The growth figures released yesterday were shocking. They demonstrate clearly that Osborne is mistaken in his view of how an economy works, a point I have been repeating in somewhat tedious fashion over the past couple of years. The clear pattern of economic growth following the election and the massive cuts in capital expenditure make it clear to anybody who is not an utter ideologue that there is plain choice between a Keynesian or Hayekian response to this latest, and biggest, capitalist crisis. The Hayekian response smashes up the public sector and enhances the power of capital; the Keynesian response, if skilfully executed, might return us to over-stimulated growth.
Of course amongst green economists there is a totally different way of looking at this. Economic growth has ended: fact. Attempts to restimulate it via pressure on consumers, monetary injections, and so on will be chaotic and unpredictable, but more importantly will only add to the ecological pressure caused by an economy growing out of control. The alternative? Accept that the growth has needed, even welcome it, and begin to plan for a stabilised, post-growth economy.
To explore the implications of such a worldview the Green House thinktank has launched its Post-Growth Project. The aim of the Green House Post-Growth project is to challenge the common sense that assumes that it is ‘bad news’ when the economy doesn’t grow and to anatomise what it is about the structure of our economic system that means growth must always be prioritised. We plan to set out an attractive, attainable vision of what one country would look like, once we deliberately gave up growth-mania – and of how to get there. And we intend to find ways of communicating this to people that make sense, and that motivate change.
Over the next year we will be publishing a series of reports addressing various aspects of the transition to a post-growth economy. What will this mean for our politics, and how can we ensure that a post-growth society is characterised by social justice and democratic decision-making? What would the macroeconomics of post-growth look like, and how can we pay for excellent public services in such a scenario? How can we ensure that, this time around, we don’t just return to the mistaken idea that we must stimulate further aggregate demand, whatever the planetary cost?
Please join this debate: read our papers, feel free to offer ideas of your own, and join us as we set up events and activities to spread the message. Together we can build a better world: the end of economic growth is an opportunity, not a tragedy.