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Choosing ‘enough’ rather than ‘more’

Written By: - Date published: 6:05 am, September 18th, 2020 - 104 comments
Categories: business, covid-19, Economy - Tags: , , ,

Some snips from an interview about steady state economics with Rob Dietz, the Program Director of the Post Carbon Institute and co-author of Enough is Enough: Building a Sustainable Economy in a World of Finite Resources.

You can think of steady-state economics as a sustainable alternative to mainstream or neoclassical economics, which assumes perpetual growth of production and consumption. So steady-state economics is the study and practice of how to maintain an economy with a stable level of resource consumption and a stable population. Such an economy keeps material and energy use within ecological limits, and the unsustainable (and unrealistic) goal of continuously increasing income and consumption is replaced by the goal of improving quality of life for all. In short, the focus is enough rather than more.

Tara, not Tina then.

Let’s start by establishing working definitions of the terms “widespread prosperity” and “resource sustainability.” Widespread prosperity means that everyone is able to meet his or her basic needs for physical health and sustenance, plus some standard of comfort. No one lives in poverty, and daily life offers opportunities for fulfillment and enjoyment beyond toil just to stay alive.

Widespread prosperity is nicely aligned with left wing values.

Resource sustainability entails three operating rules: First, we use renewable parts of nature, such as trees and fish, no faster than they can regenerate. Second, we minimize the use of nonrenewable resources, such as fossil fuels and minerals, and find renewable substitutes over the long term. And third, we emit pollutants no faster than ecosystems can safely assimilate them.

Widespread prosperity + resource sustainability = green politics.

On what aspects need to remain steady and which can grow,

… it is important to consider what’s on and off the list of things to hold steady in a steady-state economy. Only a few items need to be held steady: The number of people, the total quantity of artifacts, and the quantity of material and energy flowing through the economy. In contrast, the list of items that can evolve is long. It includes knowledge, technology, information, wisdom, the mix of products, income distribution and social institutions. The goal is to have the items on this second list improving over time, so that the economy can develop qualitatively without growing quantitatively.

Looking at what can be done in a covid world,

An unplanned, unmanaged recession causes struggles and tough times, especially for those with lower incomes and less secure living arrangements. It’s hard, therefore, to talk about the positive consequences of such a thing. One way that makes sense is to view the COVID-19 recession as a harmful event that we don’t want to repeat and that we can learn from. The big question is how to go about avoiding a repeat of past mistakes. Doing the same thing as before – trying to coax more growth out of an already overgrown economy – makes no sense. We’ll continue to experience more environmental and social breakdown and more recessions. As proponents of degrowth frequently mention, there’s an acute difference between enacting fair policies that intentionally contract the economy over a set time period versus waiting for the next recession to blindside us from some disruption caused by consuming and polluting too much.

Changing to steady state requires regulation that require businesses to adapt to the new market, as well as systems that promote business models better suited to such an economy,

How can the private sector be brought along to support a steady-state economy?

One method of engaging the private sector is to enact steady-state policies, such as scientifically sound caps on resource use and emissions, and then let businesses cope and adapt. With such a policy, businesses would have to be much more efficient and careful with their use of materials and energy, but they would have the flexibility to respond in their own ways. There’s a certain hands-off appeal to this approach, but there are also good reasons to be more proactive. If we want to tamp down the growth imperative in the overall economy, then it makes sense to tamp it down in individual business – doing so means favoring business structures that work well in a non-growing economy (for example, cooperatives, nonprofits, and benefit corporations instead of typical shareholder-owned corporations).

In the end it’s about values,

How about businesses themselves? Would this require a complete rethinking of their purpose and raison d’être?

Much of business culture is about making money, but it doesn’t have to be that way. If businesses have social and environmental goals built into their DNA, they are far more likely to find innovative ways to stay in business while serving a public purpose. We all need to make ends meet, but we also all need meaning and purpose in our lives. The places where we work can be held accountable for achieving both of these aims.

Full interview at Resilience.

104 comments on “Choosing ‘enough’ rather than ‘more’ ”

  1. Robert Guyton 1

    My challenging the inclusion of the word, "prosperous" in the regional council's vision statement for Southland was met with blank stares from the councillors – whaddayamean???
    Voluntary austerity is worth discussing. Not a popular call though.

    • Pat 1.1

      It is not austerity however….and it is not even necessarily 'less' for a proportion of society, but I agree the concept is a difficult sell because it does mean considerable change and restrictions on some activities which many consider a 'right'

      • Robert Guyton 1.1.1

        I think we all should have less/fewer of the "things" that contribute to the buggering-up overall. Fewer non-essential fripperies.

        • Pat 1.1.1.1

          Many would agree with you…until it impinged on their choices

          • Robert Guyton 1.1.1.1.1

            Their choices or their God-given rights?

            • Pat 1.1.1.1.1.1

              as stated earlier, (for many) there is no distinction

              • Robert Guyton

                Either way, it's crashing the system. If that doesn't change, we lose.

                  • Robert Guyton

                    A new story has to be conceived, told and adopted by all. Then change will occur. Up till now, they’ve called that “religion”, but that’s been seen through and now we need a process with complete integrity; I wonder at Dennis’s “intelligent design” and how that might materialise.

                    • Pat

                      It does but I suspect (as Nate Hagens describes) we are fighting against our evolution and that suggests there is no intelligent design at play but rather an interaction of behaviours and environment that we are unlikely to overcome…evolution is a slow process.

                      https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0921800919310067

                    • Dennis Frank

                      A dynamic interplay (a dialectic energised). Economies are organic insofar as they emerge from trading patterns. When governance regulates them, effects on behaviour dichotomise via murphy's law.

                      So some good happens, when things go according to plan, along with the unintended consequences. Intelligent design applies the principle of negative feedback to achieve stability.

                      How? Tweaking. Learning from experience. Humans do this (or not) naturally. Tactical adjustment and alteration of strategy or method combine in this style of governance.

                      The feedback loop depends on public input into govt decision-making. Bureaucratic defense of the status quo must be eliminated. Labour can't cope with this challenge – they're so thick they believe the bureaucrats are on their side! Even open insubordination fails to learn them to the contrary.

                    • Robert Guyton

                      There is no (or precious little) intelligent-design at play and yes, the present interaction between behaviours and environment are challenging to over come, however, I don't/won't accept that we will fail; a way-through must be found. I'm greatly encouraged by the idea that using good/bad as the measure for choosing, along with right/wrong, is not the paths to be chosen; the beacon to follow is beauty and elegance; of thought, action, behaviour, endeavour, use of resources physical and intellectual and above all, imagination and story-making. Pretty straight-forward. Probably have that sorted by this afternoon 🙂

                    • Pat

                      Economies are more than just trade and you may rail against bureaucracy Dennis but the interaction unfettered would (and is) accelerate the decline. Do we learn from experience?…history would suggest perhaps briefly but it is quickly forgotten, certainly at a societal level even if not at the individual.

                • Draco T Bastard

                  Sometimes, we need to lose to learn.

                  Much better doing it through science but some people just don't like that idea as it gets in the way of their God-given rights.

        • Dennis Frank 1.1.1.2

          A frippery is "a showy or unnecessary ornament in architecture, dress, or language". Okay, eliminate suit-wearing first.

          There's an unnecessary ornament in architecture on the Auckland skyline that folks have been calling the skytower. Too showy, extract the damn thing. Kill that casino stone dead as a side-benefit.

          As regards ornamental language, we could de-pollute by limiting the number of syllables allowed in a word. That would reduce the level of trauma amongst the simple-minded.

          • Robert Guyton 1.1.1.2.1

            That way, "simple-minded" should read, "thick".

            • Dennis Frank 1.1.1.2.1.1

              Differentiating the two is easy: Labour voters the first, National voters the other. Many folk despair that this is even possible. I advise using a high-powered microscope to see the difference.

          • Draco T Bastard 1.1.1.2.2

            Okay, eliminate suit-wearing first.

            I'm pretty sure that you won't get too many complaints about that. Bloody horrible things to wear.

        • Hunter Thompson II 1.1.1.3

          Quite a sensible approach, that. For about a century we humans have let our wants outstrip our needs.

          Perhaps the Covid-19 crisis is Nature's way of telling us there are too many people on the planet?

          Longer term, there is the risk of international conflict over the few natural resources that are left to sustain life, be it water, fertile soil or whatever.

        • greywarshark 1.1.1.4

          Can we set aside space and resources for essential fripperies? Robert at 1 1 1

      • weka 1.1.2

        It is not austerity however….and it is not even necessarily 'less' for a proportion of society, but I agree the concept is a difficult sell because it does mean considerable change and restrictions on some activities which many consider a 'right'

        this is one of out biggest challenges imo. We can lead from the front, and I agree with RG that we need to change the story.

        One of the first posts I wrote was about the US movement Riot for Austerity. Not the language to use now, but the movement was useful.

        Climate Change Change Pt 1: What are we waiting for?

        • Pat 1.1.2.1

          There have been many wise voices attempting just that for at least 50 years, many very high profile and who had the ear of those in power and yet here we are.

          I suspect it is as simple as ..'We do it because we can and we will continue to do so until we cannot.'

          • weka 1.1.2.1.1

            there are pretty clear lines running through all the movements, including Riot for Austerity, to where we are now, and they show us the change that has happened and is still happening.

            There's a risk in framing us as not having progressed. If the change is a large one, we might still be on the crest of the tipping point.

            The right direction movements work in large part because they're not the mainstream. A kind of beneficent colonisation while no-one else is paying attention.

            • Pat 1.1.2.1.1.1

              There is also risk in framing a non existent progression….the first step to change is a recognition of the need to do so,

              If we convince ourselves we have progressed when we have not then we will continue as before….blind faith in incrementalism.

              • weka

                is that what you are arguing then? That all those movements have failed to effect any societal change.

                Transition Towns, permaculture, decolonisation, Riot for Austerity, XR, regenag, Soil and Health/organics, tiny house, downshifting, food forests, Occupy…

                Because what I'm hearing in my networks is that involvement in turning society around has exploded this year because of covid. You won't hear about this in the MSM, but you can see aspects of it, see Dennis' link to Newsroom below, that's the crossover to the mainstream happening as we speak.

                In every rohe in NZ there are people who know how to grow food for more than themselves without using fossil fuels and outside of the global food supply chain that is about to go into crisis. Those people are also as we speak figuring out how to do so as the climate changes. They're thinking about how to upscale when/as the time comes. They're saving seed, and their practices are grounded in both prevention and adaptation. Their skills, knowledge and techniques are built on the what our parents and grandparents were doing 50 years ago when it was still normal for lots of people to grow food, but in the intervening decades we've learnt new things and created new pathways for out times. This is huge.

                What I see about Riot for Austerity is that Sharon Astyk and the hundreds of people that did that project now have fifteen years of experience as well as influence, and that covid now makes the knowledge base more able to be spread. This is how change happens. Once it gets into parliament, it's way down the track, but if we are only looking at the finish line we miss the progress of the race.

                • Pat

                  As you yourself note those movements are not mainstream, and they are tiny in the scheme of things…the measures of progress are shown by increasing consumption and increasing degradation…and the will to change is reflected in our political support.

                  I dont suggest that what you describe isnt important or useful to those so engaged but it cannot be described as societal change or even progress until such time as it is reflected in the measures described above….if and when that happens then I will happily concede progress is being made.

                  • Pat

                    consider…Im sure there will have been people on Easter Island that thought cutting down the last trees was a bad idea and were quite possibly even trying to raise seedlings and replanting.

                  • Robert Guyton

                    Have you/can you factor-in tipping-points to your assessment, Pat?

                    It may be that the change sought by the food-foresters, the tiny-house-dwellers and the permaculturalists has already occurred and the "increasing consumption and degradation" you describe is just a last-gasp hangover. Here's hoping!

                    .

                    • Pat

                      "Religion, no. Custom, yes."

                      I disagree and present our current situation as evidence

                    • Robert Guyton

                      Will you expand on your claim (that our current situation is evidence)?

                    • Pat

                      "Will you expand on your claim (that our current situation is evidence)?"

                      Your observation that there have been cultures that practiced restraint re environmental limits but as stated those societies have been overwhelmed…whether by misfortune ( miscalculation or 'events') or by subjugation…if it were not so then the current paradigm would not dominate (to the point of exclusivity).

                    • Robert Guyton

                      Hmmm. Those small societies/tribes couldn't stave-off the rolling maul that is civilisation, even though they may have developed good strategies about their similarly-sized neighbours. That could be viewed as a failing in their system, or it could be sheeted-home to us, the civilised. Compare the best we have done in creating civilisation, with the exploding of our sun; no matter how clever we think we are, we aren't going to deflect that, if it happens anytime soon. Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater though, Pat. Now that we know how voracious civilisation is, how it conspires to consume all it touches, we can devise an effective counter to it, if we wish to.

                    • Pat

                      Which takes us back to where we began….we can know all this but we will not choose to change it…until change is forced upon us.

                  • weka

                    I marched in the anti-Tour protests. I saw small numbers of people effect societal change as part of a larger movement. Likewise the peace movement in the 80s. NZ's first big environmental win, Manapouri, has had a decades long influence on NZ's relationship with the environment.

                    I've seen huge change in the awareness of and willingness to act upon the climate crisis in the time I've been writing at TS. In 2016 it was deeply depressing because on TS most people weren't there yet. I saw the change in the MSM. Those changes happened because people on the edge pushed for change.

                    It's defeatist to see change as only something where everyone gets on board at once. Change happens in fits and starts, sometimes its insidious. I don't know if we will act in time, but I see people influencing society all the time.

                    XR is a brilliant example, game changer stuff. What you are suggesting is that there's not change until there is absolute change, but we can't have absolute change without a process. This isn't incrementalism, it's how change happens, by process and by the relationships between all the things.

                    • Pat

                      Yes society is being influenced all the time…..in all directions, but the fact remains humans have throughout history sought to grow until constrained from without….and those that didnt were overwhelmed by those who did.

                    • Robert Guyton

                      " humans have throughout history sought to grow until constrained from without…"

                      Some societies have learned to impose story-backed "rules of engagement and behaviour" allowing them to operate within natural limits, including population size, and avoid violent conflict with neighbours. We can do the same, if we recognise the imperative and borrow ideas from those societies, tailored to our modern needs. It's not impossible. It is imperative. In my opinion.

                      "…and those that didn't were overwhelmed by those who did."

                      Back to the "how to manage pathogens" issue. Attack from other human agencies is the big challenge we face. We haven't devised a way yet (tried various things, love thy neighbour (Christian), fight with a thin stick and stop when blood is first drawn (Moriori). Now, we have to counter pathological corporations that have no soul to appeal to, and algorithmic memes on the internet that heartlessly seek and destroy reason. Gotta get it done though, or we're screwed.

                    • weka

                      Pat, constrained from without is precisely the situation we are in.

                    • Pat

                      @ Weka

                      yes we are constrained from without but not yet to the point of collapse….the constraint is enforced not willingly adopted, be it environmental or in conflict.

                      @Robert

                      Has religion (or custom) ultimately prevented growth?

                    • Robert Guyton

                      Religion, no. Custom, yes. many ancient cultures practiced population control and anti-expansive behaviours. Not all were so tidy, but we should look at those that found the balance and emulate them, somehow…mostly through the employment of social mores, rather than punative responses (spearing as punishment, etc.) This needs investigating, imo.
                      It’s all about the stories we tell ourselves, our children, our neighbours.
                      Tribes found it easier to organise sub-tribe behaviour, rather than inter-tribe behaviour. We have to accept all of humanity as one tribe before we can successfully manage the sub tribes with story and mores. We have to communicate these ideas/tell these stories over and over and over (Yay, the internet!!) and we have to gain the confidence of our children, or they’ll reject those stories as they search human history for excitement.

                    • greywarshark

                      NZ population growth has gone below replacement level IIRR. In countries that are simpler than NZ It has been found that if a woman can have a skill to make extra money for the family there are less children and the parents are likely to put money into paying for an education for their children.

                      NZ has got better off, then got complacent, then got poverty of spirit, then got neolib and freemarket dumped on us removing opportunity for choice of jobs and creating unrealistic competition for everything. If we want to get on, we need to get back to the garden and the wonder of us being golden and stardust and all that imaginative stuff that's at back of a vibrant life, just living. And can be great even without mountain bikes etc.

  2. Ad 2

    For the next year at least most people will have no choice at all about their "state"; we will just survive, propped up by welfare and state support.

    There are about 2,100,000 people in full time jobs. Another half a million part time. 99% of us are heavily subsidised by tax and by the state going deeper into debt than anyone has ever seen. Feeding a nation of 5,000,000.

    Our GDP is through the floor – though it will recover. Our incomes have plummeted overall. Our harvests won't have enough workers. Our children are growing up with deep uncertainty, and are trapped here unlike any previous generation.

    We sure don't need more abstract think pieces from international experts telling us about the "state" we are in.

    What we need is a continuation of a Labour government run by Jacinda Ardern and Grant Robertson.

    • Pat 2.1

      GDP is a (monetary) measure of activity and in the grand scheme of things means sweet FA.

      • Stuart Munro 2.1.1

        It isn't entirely meaningless, but it is certainly a minority activity.

      • RedLogix 2.1.2

        GDP is a universally accepted measuring tool for total economic activity. It's easily calculated, and it's definition is standard and consistent over time and geography which makes it uniquely useful for comparison purposes.

        Everyone understands that the GDP number lacks nuance, and that it does not distinguish between categories of economic activity and that it doesn't tell us anything much about the 'good and bad activity' or the 'quality of life' that people enjoy on average.

        GDP is a bit like your bank account balance, the number doesn't tell you anything about what you've been spending on, but whether it's going up or down over time is a really important thing.

        • Pat 2.1.2.1

          GDP is nothing like a bank balance…there is no recognition of a stock at all, only (selected) activity.

          • RedLogix 2.1.2.1.1

            It was only a rough analogy.

            • Phil 2.1.2.1.1.1

              The better analogy is that GDP is like your income (because, at a national level, that's EXACTLY what it is) but it doesn't tell you much about your wealth, nor does it pass any moral judgement on your spending habits.

              • Descendant Of Smith

                "nor does it pass any moral judgement on your spending habits."

                Nor any morality on your income earning habits.

              • Pat

                Im not sure that it even measures income….that I suspect would be more accurately defined by balance of trade. As all are measured in monetary terms and therefore governed by perceived value they are only a reflection of a point in time and subject to potentially huge variation of worth…especially in a world of fiat currency.

                • Nic the NZer

                  If your income is measured by your balance of trade how are you measuring the overall worlds income?

                  We don't trade with other planets (yet).

                  • Pat

                    Two points….why do we need to measure global income ?(as you note we dont trade outside this planet) and Bancor

                    • Phil

                      why do we need to measure global income ?

                      Basically for the same reason we want to know our own individual/household income. Because we as a nation trade with others, and that trade is typically done at an agreed value in a commonly understood unit of account.

                      Or, to put it more glibly, our nation doesn't pay for imported cars & technology products in units of sunshine & clean water & smiles, we pay for it with the money that farmers or tourism operators earn from those things.

                    • Nic the NZer

                      The point is your attempted new measure ignores most of the economic activity. Its not even really a self consistent definition (the worlds measure would be less than any of the countries which make up the world).

                  • Phil

                    Fun (?) Fact:

                    Because nations tend to put more focus on accurately measuring imports (contra exports) in order to levy tariffs, if you add up all the imports and exports data in the world today, it looks like the world is a net importer from another planet.

                    • Pat

                      @ Phil

                      and none of that requires us to measure global GDP…the exchange is in currency whos relative value is determined by demand….nothing to do with the size of the world economy

                    • Phil

                      the exchange is in currency whos relative value is determined by demand

                      What do you think drives that demand for currency in the first place?!

                      The fundamental drivers of exchange rates are the relative levels of interest rates, inflation, and growth (as measured by GDP)

                    • Pat

                      Even if that is completely accurate it still does not require us to measure global GDP

          • Nic the NZer 2.1.2.1.2

            This is because GDP is a measure of income flow, in the stock-flow sense. Also indicates why saving (holding onto income, rather than spending it) reduces the aggregate flow.

    • Tiger Mountain 2.2

      Yes, re-election of the “Arden/Robertson Govt.” is needed–but definitely not a continuation of their default neoliberalism and fawning pro business attitude.

      State activity needs to be expanded in these times, with massive housing builds, restoration of full public ownership of all sorts of things, including power generation and supply, a new Ministry of Works, District Councils to have full funding and resourcing, etc.

      Entrepreneurial capitalism needs to be firmly discouraged and wound back. A very good life can be had for the many in Aotearoa when the few are sat on their arses.

      • Robert Guyton 2.2.1

        I think we need to vigorously review what "a good life" means. Each individual, that is, given the opportunity, information, encouragement and experience to decide for themselves what a good life for them would be, given the constrains of the world around them. That'll mean an end to plastic straws, but so be it!

        • Dennis Frank 2.2.1.1

          Kim Hill asked Jane Fonda during her interview last week what that tinkling sound was. "Oh, that's my metal straw."

          She didn't need to explain that the sound came from it hitting the sides of her glass. Nor did Kim ask what she was drinking…

        • Tiger Mountain 2.2.1.2

          Put it this way–not super yachts for all–rather a greener life style.

          Living wages, Coastal shipping, rail expanded, free Wifi, farefree public transport, basic income, free quality healthcare, animal rights enforced, more regional/local based living, etc.

    • Nic the NZer 2.3

      As can be seen, income need not be a concerved item of the economy. What this suggests is that when you face a large task (of shifting to a sustainable economy) and a large under or unemployed group, that employing them to undertake that task would resolve both issues at once.

      On the other hand if we as a country rely largely on the private sector to undertake that then this opportunity goes to waste.

      • Dennis Frank 2.3.1

        Governance via intelligent design is a big ask. Especially for a re-elected PM addicted to business as usual. Still, if the Greens get back in and the old (Alliance) red/green brand gets revived by Jacinda, we could get the transformational govt she promised. Let's hope for the best!

        I mean, having the first Labour govt as role model really ought to make it easy to get over their timidity, eh?

        • Robert Guyton 2.3.1.1

          Where can we get us some of that "intelligent design" doowhacky, Dennis?

          Sounds like the Good Sh*t!

          • Dennis Frank 2.3.1.1.1

            I'd crowd-source it. Govt oughta tell the people: "Look, you know representative democracy is a recipe for mediocre governance. People vote for reps they identify with, so the bell-curve injects average intelligence into parliament. That has got us into the shit we're now in."

            "Now for something completely different. We're organising a competition, to flush out the most intelligent governance designers from their habitual anonymity. We'll be the judge of the best contributions, but so will you. Public feedback will prioritise the best designs, but we'll produce our own selection separately as a discussion alternative."

            "Public debate of the two lists will proceed, and out of that process the govt will get a sense of the designs most likely to get traction. Popularity will blend with future promise. We will choose the designs most likely to ensure a steady-state economy."

    • weka 2.4

      try reading the interview Ad, you might learn something. The interview is predicated on the things you mention, so channeling Sabine as if you're the only one that knows how bad things are and need to lecture the rest of us is boring. You might not need a different path than the pinning our hopes on a vaccine one, but lots of other people do. The vaccine = NZ economic recovery model won't save us from climate change or the ecological crises, and it's unlikely to save us from the economic shit show that the rest of the world is about to go through.

  3. RedLogix 3

    Much of business culture is about making money, but it doesn’t have to be that way. If businesses have social and environmental goals built into their DNA, they are far more likely to find innovative ways to stay in business while serving a public purpose.

    The nub of the OP lies here in my view. The modern world we live in is utterly dependent on a myriad of business activities most people have relatively little grasp of. Literally every built object and service in the environment around you has a fascinating and complex story of how it came into being. And almost all of it driven by businesses trying to make money.

    Put simply, I view business as a good thing. But like all good things it can also go too far, which was the sickness introduced by the neo-liberal revolution of the 80's.

    The useful question is, where does the boundary lie? How do we know when the capitalist/business model tips from being a net positive to a net negative? Part of the neo-lib problem is that the model does not capture a wide enough definition of benefit and harm. It narrows down the scope of the definition to that of the interests of the business shareholders only. And in many cases enforces this by law. That is clearly one thing that needs to be changed.

    The second boundary over which neo-liberalism stepped over was the idea that impersonal markets were the best and final arbiter of all economic questions of value. The obvious fatal error here is that the environment doesn't get to place bids in the market, and the poor and vulnerable were excluded as well.

    And my final suggestion is that neo-liberal economics makes the same mistake we see with identity politics, in that it reduces all questions to one of power. In the neo-lib system power is not measured in terms of ‘social virtue’, but rather money terms alone. All social transactions become mediated by cash or the exertion of it's leverage. It becomes the sole arbiter of prestige, rank and influence. In a world where some inequality is always inevitable, this merely amplifies the psychological impact.

    The problem is not growth but rather the quality of this growth. For most of human history the two metaphorical birds 'more and better' sat right next to each other; if you got one you got the other. As we reach the ecological limits of the planet this is no longer true. Yet as I've said elsewhere, bringing 10b humans into the modern world demands a massive increase in human energy and resource use. We cannot do this with the systems we currently have, therefore we must rapidly improve these economic systems. This will demand far greater energy availability and closed loop resource recycling, and this will happen best when we correctly realign the incentives for the business model by addressing the boundary issues I've described above.

    • Tiger Mountain 3.1

      Neoliberalism seeks to reduce all human activity to a business transaction, which apart from seeming bloodless AI style, does not seem a great mode of operation with our planet in “last chance power drive” existential balance.

      Really why have private ownership of production and services at all, when capitalism is essentially the enforced ability to privately appropriate for a few, what is socially produced by many?

      • RedLogix 3.1.1

        All you are doing here is substituting the extremism of the neo-liberal revolution with the extremism of a marxist one.

        • Tiger Mountain 3.1.1.1

          One would hope we are past “reds under the bed” territory with what the world is facing in 2020. Change is possible, but private capitalist ownership, and international finance capital, backed by massive war machines, surveillance and media impede that.
          Jeff Bezos vacuumed up multi billions during C19, while millions of US working class people could not even get their $600 payments renewed. What is wrong with that picture?

          The Soviets replaced their degenerate workers state, with one partially at least, advised by, surprise, Roger Douglas, the man himself. It is pointless raising the 20th century socialist experiments, undermined full on by reaction and fascism, and as a reason not to retire capitalism now in a new era.

          How even a more social democratic NZ could unfold will need wide public support and participation.

          • RedLogix 3.1.1.1.1

            I'm reluctant to drag this thread any further OT, but put simply when you advocate for the elimination of private property and then bleat 'reds under the bed' when called on it, you really have gone off the plantation.

    • Dennis Frank 3.2

      The problem is not growth but rather the quality of this growth.

      To shift the paradigm, forceful action is required. The past half-century since Daly first outlined the new paradigm, mainstreamers have ignored him, consequently the left & right advocated tinkering with the status quo instead.

      The Greens advocate the new paradigm – but not forcefully. Impotent to catalyse the shift, they straddle the boundary between problem & solution.

      "In short, a steady-state economy is an economy with enough as a goal. It prioritises well-being above consumption, and long-term health above short-term gains. It focuses on innovation and development instead of growth. The pursuit of endless economic growth, with all of its downsides, is clearly unsustainable in the 21st century. A steady-state economy is the sustainable alternative to perpetual economic growth." [p46, Enough is Enough, 2013]

      That's a useful summary of the new paradigm. To make the shift, it must be publicised. To get media traction, GDP must be eliminated as both measure of economic success and a goal of governance. People have to have the guts to say so in public arenas. Doing so must now be seen as an essential survival skill!

      • Robert Guyton 3.2.1

        How about we aim for "not quite enough". After all, most of humanity has way less than enough; they could rise to "not quite enough" as we well-to-do sink to the same point, following our outrageously excessive recent behaviour where we gorged ourselves on more than enough (for anyone). We owe a debt also, to the non-human living world that we've gobbled-up to fill our maws – perhaps we could, as a form of apology, go without for a while?

        • greywarshark 3.2.1.1

          The practise of 'Lent' and the word lent would be worthy of some consideration here.

        • Drowsy M. Kram 3.2.1.2

          yes "Not quite enough" is (paradoxically) still enough – could throw on another layer of insulation, but maybe I'll learn more by doing a little shivering.

        • Dennis Frank 3.2.1.3

          The Bilderbergers have used neoliberalism for that: the left & right both obeyed their dictum so it worked. Consequently a large swathe of third-world countries went into development mode & the stats have been circulating awhile that showed the project did work.

          Not quite enough would prove un-marketable. Enough makes more sense. Enough folk have a natural aversion to greed to provide a healthy counter-balance to the left & right supporters of bau. The inertia built-in will drive greed in the third world regardless of what we do, but if advanced countries adopt a plan for the common good then it will gradually seep into mass consciousness and operate as a prescription for sanity.

          That said, left/right growth addiction is powerful psychology. Only appropriate leadership from leftist politicians can reduce damage in the medium term. Their reluctance to provide it must be overcome.

      • Robert Guyton 3.2.2

        " People have to have the guts to say so in public arenas. "

        Laid this one on my fellow councillors at a recent meeting, Dennis. Cloth-eared, I reckon.

        • Dennis Frank 3.2.2.1

          Safety in numbers. Watch how sheepdogs get the result, then apply that technique. Leftists always default to reason or appealing to intelligence when not projecting moral outrage. They have an entire repertoire of tools that don't work in their toolkit. I put a lengthy analysis of the psychology driving their thinking online years ago as a public service.

      • Draco T Bastard 3.2.3

        The pursuit of endless economic growth, with all of its downsides, is clearly unsustainable in the 21st century.

        It was always unsustainable but Malthus was ignored. Now we have the problems from acting in wilful ignorance, in acting as though having more humans and more consumption is always good.

    • RedBaronCV 3.3

      Interesting Ad. When you talk about the environment not placing a bid – does this represents the weak individual interest of the many. e.g nobody in the town needs polluted water so all have a weak or distributed interest in that but the corporate upstream polluter has a strong interest in low costs so continues to pollute. How can we aggregate and elevate the interests of the many into a viable input or constraint?

      Doughnut economics is an interesting framework

      • RedLogix 3.3.1

        As I suggested above, capitalism clearly steps over a line when it legally enforces that idea that a corporation must put the interests of it's shareholders over an above all others.

        Yet even with this horrible flaw, there are many large corporates who work around this legal requirement by arguing that ethical and environmental considerations act in the best interests of the shareholders in the long run. Not all big corporates are amoral engines of capitalist greed, look a bit closer and many do make attempts at broadening their goals.

        There is no question however that the need to produce quarterly results drives a lot of poor short-term decision making. It's entirely possible to re-shape share ownership rules and governance goals to shift the incentives to much longer term outcomes, and a lot of work has already been done with this in mind.

        Just a simple legislative change to allow Boards to operate multiple 'stakeholder' models and allow them to openly balance shareholder interests against ethical, environmental, community and employee interests would be a relatively easy low hanging fruit.

    • Phil 3.4

      Part of the neo-lib problem is that the model does not capture a wide enough definition of benefit and harm. It narrows down the scope of the definition to that of the interests of the business shareholders only. And in many cases enforces this by law. That is clearly one thing that needs to be changed.

      I disagree with your problem definition here.

      Principles for how someone acts in the interest of the shareholder have existed for as long as Principal-Agent relationships have existed, since the dawn of organised civilisation. The laws that codify how a corporation should be run (and for whom) can trace their origins back to at least the 1500's and Royal Charters.

      • Draco T Bastard 3.4.1

        Many of our laws and our legal system can trace their roots back to Ancient Rome.

        Which really should give us pause. Something that old simply isn't going to be fit for purpose.

        • Phil 3.4.1.1

          Right, which is exactly why RL's assertions like "capitalism clearly steps over a line when it legally enforces that idea that a corporation must put the interests of it's shareholders over an above all others." in 3.3.1 are a fundamentally gross misrepresentations of both legal history and economic structures.

    • Draco T Bastard 3.5

      Put simply, I view business as a good thing. But like all good things it can also go too far, which was the sickness introduced by the neo-liberal revolution of the 80's.

      It's not a sickness introduced in the 1980s. It's an essential part of capitalism.

      How do we know when the capitalist/business model tips from being a net positive to a net negative?

      As soon as private ownership is mentioned as that is when the bludging of the owners begins.

      The obvious fatal error here is that the environment doesn't get to place bids in the market, and the poor and vulnerable were excluded as well.

      A market system can only work when everyone has the same amount of money ($1 is the same for everyone), no ownership in business (removes the bludging and dictatorship) and the whole thing is heavily regulated so that prices actually reflect the costs (including the damage to the environment).

      In a world where some inequality is always inevitable

      It is not inevitable. We choose to have inequality because we've believed (erroneously) that it was good. Now that we're learning more we should be making society more equitable. Especially now that we're learning just how bad competition is for society.

      The problem is not growth but rather the quality of this growth.

      No, the problem is growth. Getting bigger.

      For most of human history the two metaphorical birds 'more and better' sat right next to each other

      They didn't really even if that's what we thought was true. Nothings changed except that we're starting to realise that more is not better.

      Yet as I've said elsewhere, bringing 10b humans into the modern world demands a massive increase in human energy and resource use. We cannot do this with the systems we currently have, therefore we must rapidly improve these economic systems.

      And what if we actually can't, that it actually physically impossible to do so?

      Because that's what it actually looks like.

  4. Dennis Frank 4

    Lucie Greenwood is a climate and sustainability advisor for New Zealand businesses, as well as researcher of positive systems change in our economic and financial systems. https://www.newsroom.co.nz/2020/05/28/1204683/designs-for-a-sane-economy-after-covid-19

    A cultural shift to ‘enoughness’ and non-consumptive means of happiness could be the way forward after Covid-19, argues Lucie Greenwood.

    For those concerned that a ‘business as usual’ economy is fast steering us towards climate and ecological collapse, while simultaneously failing to serve human wellbeing, the pandemic is seen as a circuit-breaker affording a rare opportunity for intentional redesign.

    Aotearoa’s Virtual Town Hall conversations have already hinted at the possibility of adopting Kate Raworth’s ‘doughnut model’ (following in Amsterdam’s footsteps) to guide transition towards an economy that meets core human needs while respecting planetary boundaries.

    These are two excellent first principles for designing a sane economic system. A third, called for by Rachel Taulelei, is to ground economies in place, to reflect local ecologies, cultures and aspirations.

    To turn these three principles into more than talk, we urgently need to weave them into a clear vision for an alternative economy for Aotearoa New Zealand.

    Even renewables won't be able to save us in time, which is why the IPPC’s only scenario that gives us a possibility of preventing catastrophic levels of warming (and doesn’t rely on questionable negative emissions technologies) is one of de-growth.

    The pandemic-induced recession has given us a sharp jolt of de-growth and I heard on the news that return to normal is projected as taking three years. I hope that's wrong. Survival depends on not returning to normal!

    Drug-addicted morons of the left & right will attempt to seduce the public into faith in suit-wearers again, assuming that the thick & the simple-minded still have sufficient numbers to control the game of democracy. Suckers abound, but reality may defeat them this time. Three years of cold-turkey could terminate the addiction.

    • Robert Guyton 4.1

      Trouble is, those happy with enough can't cope with the pathological few who want as much as they can get, therefore, inequality is created, resentment follows and the race to the bottom ensues. All good ideas have to have a anti-pathology clause built in, otherwise, rinse and repeat. Pathological behaviour in human consciousness is like blackholes in space; they are there and unless they are recognised, mapped and avoided, lives are lost!

      • Dennis Frank 4.1.1

        Yes, I agree that the greed-driven portion of humanity make the economy unsustainable, so the system must be redesigned to eliminate their (apparent) control. That's why I advocated a sustainable solution to the Greens in 2015: use consensus to identify the ratio of income inequality that drew most public support, then legislate it into effect.

        When I ran it by readers here a couple of years later no design flaw was identified via feedback. I was not surprised that Metiria Turei (to whom I sent the historical documentation along with the rationale) didn't choose to support the solution. Leftist politicians usually prefer the gravy train to solving endemic social problems.

        • Drowsy M. Kram 4.1.1.1

          "I was not surprised that Metiria Turei (to whom I sent the historical documentation along with the rationale) didn't choose to support the solution. Leftist politicians usually prefer the gravy train to solving endemic social problems."

          Dennis, that reads as if you believe Turei the politician preferred the gravy train to solving endemic social problems. Would that view place you in the ‘Collins camp‘?

          Judith Collins, hammered in the final nail, calling Turei a "sanctimonious hypocrite" in an "ugly" jacket.”
          https://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/metiria-opens-castle-doors

          • Dennis Frank 4.1.1.1.1

            Doing a binary on me?? Sheesh, teaching old dogs new tricks sure is hard! Waste of time? Not if you subscribe to the effect of the drip on stone theory of progress.

            Being agnostic, I tend to leave sanctimony to true believers. The gospel according to google tells us St Jude is "the patron saint of desperate cases and lost causes." Nat thinking must be due to the resonance induced by the archetype.

            As for leftist hypocrisy, I'd rather let their behaviour speak for themselves. It is so eloquent on that basis…

            • Drowsy M. Kram 4.1.1.1.1.1

              Apologies Dennis, happy to defer to you re insights on what motivates Green party politicians, but do you truly believe Turei preferred the gravy train to solving endemic social problems, or am I misunderstanding your words?

              "I was not surprised that Metiria Turei (to whom I sent the historical documentation along with the rationale) didn't choose to support the solution. Leftist politicians usually prefer the gravy train to solving endemic social problems."

              • weka

                Turei was one of the least gravy train MPs in parliament. Dennis has history with the GP, imo it sometimes influences his view of the Greens.

                • Drowsy M. Kram

                  Thanks Weka; so maybe the ‘old dog‘ really does believe what he wrote.

                  • Dennis Frank

                    The logic that applies is analogy: if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, chances are it is a duck.

                    I was merely drawing the inference. Her behaviour is consistent with that of her herd. It's how herding works. It conforms. I'm nonconformist – so your assumption about my belief is invalid.

                    Folks with a portfolio of belief systems tend to not be true believers. The culture of postmodernism multiplied them considerably. It's not as if I'm some kind of anomaly any more…

                    • weka

                      her herd aren't gravy train types, so your position still doesn't make sense.

                    • Drowsy M. Kram

                      Ah, so you identify with the nonconformist herd – too brave for me.

                      Regarding your belief about my assumption (?), "if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, chances are it is a duck."

                      Nevertheless, thanks for attempting to answer my question; answers can be more difficult to ellicit from the mercurially inclined – especially slippery pollies and their ilk.

                    • arkie

                      Her behaviour is consistent with that of her herd. It’s how herding works.

                      The Greens MP tithe their parliamentary salaries to the party:

                      Tithing has been a feature of the Green Party since we first had MPs in 1999. All candidates commit to paying the standard 10 per cent tithe if they become MPs as part of their candidate agreement with the party.

                      Once they become an MP it is part of the Party Caucus agreement. At the 2019 AGM there was decision that the tithing arrangement should recognise the increased salary of ministers if we did have ministers after the 2020 election.

                      https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12346294

                      Not sure this is consistent with your characterisation of Ms Turei.

                      As for:

                      I’m nonconformist…

                      … It’s not as if I’m some kind of anomaly any more…

                      I believe the correct term is Edgelord.

                    • Drowsy M. Kram

                      Thanks arkie for introducing the term 'Edgelord' @3:58 pm – new to me and more accurate than 'shock jock' which I was tempted to use.

            • Tiger Mountain 4.1.1.1.1.2

              Agnostic?-more right opportunist…

              • Dennis Frank

                Keep guessing. The Opportunists haven't even got close to being nonconformist enough for me. Have you seen them repudiating neoliberalism yet? Thought not. As clueless as Labour… 🙄

  5. Maurice 5

    If one is good

    Then two must be twice as good

    … and too many

    Are just enough!

    The greedy will always take from those who believe they can make do with less.

    Others making do with less simply encourages the greedy

    … such is the Human condition which is based upon raw survival instinct and as such almost impossible to change without massive external FORCE

    The questions then simply become:

    1) How much FORCE are we capable of applying

    2) How much FORCE are we prepared to apply

    3) How much FORCE will those who push back be able and willing to apply?

    The sheer brutality of those who oppose is one of the fundamental governing factors we would do well to both know and understand.

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