The idea is something that has been thrown around in academic and intellectual circles for decades, maybe even centuries yet it lacks mainstream authority due to the horrific social and economic consequences that it would likely reap upon us were it to come to fruition. A zero growth economy. It sounds green, but what about the social and economic consequences?
Zero growth means that GDP would no longer be an indicator of economic health for our country. New construction would slow or halt, consumption would drop sharply and the numerous job sectors built around these pillars of our economy would fall apart. To be certain, greenhouse emissions and habitat destruction would decrease, but our modern lives would change drastically and perhaps, for the worse. Or would they?
There have a been a few societies that have actually advocated and practiced policies as radical as zero population growth and steady state economies out of necessity. The small south Pacific island of Tikopia comes to mind (thank you Mr. Jared Diamond). The Tikopians practiced zero population growth. Their survival depended upon this policy. However, the Tikopians never had network television and automatic transmissions. Decisions to control consumption are simpler when your choices are shrimp and kalo vs. breadfruit and crab.
But what about the rest of us? The globalites of our modern world with so many choices and more disposable income than human history has ever seen. Maybe we are using the wrong noun. That is, maybe zero growth is not currently feasible, but revolving growth is. As I envision it, revolving growth is taking the infrastructure we have and turning it into useful, more ecologically sound, environmentally friendly, yet economically viable stuff that people can work on. For example, instead of building new houses, we hire people to repair and upgrade ones that are already built. The goal of a revolving growth economic system would be to created closed loop businesses, with fewer or no externalities that also build communities and give workers reasons to collaborate for the common good rather than profiting at the cost of their neighbor. Most tribal societies operate this way. Maybe it is time we learned from the past. Some large companies, such as Ford motor company, have already begun to experiment with closed systems. It is time for the rest of us to jump on board.
Economist Juliet Schor calls it the Plentitude Economy. Here is a great video detailing this new economic paradigm:
Sorry Chicago Boys. You had your turn. Now it is ours! May we all be green and happy!