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Prosperity without growth

GrudgeGrudge blessed is the mind too small for doubtRegistered User regular
edited December 2009 in Debate and/or Discourse
Sparked by the discussion on how our economy is based on continuous economic growth in this thread.

Is this possible? Liberal-hippie dream or necessary for the survival of humanity?

This report by the British Sustainable Development Commision ("The Government’s independent watchdog on sustainable development" according to themselves) seems to think it will be necessary in the future.

Download and read the report here.

From the foreword:
Every society clings to a myth by which it lives. Ours
is the myth of economic growth. For the last five
decades the pursuit of growth has been the single
most important policy goal across the world. The
global economy is almost five times the size it was
half a century ago. If it continues to grow at the
same rate the economy will be 80 times that size
by the year 2100.

This extraordinary ramping up of global economic
activity has no historical precedent. It’s totally at
odds with our scientific knowledge of the finite
resource base and the fragile ecology on which
we depend for survival. And it has already been
accompanied by the degradation of an estimated
60% of the world’s ecosystems.

Grudge on

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    KastanjKastanj __BANNED USERS regular
    edited December 2009
    Unless technology and its dividends accelerates at the same rate then, truly, we will hit the roof, and painfully so. The advance of technology has allowed us to get more utility and value for less invested time and other resources. The problem isn't in logistics, but in philosophy - consumerism and a religious belief in a market where consumers and producers always manage to adjust for their short-sightedness later (somehow) has replaced anything resembling a collective vision of the way forward.

    The individual is lonely and isolated in some aspects (culturally, origin-wise, socially), yet remains incapable of not affecting others/being affected by others in many aspects (politically, hustle-bustle of today's society), creating friction and ambiguity to solidarity. We have what we need at our disposal, but are generally way too stressed out and bothered with "the life-puzzle" (as the Swedish media in general has dubbed it) to make the best decisions or consider our fellow man and shared resources. We have empowered the common man incredibly and wonderfully, but have not enriched his mind the same way - so much of our educations are aimed at making good employees, while creativity and thinking suffers.

    Our advances are great and the hard work of innovators and scientists absolutely marvelous, but many in society lack a certain drive or personal prospects. Entropy sort of increases, until there is a small upheaval or hopeless conflict that never really becomes anything other than a small relief or distraction. I learned today that one quarter of Swedish GDP was lost in the 1920s because of strikes - that shows how much it costs to have gross imbalances and unresolved flaws become so ingrained in society that they have to be resolved by extreme action. So much is lost because there is not enough time and reason to resolve problems carefully and collectively in time.

    Kastanj on
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]
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    Emissary42Emissary42 Registered User regular
    edited December 2009
    After reading the summary of the report, I've got to disagree with several of the author's premises. The first of these is changing human behavior to have less of a materialistic streak - how many times in the past century did governments try to change that exact human behavior, and how many times did it actually work? The last time I checked, the number of successes was zero. You cannot count on changing human behavior for any reason, especially one so deeply rooted in human social interaction.

    The second point I disagree with is that continued growth is unsustainable. While traditional avenues for this may shrink over the coming century/ies, technological development has yet to fail us in this regard. The most recent proof of this is the abject failure of the predictions posited by the book The Population Bomb that widespread Malthusian famine would wrack the entirety of the world sometime during the 70's or 80's. We currently produce enough food to provide every living person on this planet with a 2700 calorie diet per day, and that number will remain static or even increase in the coming decades, despite population growth. Energy technology advances with each passing day. New mining and recycling techniques continuously add to the resources required by the global economy. And if you believe that even that will not be enough, our ability to reach space is now less expensive by an order of magnitude with the advent of robust commercial spaceflight. In other words, humanity will continue to expand in the ways we desire because we demand it.

    Emissary42 on
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    DelzhandDelzhand Hard to miss. Registered User regular
    edited December 2009
    Emissary42 wrote: »
    And if you believe that even that will not be enough, our ability to reach space is now less expensive by an order of magnitude with the advent of robust commercial spaceflight. In other words, humanity will continue to expand in the ways we desire because we demand it.

    Yeah, but where are we going to go? Unless we discover some super conductive, super lightweight, or super strong metals on a nearby planet or moon, how exactly does commercial spaceflight help us out?

    Delzhand on
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    Emissary42Emissary42 Registered User regular
    edited December 2009
    Delzhand wrote: »
    Emissary42 wrote: »
    And if you believe that even that will not be enough, our ability to reach space is now less expensive by an order of magnitude with the advent of robust commercial spaceflight. In other words, humanity will continue to expand in the ways we desire because we demand it.

    Yeah, but where are we going to go? Unless we discover some super conductive, super lightweight, or super strong metals on a nearby planet or moon, how exactly does commercial spaceflight help us out?
    Steel & aluminum work just as well in space as they do here. I'm guessing your premise though is that we would want the materials for Earth - to which I respond that's a bad idea, because developing new mining technologies would be cheaper than breaking up asteroids and sending them to Earth. The point of going to space is it allows us to increase the usable land available to humanity, since that's probably easier to do than make an artificial continent, or even floating cities.

    Emissary42 on
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    DelzhandDelzhand Hard to miss. Registered User regular
    edited December 2009
    I guess I still don't see how commercial spaceflight helps us out. Of the planets we can reach in anything close to a human lifespan, there aren't any that can sustain life - we can't turn Mars into a garden capable of supporting a great number of people.

    Delzhand on
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    Emissary42Emissary42 Registered User regular
    edited December 2009
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    Modern ManModern Man Registered User regular
    edited December 2009
    We could increase prosperity for literally hundreds of millions of people in the world very, very quickly if their governments changed to democratic systems with a strong rule of law, property rights, an independent judiciary etc.

    Obviously, that's not likely to happen anytime soon in most third world hellholes. But my point is that much, if not most, of the poverty in the world isn't caused by scarcity of resources (Singapore has no resources to speak of, but is rich, while Nigeria is resource-rich, but its citizens are poor), but by screwed up governments and cultures.

    It's basically Western navel-gazing to suggest that, for the large majority of the world's citizens, prosperity is in any way possible without massive economic development.

    Modern Man on
    Aetian Jupiter - 41 Gunslinger - The Old Republic
    Rigorous Scholarship

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    tbloxhamtbloxham Registered User regular
    edited December 2009
    Modern Man wrote: »
    We could increase prosperity for literally hundreds of millions of people in the world very, very quickly if their governments changed to democratic systems with a strong rule of law, property rights, an independent judiciary etc.

    Obviously, that's not likely to happen anytime soon in most third world hellholes. But my point is that much, if not most, of the poverty in the world isn't caused by scarcity of resources (Singapore has no resources to speak of, but is rich, while Nigeria is resource-rich, but its citizens are poor), but by screwed up governments and cultures.

    It's basically Western navel-gazing to suggest that, for the large majority of the world's citizens, prosperity is in any way possible without massive economic development.

    You mean social and governmental development? The creation of institutions to encourage and guide the investment of capitol, and guaruntee it's safety from both violence and corruption, whether institutional or private. Until a country has that, it will always screw itself over. It's this reason why Spain is a good place to do business, and say, Uganda is not.

    tbloxham on
    "That is cool" - Abraham Lincoln
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