I think it is generally agreed that everything in nature has a cycle of growth and decay.
The exception seems to be modern capitalism which seeks to achieve continual growth – money has to be continually accumulated and never lose value, and of course the company itself once duly ‘incorporated’ (that is ‘made into a body’) never gets, as it were, unincorporated – and dies . Unless it happens to go bust it is everlasting. These things are considered ‘givens’ in capitalism but they are at heart completely unnatural. That is I think, why the motivation for the current neoliberal capitalism, that we are all rampant individualists, and if we are not, we ought to be, is also highly suspect.
I was therefore pleased to see an article in Open Democracy: ‘Economic growth: a short history of a controversial idea’ which implied that the whole concept of growth might actually simply be a way of explaining a lack of social wellbeing. Growth implies a diverse and increasing range of opportunities for everyone and suggests that economic growth is the solution. Thus people of whatever heritage or whatever means are led to believe that they too, could be successful because growth would automatically allow them to take advantage of the extra opportunities. We now know that while growth has certainly happened, its benefits have been appallingly unequallly distributed. Indeed the recent policy of austerity, ‘in order to encourage growth’ encourages only diminuished confidence in everything. The goal seems to be to concentrate prosperity, and to spread poverty. Yet, in economic terms, every single person is actually a state ‘asset’.
Thrusting capitalists like to speak of ‘sweating the assets’ but if you have people on the scrapheap because you won’t spend money on education or skills then you are hardly ‘sweating the assets’. You are in fact driving down your country and the people in the economy, and indeed the economy itself. All prosper less than they could as a result.
Although it has become routine to elide wealth and worth, to classify people in poverty as on a spectrum between “vulnerable” and “feckless”, and rich people as superior by definition, we now know that equality, because it puts a little money in a lot of hands, is actually a prosperity driver.
Of course, when when you’re accustomed to a certain privilege, such equality may well feel something like some sort of oppression. (As today’s governments could well suggest.)
If we can get out of ‘growth’ and just opt for rewarding economic activity for all it would be a better sort of social contract…
Indeed this seems a lot like the Green New Deal.
When finally we realise that growth cannot be everlasting, perhaps, possibly, this will focus political thought – from its decayed state into one that is more realistic and necessarily radical?