“The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed. ” Gandhi
Today my good friend, Dr Brendan Barrett, at the United Nations University (UNU) published an excellent article in the Our World 2.0 web site titled “Japan as the new normal: Living in a constrained economy”.
In this post Brendan proposes that perhaps we are facing a new economic reality where endless economic growth is no longer the assumed normal state.
I think these are timely and excellent insights as most of the world faces negative or very weak economic growth and our national reserve banks are performing ever more fantastic economic interventions in increasingly desperate attempts to stimulate growth of any kind.
Getting the world’s economic systems to go back into growth requires such extraordinary efforts because the financial systems are grossly inflated with dubious credit instruments (bonds and investments) that have not been allowed to unwind into default, as they would have done under normal market conditions.
The natural order of things after such a debt bubble is for the world’s financial system to de-leverage the speculative debt into bankruptcies and defaults.
These moments of de-leveraging of speculative bubbles have occurred many times in the past. They are painful events for societies and especially for the individuals and organizations that have gambled with high risk investment speculations. Fortunately recoveries after the market has been allowed to de-leverage a bubble can be rapid as we are seeing with Iceland at the moment.
As you will have gathered from my earlier posts, I think that these high risk speculators were very happy to take the positive profits from their activities and should therefore take the negative consequences (losses) when their gamble fails. Otherwise it is like a gambler at the Roulette table who keeps any profit when he wins but is given his original bet money back when he loses.
Yes it’s tough to take responsibility for one’s actions but it is part of life and learning. Such de-leveraging events reward more cautious responsible investors who have avoided high risk speculation because they can then acquire the assets of the organizations that go bankrupt at lower prices; creating stronger prudent organizations and fewer irresponsible organizations.
Our current leaders have decided to intervene in this natural process. I have written elsewhere about possible reasons for these interventions.
What I would like to talk about today, in response to Brendan’s excellent article, is to question the entire creed of endless growth as a moral good. As Brendan says we can live well without economic growth, we can also live well without endless growth in our possessions.
Advancement is not about having expensive things or more of them. It is about making a commitment to a better world. It is about becoming leaders who are dedicated to improving their organizations, their society and themselves to be the best they can become.
This does not mean ever increasing profit. Or production lines that consume the finite world’s resources to produce products designed to fail rather than endure, that are designed to be replaced rather than repaired; and are modified every season so last seasons model must be discarded in favor of the later model.
Why not design things of ever greater quality, reliability and efficiency? What is wrong with possessions that last many lifetimes and that can be repaired? Why not design for these criteria?
Our Creed of Consumption has made Humanity like a bacteria growing wildly in an infected host, doomed to die when it has consumed all the resources.
I believe we have the potential to be better than an infection on a tiny blue planet – doomed by our own weakness to consume everything until we die on a barren wasteland of our own making.
We have intelligence, we are rational and we have free will.
True advancement for our species is to use our free will to exercise self control and to use our intelligence so we can design sustainable lifestyles. We can do this – all we have to do is try.