March 22, 2009

Thomas Friedman: "We Must Have Growth"

Thomas Friedman states the obvious:
Let’s today step out of the normal boundaries of analysis of our economic crisis and ask a radical question: What if the crisis of 2008 represents something much more fundamental than a deep recession? What if it’s telling us that the whole growth model we created over the last 50 years is simply unsustainable economically and ecologically and that 2008 was when we hit the wall — when Mother Nature and the market both said: “No more.”
What on earth is so radical about this view? It is a perfectly acceptable possibility. It is truly sad that he feels the need to explicitly step out of the “normal boundaries” to even contemplate such an idea.

Later on he gets to his policy descriptions:
We must have growth, but we must grow in a different way. For starters, economies need to transition to the concept of net-zero, whereby buildings, cars, factories and homes are designed not only to generate as much energy as they use but to be infinitely recyclable in as many parts as possible.
Yes. Let's abolish the second law of thermodynamics. That will solve all our energy needs.

While greater efficiency is a good goal, what is it with the “we must have growth” meme? It is absolutely not true. We could very well go on with a lot less than we have, after all, our grandparents certainly did. We could produce less, we could consume less, we could travel less.

The only thing that necessitates growth (beyond population growth) is the current state of the banking system, which is built to withstand total collapse only in the presence of continuous growth. If the economy was not based on such huge amounts of debt, there would be no need for continuous growth.

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