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Depression or Shared Abundance

November 18, 2013

In  reading “A Permanent Slump”, Paul Krugman’s column this morning, I was struck by the fact that economists definition of “slump” is predicated on our belief that “growth” is “good” and the “lack of growth” is “bad”, which led to this comment:

We need to rethink our belief that “more is good” and at the same time our definition of “depression”. If population increase was the root cause of the last “real” growth in the economy in the 1960s and 1970s, the global economy cannot expand without population growth, a direction that is not sustainable for the planet. Yet our current economic model cannot thrive with zero population growth unless we head in the direction of a zero sum game whereby the wealthy get bigger and bigger shares of the pie and the poor suffer increasingly…. and that appears to be a description of the vicious cycle we are in now.

E.F. Schumacher Bill McKibbin’s thinking on the economy needs to move into the mainstream if we want to find a way out of this death spiral we are in. If we began with the premise that “Small is Beautiful” we might not think we are headed toward a “permanent depression” but rather think we were moving toward a world of “shared abundance”.

The “growth is good” model is rooted deeply in our economic system, our school systems, and, one could argue, maybe even in our in our DNA. But I am among those who believe that we need to use our minds to overcome this reflexive way of thinking about growth because it is leading to ecological devastation and, as nations fight over diminishing resources, conflict. I’m not sure how we get from where we are today, where unregulated capitalism is sold as the way out of the “depression” we are in toward a more harmonious economic system… but I hope the new system is not one controlled by a very small percentage of people who persuade everyone else that poverty is inevitable for all but those in power….

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