Weary of the growth fetish

Apparently we aren’t allowed to question economic growth, or ‘the growth fetish’ as one renegade Australian economist puts it. The fact is, we have slowly started to move toward thoughts of social equity, painfully slowly, but out of the mouth of David Cameron, the Conservative leader in Britain:

“It’s time we admitted that there’s more to life than money, and it’s time we focused not just on GDP, but on GWB – general wellbeing.
Wellbeing can’t be measured by money or traded in markets.
It can’t be required by law or delivered by government. It’s about the beauty of our surroundings, the quality of our culture, and above all the strength of our relationships.”

Those with an historic bent will recognise that a former leader of Britain’s Conservative Party was Ronnie Reagan collaborator Maggie Thatcher. John Howard’s replacement as conservative leader downunder once asked:

“Towards what are we striving to grow?”

I lie of course on growth, I am not totally opposed to growth. I want to see growth in our social and creative infrastructure, growth in sustainable resource use. I want to see growth in our engagement with the policy development process and, God forbid, a growth in real democratic practices.

The trouble with the market growth fetishists is they’re always confusing quantity with quality – or refusing to admit that the former comes partly at the expense of the latter. As the guy who coined the growth fetish (Clive Hamilton) put it:

“…there is far too much emphasis on promoting economic growth over other things that affect our wellbeing.”

5 thoughts on “Weary of the growth fetish”

  1. I remember reading recently that at least one country really does maintain a ‘wellbeing’ index. Was it Finland? Sweden? Well one of the Scandinavian countries to be sure. Which squares with my impressions of the people here in the US who are of Swedish and Norwegian descent–much more concerned, in general, with the well being and happiness of the people in their communities.

  2. here, here! I am all for the growth of well being and against the growth of the upper, upper classes. they are bloated beyond all measure and their gas is making me nauseous.

  3. Well said Cartledge. It would be great to have leaders that actually cared about our quality of life, and not the dividends from their side ventures (Dick Cheney, I’m talkin’ to you). I’m really hoping the economic shakedown the U.S. is experiencing right now will cause people to look inward and realize they don’t need more money or things, they need quality of life. People seem to have forgotten that money can’t buy happiness.

  4. But if we all have more money and are all millionaires, then we’ll all have a high quality of life! Until we get to the store and see the $7,000 gallon of milk.

    I won’t lie, there’s a part of me that in a few hundred years – ’cause I have a time machine – when global warming has fucked everything up and there IS no stable economy to speak of, I’ll be able to enjoy a final gasp of schadenfreude before I expire from dehydration. Told you, you fucking über-capitalists. Where’s your messi – er, economy now!

  5. Kvatch, Norway is supposed to be the best country to live in. It always strikes me as odd, but Scandinavian countries do have a reputation.

    Lib, Here, here!

    Frogette, you would think the rising levels of depression would be telling us something.

    Randal, you need some wellbeing now by the sound of it ;)

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