are still falling into the trap of labelling activities according to your own ideas.
I was giving examples of how some people might spend their leisure time I wasn’t being prescriptive. Playing a game of football or tennis for an hour probably uses more energy than you or I do during an average working day.
And why do you think we need to do more housework because we start to spend more time away from market work?

As an addendum I think I need to point out that, as is the rule with publications both online and analogue, the writer doesn’t write the headline.
‘Why Greens need to embrace the idea of economic growth’ was not my choice of header and it doesn’t reflect the point I’m making.
I’m arguing that Greens don’t need to oppose growth per se, that growth in areas that doesn’t lead to all the problems I outlined is well worth considering, but that on the whole we haven’t managed to decouple growth from all the serious problems I refer to.
So, just to be clear, I am NOT saying Greens need to embrace growth. I am saying that we shouldn’t talk ourselves into a corner, and we should be clear about what it is we object to, and why, and that at the same time we need to offer a positive vision of an economy based on different values that offers people genuine hope – not a false promise of unending growth that brings with it disaster on a planetary scale.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Why Greens need to embrace the idea of economic growth http://t.co/lB8wd2fh

  2. Luke Homer

    Why Greens need to embrace the idea of economic growth | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/S5VmEuLM via @libcon Damn good point by @Jolph

  3. Clive Burgess

    Why Greens need to embrace the idea of economic growth http://t.co/lB8wd2fh

  4. Justin B

    RT @libcon: Why Greens need to embrace the idea of economic growth http://t.co/T8ZndTlI << or why the capitalist left are shit.

  5. Robin Green

    Why Greens need to embrace the idea of economic growth http://t.co/lB8wd2fh

  6. Greens and Growth « Left Outside

    […] have a green here trying to argue all sorts and come out pro-growth, so long as it is clean […]

  7. sunny hundal

    @little_mavis have a read of this http://t.co/KU7q7ZJm





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