Posts


Limits to Wealth = Limits to Growth

by Daniel Wortel-London

Inequality threatens people and planet alike. Billions struggle to make ends meet while a tiny minority grows fabulously wealthy. At the same time, the conspicuous consumption of the wealthy and the waste they generate takes an enormous environmental toll. The intertwining of social and environmental damage suggests that standard fixes for inequality are inadequate.

Herman Daly thought that waste from the wealthy could not be ended through redistributive taxation alone.


A Steady State Sustains All Boats

by Gregory M. Mikkelson

An important recent article on resource use and its environmental impacts starts from the premise that “the planet’s resources and ecosystems are a commons, and… all people are entitled to an equal, sustainable share.” Alas, the world today deviates wildly from this norm. Indeed, inequality—of resource use, but also of income and wealth—is extremely high today and is actually worsened by economic growth. What’s more, it is bad for our politics,


Lesson from a Failed Bank: Only One Real Start-Up

by Brian Czech

Banks are macroeconomic mirrors. They reflect the activity of the real economy. If the economy is growing, so are the banks, starting with the Federal Reserve and its regional banks, all the way out to tiny First Michigan Bank, Oakwood Bank (the smallest bank in bank-laden Texas), and the patriotically named Citizens Bank of Americus (Georgia).

Not only do the banks,


Wellbeing, Happiness, and GDP Growth: Rhetoric vs. Reality

by James MacGregor Palmer

Several movements are working in opposition to the destructive growth economy of the 21st century. The labels adopted by these movements are largely tied to the regions in which they originated and/or became popular. For example, the term “steady state” is most prevalent in the USA, while “degrowth” is often associated with continental Europe. The widespread term throughout the UK, however, is “wellbeing economy.”

Without prior knowledge of the UK term,


Bad Bros and Their Bitcoin

by Brian Snyder

Bitcoin needs to end, now. And other blockchain-based currencies along with it. If, like many people, you only have a vague idea of what Bitcoin is, you need to know two critical facts. First, Bitcoin is a currency that is “mined” via computing calculations, and second, in aggregate those calculations use about as much energy as the nation of Argentina. To make matters worse, that energy use is growing.

A recent analysis in Nature Communications estimated that by 2024 bitcoin mining in China alone would require nearly 300 terawatt-hours (TWh),


To Be or Not to Be: Is the European Degrowth Movement Courting an Identity Crisis?

by Brian Czech

 

To be or not to be

for lowering GDP.

Deciding is the fee

for degrowthers to be free!

(Free of confusion, that is, and degrees of self-defeat.)

 

In the heart of the Cold War, John F. Kennedy proclaimed, “Ich bin ein Berliner.” More than halfway to a century later,


Sequence Matters

by Herman Daly

The main message of the controversial documentary, Planet of the Humans, is that unrestrained economic and population growth should be the target of environmentalists’ efforts, not technological fixes. Techno-fixes can be helpful, but belong in second place. If put in first place they are often dangerous (e.g., nuclear power, green revolution, biomass fuel, space colonization, etc.). Technocrats enjoy usurping first place and are not humble about it.


Distinguishing Capitalism from Growth

by James Magnus-Johnston

Capitalism and growth might have similar connotations, but they have important distinctions, too. “Capitalism” has become a clumsy catch-all for any number of value-laden projections—greed, big business, innovation, accumulation, complexity, workaholism. “Growth,” meanwhile, is a landmine of technical and cultural connotations, and I’ll explore just a couple of them here.

Technically speaking, their differences seem straightforward. Growth is a material increase in economic production and consumption. Capitalism is a highly complex term,


A Journey of No Return, Not a Circular Economy

By Herman Daly

The economic process is not a mechanical analog that can be run forward and backward, nor a circular process that can return to any previous state. Rather it is an irreversible and irrevocable process moving in the direction of time’s arrow of increasing entropy [1]. Finitude and entropy guarantee that the economic life of our species will be a journey of no return. Therefore even a stationary economy, in the classical sense of constant population and constant capital stock, is ultimately a journey of no return, because the metabolic throughput of matter and energy required to maintain constant stocks of people and physical capital, in the face of depreciation and death, is an entropic flow from ever less concentrated sources to ever filling sinks – and both sources and sinks are finite.


Piketty Acknowledges a Limit to Inequality–Will He Acknowledge the Limits to Growth?

We are going to need more than a wealth tax to fix our economy.