What Would Life Without Growth Look Like?
I am not an economist. But when I look around, I can’t help but feel that the economic system we live in makes no sense.
In order to attain ever-increasing profitability, a company will slash employee wages and benefits while investors get better returns and CEO’s get bigger bonuses. When that isn’t enough, governments will offer to cut that same company’s taxes so that a country can have more of those low-wage jobs. When that isn’t enough, the governments will sacrifice health, safety and environmental regulations to “attract investment and jobs” while putting at risk our health and the quality of our air, water and soil. And when that isn’t enough, governments will attack labour unions removing the only counterbalance to corporate greed.
As a result, corporate profits grow and the wealthy become wealthier. But in a “race to the bottom”, the rest of us stagnate or have to live on less and less while we fight over the crumbs that have “trickled down”.
Meanwhile, through a combination of irresponsible management, continuous lowering of tax rates and the belief that cutting tens of thousands of public sector jobs is somehow good for an economy, provincial and federal governments are running out of money. Because of that, governments are unable to pay for the things our economy truly needs like a strong social “safety net”, world-class education and health care systems, funding for basic research, and investment into our infrastructure (including renewable energy sources). (Full disclosure: I am a teacher, which means that I am employed by the provincial government.)
For me, the ultimate illustration of the insanity of this system is how governments all around the world (including Canada) are willing to bend over backwards in order to make revenue off of the extraction of fossil fuels. Climate change is knocking on the door, threatening the collapse of our very civilization, and yet we still talk of new pipelines, fracking and offshore drilling.
The current system has to change.
But, what would the world without growth look like? Take a look at the video below (courtesy of The Tyee) to find out.