A message from Delhi about growth blindness: a manufactured disease

An economic system created by and for moneyed interests:

devinder sharma 4Analyst Devinder Sharma writes about universities, educational institutes and business schools which are churning out graduates and postgraduates who are made to believe in the magic potion of growth. Newspapers are full of reports and quotes about growth. Finance ministers everywhere in the world swear by economic growth.

TV anchors, most of whom have not ventured out of their plush offices for years, are hung up on economic growth because that is what they have read in the university, and if they ever try to question the growth paradigm, the business house owning the channel will throw them out.

He concludes: basically, it’s all about protecting and saving your job. Whether you are a journalist, economist, academician, credit rating analyst or a politician, singing the growth chorus will help to save your job.

  • When we are told 80% of Americans live in ‘near poverty’ we just ignore it.
  • When we read that pollution levels in China and India are reaching dangerous levels, we take it as a small sacrifice that people must make for the sake of growth.
  • When the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) tells us that the world is getting closer to a tripping point, we go back to textbooks which tells us that every disaster is a business opportunity – meaning more growth.

The EU’s 5th Project: transitional Governance in the Service of Sustainable Societies

Olivier de SchutterOver the years, a handful of thinkers, including some economists, have begun to question the sustainability of growth economics. Their number is growing with each passing week. While the objective of this piece is not to take you through the corridors of alternative to growth economics that is building up, look at the latest initiative by Olivier De Schutter, who till recently was the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food. He called for a conference: The EU’s 5th Project: transitional Governance in the Service of Sustainable Societies, which has just been held in Brussels, May 8-9, 2014. Olivier says:

We need alternatives to GDP growth as the goal of public policy, and we need alternatives to work and wealth accumulation as the driving forces in our lives. A genuine transition in the way we live is the only true path to sustainability. But it must be accompanied by a transition in the way we govern. This is Europe’s fifth project.”

 Schutter header

Booking closed well before the event as demand exceeded the number of places. Among the speakers noted were Rob Hopkins of Transition Towns, and social epidemiologist Richard Wilkinson.

The EU’s 5th Project Conference posed a few key questions. These are the basic questions that every sensible person should be asking:

There are already distinguished people working on a radical overhaul of the food system, making it more local and sustainable. There are social entrepreneurs, academicians, thinkers, writers and activists who are talking of the Economics of Happiness. There are environmental movements across the globe that are fighting for bringing in some sanity in the economic growth paradigm. Their voice is growing.

Sharma ends: “Meanwhile, stand up and be counted. It’s time to remove growth blindness. At stake is your own survival, and the future of your children. You can’t leave a dead planet behind”. #

Extracts from a post by Devinder Sharma to Ground Reality

Exponential growth is not the best measure of a society’s success

Letter curtailed with permission from the writer, Kenneth Obel, Wilmette, IL, US. 

He writes: “I am a lawyer in Chicago. I follow and write about sustainability issues.”

Published: FT – January 11 2011 02:28

Extract:

What do we have for all of the “growth” of the recent past? A lot of flat-screen televisions and other incredible innovations, to be sure. Also, a lot of half-empty subdivisions, deforestation, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, climate change and stagnant incomes for all but the richest households. 

There are limits to growth: the Earth is finite. As many have pointed out, the only thing that tries to grow exponentially forever is cancer – and it eventually kills its host. 

Economists and journalists, from left to right on the political spectrum, bear special responsibility for perpetuating the myth that infinite economic growth (reflected in gross domestic product) is not only possible, but the best measure of a successful society. It is a pervasive underlying assumption of speeches, articles and economic policies, one that is now getting some overdue re-examination.

Renegade economists such as Herman Daly, former chief economist of the World Bank, have long been challenging this conventional wisdom and advancing a new set of ideas that de-emphasise raw growth and outline a vision of prosperity based on qualitative measures. 

To read this substantial letter in full,  copy and paste the link: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/1226d6b6-1d18-11e0-b597-00144feab49a.html#axzz1B0q5J3iE

Our political leaders and mainstream economists should learn from Sonia Gandhi and Amartya Sen

On 19th December, James Lamont in New Delhi, who writes for the Financial Times, reported that Sonia Gandhi, President of the Indian National Congress Party, said “graft and greed” were rising and that India’s economic growth is coming at the price of a “shrinking moral universe”. 

Mrs. Gandhi intervened after scandals in the sporting, telecoms and property sectors: “Let us not forget that growth is not an end in itself. Much more important to my mind is what kind of society we aspire to be. The broad mass of people must believe in the fairness of the system, if it is to survive.” 

Two days later Lamont reported the words of Amartya Sen, Nobel laureate [economics], who recommended that Indian leaders pay more attention to reducing chronic undernourishment among their country’s 1.2bn people than to pursuing ever higher growth targets. 

Political elites’ obsession with India’s economic growth rate 

Amartya Sen deplores the New Delhi political elites’ obsession with India’s economic growth rate, and their failure to address the condition of about half of the nation’s young children, whose development is stunted due to the severest nutritional deficiencies in the world.

He pointed out that such growth can only be a “positive thing” if it leads to increased social justice, with public revenues devoted to reducing poverty and improving health and education. 

In Britain, politicians and corporate benefactors also focussed for years on economic growth and neglected those on low incomes

Leading figures in India are now recognising and deploring a mindset long accepted in Britain. During our prosperous years the gap between those on high and low incomes actually increased and standards of public healthcare, education and transport declined as politicians and their corporate benefactors promoted a form of economic growth which gave them large rewards. 

Time for change . . .