The Latest Fad In The Climate Change Movement: Degrowth
Last December, the journal Nature published an article titled “Degrowth can work — here’s how science can help.” The body of the article is overflowing with earnest assertions that don’t hold up to even cursory scrutiny.
Indeed, the fatuity of many of its statements is reminiscent of idealistic youth who envision a better world and believe that all they have to do to achieve it is make everybody do A, B, and C, and — voilà! — problem fixed. [emphasis, links added]
Alas, the real world isn’t so easily controllable, nor does central planning have a track record that inspires confidence. Yes, I’m talking about socialist central planning here. That is what degrowth is all about.
The central policy prescription in the article is that “Wealthy economies should abandon growth of gross domestic product (GDP) as a goal, scale down destructive and unnecessary forms of production to reduce energy and material use, and focus economic activity around securing human needs and well-being.”
Whew! Apart from trying to square the circle whereby negative growth will secure human well-being (something they believe can happen, and they even have a footnote to “prove it”), a major question is: Who will choose and implement the reforms?
“Wealthy economies” are a collective abstraction. In real life, certain human beings make decisions and set policies. Certain individuals — you can refer to them by the shorthand term “elites” — will have to decide which forms of production are “unnecessary.”
Clearly, the planners don’t want consumers — folks like you and me — making those choices. Better to leave that to their “expert” hands.
As the authors proceed, they explain that negative growth is not their goal for everybody, but just for the more prosperous societies. Curbing growth in wealthier countries “frees up energy and materials for low- and middle-income countries.”
Ah, now it’s clear: the degrowth agenda calls for a global shift in relative standards of living, whereby the prosperous surrender some of their prosperity as a means of allowing poorer countries to catch up. (No wonder the degrowth agenda is popular with the Fraternity of Global Wealth Redistribution, commonly known as “the United Nations”!)
The degrowth folks are still under the thrall of the Montaigne dogma that life is a zero-sum game — thinking that is several centuries out of date.
The desire for central planning is plain: “Degrowth is a purposeful strategy to stabilize economies and achieve social and ecological goals, unlike recession, which is chaotic.”
Again, who determines the goals of an entire society? And we need to be alert that when central planners talk about “stabilizing economies,” they are talking about controlling them, which ossifies and stagnates them.
Planners hate what they see as the “chaos” of free markets — the dynamic, creative destruction of capitalism that sweeps away value destroyers (a necessary corrective process that goes by the name of “recession”) and gives rise to value creators and fresh economic growth.
This process of constant renewal enriches society through an ever-evolving spontaneous order that no human being can plan or manage.
In case you were wondering, the degrowth crowd itself wants to dictate what is “less-necessary production.”
They generously inform us that they want us to scale back fossil fuels (naturally) — but also “mass-produced meat and dairy, fast fashion, advertising, cars, and aviation, including private jets.”
Oh, yes, and don’t forget that we need to “reduce the purchasing power of the rich.” (Why don’t you just say “confiscate the bulk of their wealth via taxation”?)
But take comfort, friends — it won’t all be belt-tightening and deprivation. The degrowth crowd calls for “improv[ing] public services.” Yep, they plan to “ensure universal access to high-quality healthcare, education, housing, transportation, Internet, renewable energy, and nutritious food.”
Wow, less growth and more abundance! We can have our cake and eat it, too. Sign me up! (Not!)
Oh, wait, there are even more benefits in their imagined cornucopia. There is also “a green jobs guarantee” and “a universal income policy.” And all is to be financed through slower economic growth. What a vision! And they want to “reduce working time,” too.
Well, I’ve got to agree that reducing the amount of human labor will certainly slow economic growth, so I commend the writers for that concession to economic reality.
The authors list five challenges that must be addressed while “implementing a more comprehensive strategy of degrowth — in a safe and just way.”
“Just”? Yes, our degrowth friends are social justice warriors, too.
Here are the five challenges they cite:
First, they see a need to impose an ESG mandate that would strip away the current moral and legal obligation of private companies to generate profits for their shareholders. “Social and environmental benefits” must be prioritized.
This new approach to business would “require new macro-economic models.” Please excuse my skepticism, but macroeconomic models share the same defects as global warming models — none of them describe the world as it really works.
Instead, they repeatedly illustrate the digital truism “garbage in, garbage out.” (Maybe they are counting on ChatGPT to lead us all to the Promised Land of less growth and more prosperity.)
h/t Steve B.
Read rest at American Spectator
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