What would a ‘post-economic-growth’ world look like? It wouldn’t be pretty. Like Manta rays that must keep swimming or die (sharks too), societies that don’t grow eventually devolve into oppression, chaos, anarchy and then ruin
By Andy Kessler, Wall Street Journal, Oct. 31, 2022
The modern world is constantly subjected to crackpot movements that eventually fail, but not before causing serious damage. Karl Marx was a crackpot. So was the John Birch Society in its mission to fight communism “behind every tree.” The latest is Modern Monetary Theory and unlimited dollar creation for government spending, which caused today’s runaway inflation.
In the 1970s, the Club of Rome insisted that for the world to be ecologically sound, we needed a “no-growth economy.” This was as dumb as the debunked Malthus theory that population growth would outstrip food. The disgraced Club of Rome thankfully went dormant. But it’s baaaack.
The new craze is “degrowth.” Proponents demand we “put well-being ahead of profit.” Normally, I’d say “Pfffft, ignore them,” but none other than the Davos dudes of the World Economic Forum are featuring arguments for de-growth. Weird because mostly growing global companies pay the WEF’s bills—tributes to the woke dons. The WEF’s website is filled with scholar-infested nonsense including a video asking, “What would a post-economic-growth world look like?”
It wouldn’t be pretty. Like Manta rays that must keep swimming or die (sharks too), societies that don’t grow eventually devolve into oppression, chaos, anarchy and then ruin. The Roman Empire. The Soviet Union. Venezuela. De-growth is living with less. Capitalism’s productivity is doing more with less. Big difference.
What would this mean for the U.S.? No growth means no investment for innovation. This leads to stagnation— freezing everything in place. Then comes command and control. Experts to allocate slices of a finite pie. Unions (see how they treat independent gig workers as meat to organize). True collectivism. Eventually “Lord of the Flies” chaos. The Fyre festival. Everyone for himself.
Growth is oxygen. Growth is how we afford virus vaccines and cures for cancer, Alzheimer’s and ALS. Growth is how we take people out of poverty. Growth lifts all ships, not just oligarchs’ yachts.
Why do so many push for no-growth?
No growth is deadly, so why do so many push it? Joseph Stalin called his naive allies “useful idiots.” The no-growth movement has more than its share of dunces pitching policies to kill economic growth. Do they realize this? To be nice, I’ll call them No-Grows.
No-Grows are the ones shouting “sustainability.” When you hear “net zero” it screams no growth. Let’s drive energy prices high enough to limit growth (hey, it worked!). Please ignore that it enriches makers of not-yet-ready green solutions. Climate change is another No-Grow favorite—it’s an “existential threat”! Solutions aren’t about adapting but instead population-limiting economic brakes.
Everything involving redistribution is no-growth because it steals productive capital and gives it to a protected class. No-Grows are all over the Biden administration, pushing equity at Treasury, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the military. Their leaders know better but have their marching orders. No-Grow Lina Khan at the Federal Trade Commission runs a “big is bad” (except for government) antitrust regime. We long ago lost our dysfunctional education system to a curriculum that teaches mushy rhetoric instead of the hard tools needed for economic growth.
By the way, the Trump tariff triplets—Mnuchin, Navarro and Lighthizer—were NoGrows who pushed protectionism over global growth.
‘Social justice’ is a no-growth philosophy
Social-justice warriors hide behind squishy sentiments like intersectionality, critical race theory and inclusion. But they’re definitely No-Grows because they seek to end meritocracy, the incentive system for growth and progress.
No-Grows push stakeholder capitalism, the unholy alliance of companies, government, workers, environmentalists and activists, forcing nogrowth policies into boardrooms instead of trying to maximize innovation-inducing growth and profits. Add media songbirds chirping economickilling agitprop—No-Grows with a megaphone.
Who could be against raising living standards and reducing poverty? Central planners, that’s who. No-Grows would rather shuffle stuff around. That’s their power. The Soviets had the Ministry of Agriculture and Food to concoct unreachable Five Year Plans. That’s the dream of expert class mouthpieces—econo-NoGrows Joseph Stiglitz, Jeffrey Sachs and Paul Krugman—who crave a no-growth world that would worship their talents to save it.
Read closely the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Over half lead to no growth, which would require UN technocrats to rescue us. Sad, because markets work and reach far and wide. Prices automatically allow billions of people to allocate resources, removing the need for biased experts.
Is anyone pro-growth anymore? Capitalism is almost by definition sustainable and renewable, grow or die, because if growth stagnates—U.K., anyone?—capital moves elsewhere. Forget the bogus tradeoff, profit is well-being because it creates more jobs instead of government honeypots to pay people not to work. Growth is fuel. Someone tell the World Economic Forum that without growth, life would emulate lockdowns awaiting orders from our leaders. Hey, maybe that’s their goal. Just say no to No-Grows.