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It’s Getting to Look a Lot like Degrowth: Part 1

April 19, 2023

An analogy: ants on a log

Why can’t we get our act together? A primer on mental models

As a general rule, deeply-held mental models are only abandoned when the pain they inflict finally outweighs the psychological comfort they provide.

The mental model surrounding our commitment to economic growth

  • Economic growth has allowed us to expand our human population to eight billion, a clear sign of success.
  • Capitalism is the best and most equitable way to drive economic growth. It balances market forces of supply and demand and allocates resources in the most efficient, and therefore just, manner possible.
  • Economic growth within a capitalist framework is best measured by increases in Gross Domestic Product or GDP.
  • Economic growth is necessary to meet constantly increasing consumer demand for goods and services. Growth fuels demand, demand requires growth.
  • Economic growth produces human happiness, more growth produces more happiness.
  • Supply scarcity does occur, but it triggers self-correcting responses: investments to find additional supplies and inventions to create substitutes for depleted resources. (source)
  • This system is a perpetual motion machine that can and will continue to produce positive outcomes indefinitely.

Why do we cling so desperately to the idea that civilization cannot survive without economic growth?


  1. I’m reminded of another often-repeated quote, this one from Upton Sinclair: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” (source)


Image generated by DALL-E2, “ants on a log, floating toward a waterfall”

Steve Genco

Steve is author of Intuitive Marketing (2019) & Neuromarketing for Dummies (2013). He holds a PhD in Political Science from Stanford University.

Tags: critiques of capitalism, degrowth perspectives, economic growth