Thursday, January 14, 2016

"Growth", "Degrowth" and the Critique of Growth

In a post titled "De-growthers in Suits," Peter Dorman dishonestly conflates the objectives of "de-growth" with the outcomes of austerity policy. I use the term dishonestly advisedly. The rationale and the rhetoric of austerity is that it promotes growth. Never mind whether the advocates of austerity are sincere or whether austerity policies are successful in achieving growth. Growth is their mantra.

The term de-growth is the occasion of some consternation among those who might be labeled de-growthers. It became popular as a literal translation of the name of a French political party, Parti Decroissance, whose name was partly tongue in cheek and somewhat of a play on words. That nuance doesn't translate with English neologism.

Let us be quite firm that there is no stumbling in suggesting policies for so-called degrowth. There are many policy outcomes that could result in an improvement in human welfare without adding to GDP. There are even potential improvements that would subtract from GDP.

Horrors! We can't have that kind of thing!

Yes, less crime, less cancer and world peace would diminish GDP. So? So what? Parents being enabled to stay at home to look after young children might diminish GDP compared to making them work (workfare) and arranging commercial child care.