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The Forum > Article Comments > Economic growth: a zero sum game > Comments

Economic growth: a zero sum game : Comments

By Cameron Leckie, published 25/11/2010

Growth, growth and more growth is the mantra of politicians, economists and media commentators the world round.

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"It is time for reform, not the minor tinkering that constitutes reform in current political debate, but fundamental change."

Don't tell me, lemme guess: centralised government control of everything?
Posted by Peter Hume, Thursday, 25 November 2010 9:57:25 AM
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This is the Achilles heel of capitalism. The elephant in the room that everyone studiously ignores. Capitalism is not possible without never-ending growth, both in output and consumption. The apologists for capitalism would have you believe that technology will solve any problems and the world is infinite. Any person who opens their eyes to reality will see this for the self serving, wishful thinking it is.

Capitalism worked well for a time of growth and development as we have gone through for the last 400 odd years but there comes a time, and that time is now, where we have to step back and say enough. We have grown, progressed and prospered well from capitalism but now it is becoming pathological and destructive. Both to our environment and our society. The endless wars, consumption and environmental crises that are all par for the course with capitalism will only worsen until people realise that it is the system of authoritarian social economics that we live under that is the root cause of it all.
Posted by mikk, Thursday, 25 November 2010 12:54:13 PM
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Common-sense does indeed demand radical change, but like all fundamentalisms, capitalism will go on extracting the last drop and the last penny unto total collapse and beyond. As you say Mikk, the apologists and devotees of the system refuse to acknowledge that one glaring and non-negotiable fact; that capitalism is based on endless growth in a closed system. As the author says, it grows or it implodes. Peak oil is shaping up as far more devastating than climate change (though they're part and parcel) because the effects will be dramatic, multivalent and concerted. We can continue to fob off climate change but peak oil, antithetical to capitalism, has the potential to halt everything with far more devastating effects than any political revolution.
Ironically, for once, the poor nations should fare much better than the wealthy ones, whose corpulent masses are so long remote from nature that they have no survival skills.
Interesting times ahead.
Posted by Squeers, Thursday, 25 November 2010 5:02:30 PM
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This is a hard article to digest. I donít believe the main tenet: that capitalism is inherently dependent on growth. That is; dependent on the continuous expansion of supply and demand.

There is no reason why we canít develop healthy capitalistic regimes with stable economies and populations. Some western European countries and small island states have essentially done this for a long time.

I canít see any reason why a political party couldnít be very successful if it pushed the line of a stable population and regime of sustainability, in Australia and in any developed country.

The Stable Population Party is up and running: http://www.populationparty.com/. Hopefully at the next federal election, theyíll be a force to be reckoned with.

With the help of Sustainable Population Australia: http://www.population.org.au/ and people like Dick Smith, Kelvin Thomson, Bob Carr, etc, and with a great deal of concern about continuous rapid growth in the general community, we CAN achieve the essential swing away from continuous expansionism in this country.

As for being prepared for peak oil, or more to the point; being prepared for rising fuel prices well before any shortages of supply hit us, it goes hand in hand with a regime of stable population and sustainability, and there should be no reason why we canít fully address it within our brand of democracy and capitalism.

But we really do need to get our collective headspace in order very soon.
Posted by Ludwig, Friday, 26 November 2010 6:00:43 AM
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Dear Ludwig
I find myself increasingly marginalised on OLO (which is as it should be since OLO is of course emblematic of the wider benighted community), which is good, it lends me objectivity.
OK, bully for you, you don't "believe" that capitalism is dependent on growth; why not? Can you defend your faith in solid-state capitalism (like cold-fusion) in the real world; that is, capitalism without the profit motive? How is this economic paradigm conceivable otherwise than as perpetual reinvestment in innovation and production? For money to circulate at all, capital must be reinvested in the next profit-making venture, i.e. growth. Growth is how we realise a surplus, and how (and why) new products and technologies are developed. Even supposing the economy was only grown sufficient to maintain current infrastructure against entropy (depreciation, if you prefer), where do the funds come from and how are they circulated? That is, how do we get the capitalists to circulate their money if there's not a pot of gold at the end of the production line? above and beyond the initial investment: growth?
I notice your populationparty says nothing about economics? So how, outside of the luxury of continuing to flog Australia's natural resources (which are no good to anyone without a growth market), does it propose Australia maintain its infrastructure (as well as continuously upgrading defence and medical breakthroughs and buying the latest commodities), for instance. And what about natural attrition; what do we do with the large percentage of mentally and physically ill, or just lazy and dysfunctional? They have to be maintained and replaced by the able-bodied, who might resent it unless they're properly remunerated.
Until the populationparty deals with economics, shows us the numbers, they're only dealing in bourgeois ideology. I agree that that we can live without growth, but such a dispensation would not BE capitalism.
It would be nice if, for once, someone on OLO actually thought about it before confabulating and defending their default ideology.
I don't expect a reply.
Posted by Squeers, Friday, 26 November 2010 12:59:05 PM
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* I agree that that we can live without growth, but such a dispensation would not BE capitalism.*

Sure it would be. I am one of those many capitalists, quite content
with their lot. I don't want more. I simply want to enjoy what I have.
I don't need the latest this and that. But I do need to be able to
make choices about my life, no Govt authority knows better.

Some people still want more. Growth is all about giving them more.

*We have grown, progressed and prospered well from capitalism*

Mikk, thank you for conceding that, it was my point all along.

Now if capitalism has been too successfull, to the point where we
are dragging too many people out of poverty, so that we run short
of things like oil, which is what the article is about, well there
is only one solution. Human innovation.

There is no system which allows for human innovation as capitalism
does. No Govt dept can legislate for change, as people themselves
can achieve, given the freedoms to do so. So if anything is going
to solve problems like energy, it will be human innovation.
Posted by Yabby, Friday, 26 November 2010 3:18:02 PM
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