A different economic model: 2 – a constant, stable,‘steady state’ economy

George Monbiot suggests that it is time for a government commission on post-growth economics which would invite contributions from those already investigating the possibility of moving towards a steady state economy: one that seeks distribution rather than blind expansion; that does not demand infinite growth on a finite planet.

Localise West Midlands is dedicated to advocating and building such an economy

Such a commission, Monbiot points out, should ask the questions that never get asked:

  • Why are we wrecking the natural world and public services to generate growth when that growth is not delivering contentment, security or even, for most of us, greater prosperity?
  • Why have we enthroned growth, regardless of its utility, above all over outcomes?
  • Why, despite failures so great and so frequent, have we not changed the model?

The Constant EconomyAs MP Zac Goldsmith says, introducing his excellent book, the rainbow-titled Constant Economy: how to create a stable society:

“Since the industrial revolution, our economies have grown at the expense of the natural world. But as pressure mounts on the earth’s finite resources, we can no longer pretend that business-as-usual is a realistic option.

“One way or another we will have to change. The longer we delay, the more our societies will be at the mercy of events and the harsher the eventual adjustments.

“There is an alternative: a constant economy. The constant economy operates at the human scale and, above all, it recognises nature’s limits. In a constant economy:

  • resources are valued not wasted,
  • where food is grown sustainably,
  • goods are built to last,
  • energy security is based on the use of renewable sources,
  • and strong communities are valued as a country’s most effective hedge against social, economic and environmental instability”.

George Monbiot points out that, when the next crash comes, these questions will be inescapable.

See also: A different economic model: 1 – money creation, ‘a long-neglected question’

How to create a stable society

On the dust cover of *The Constant Economy, Jonathon Porritt asserts that Business-as–Usual economics, which is denying billions any chance of a decent life, has become a security blanket that our politicians won’t let go. 

The author, now a Conservative MP, calls for decisions about the sort of economy we want to develop from the ashes of this recession: 

“There is an alternative: a constant economy. A constant economy is one in which resources are valued not wasted, where food is grown sustainably and goods are built to last. It is a system whose energy security is based on the use of renewable sources, and where strong communities are valued as a country’s most effective hedge against social, economic and environmental instability. The constant economy operates at the human scale and, above all, it recognises nature’s limits.” 

Ten steps [chapters] measure what matters: power to the people, the precautionary principle, food quality, food security, saving our seas, an energy revolution, getting around, building to last, a zero-waste economy and playing our part. 

Invest in the new green economy . . . 

In Green New Deal mode, he says that instead of struggling to return to the conditions that delivered the recession, we can stimulate the development of a cleaner, greener and less wasteful economy. 

With the right encouragements, whole sectors could flip. UK pension funds control about £860 billion. Imagine the impact if they chose to invest it in the new green economy? 

Government signals 

Critics of the environmental agenda claim that a green economy would cost hundreds of billions, if not trillions, of pounds – but they are confusing cost with investment. One hundred units invested in improving the energy efficiency of a local school, and saving twenty units each year thereafter, represents a hugely rewarding investment opportunity. And there is no need for net tax increases to pay for this – it simply requires bullish signals from government. 

If a proper cost is attached to pollution and waste, businesses will minimize both. And if the funds raised from taxing these activities are used as incentives, there will be a dramatic movement of money towards the kinds of investments and activities we need.

Today’s challenge 

In 1945 the disaster of war created new priorities and a pioneering welfare state was built; today the impending ecological disaster poses another challenge, but the country needs leadership from its politicians, who will not provide it unless we – the electorate – send them a clear message. 

Jonathon urges: “so try it guys!” 

The Green New Dealers and those working towards a coalition for a better economy intend to do just that!” 

 

 

*The Constant Economy: how to create a stable society, Zac Goldsmith, Atlantic Books 2009 – see http://www.constanteconomy.com/