books growth

Ed Miliband reads up on post-growth

This is the first time I’ve used a paparazzi image on the blog, but I suspect it’ll be the last too. Here’s Britain’s leader of the opposition Ed Miliband photographed with his summer reading, as featured in the Daily Mail. Three books from the top is Tim Jackson’s Prosperity Without Growth.

We do actually have Miliband’s views on post-growth on record. Here’s an interview from the Transition Network conference a couple of years ago, where Rob Hopkins and Peter Lipman do their best to get him to address the question of infinite growth in a finite world.

“If I think about my own constituency, or about China or India, economic growth is what lifts people out of poverty and raises people’s living standards” he argues. “I agree with you that we need a different model of economic growth, but I’m not sure that a message of ‘no growth’ is going to persuade people, or is even the right thing.”

With nine other titles competing, here’s hoping Jackson’s book gets the attention it deserves. Now, I wonder if David Cameron can be persuaded to read it…


    1. At this point I’d settle for a change in the conversation – making it okay for politicians to talk critically about GDP and question the value of endless growth. At the moment the whole debate is off limits. If I were Miliband or Cameron and was beginning to find this stuff convincing, I’d immediately commission a load more research. Economics without growth doesn’t attract research funding, and the only substantial modelling for a post growth economy was done in Canada by Peter Victor. I’d want a whole team working on it, looking into what it means for macroeconomics, how international trade would work, how debts could be paid or dealt with without growth to pay the interest, and a thousand other questions that become terrifying the moment they cease to be hypothetical.

      Beyond that, he’s already made a good start my commissioning an alternative metric in the national accounts of wellbeing. He would have to start taking inequality much more seriously – a challenge to the Conservative mindset, which prefers to talk about fairness and equality of opportunity. In the medium term there are changes to working hours, a high pay commission, regulations to advertising, and all sorts of other measures that could move us gently in the right direction.

  1. Government’s ‘austerity-efforts’ at ‘debt-service’ need to be successful at a rate than is faster than the ‘economic-growth-rate’ on which they say this ‘debt-service-success’ is dependent.

    This is now almost a a philosophy akin to ‘alchemy’, wishing for more ‘fool’s gold’. In fairness, the ‘financial markets’ have them completely by the throat – grow or we’ll punish you.

    However, it seems to me that between them [Gov/Mkt] they can only fool some of the people some of the time and possibly most of the people most of the time. But they can’t fool all the people all the time and it is this – the almost primordial fear of ‘default’ and ‘collapse’ – which prefers the false-promises of ‘alchemy’ even though the incessant destruction of environmental capital increasingly and incessantly shows that portfolio-diversity is inversely proportional to biological diversity.

    To change the conversation to address that seems to be what’s needed but measuring ‘well-being’ includes, but takes in a lot more than, ‘personal happiness’.

    If the ‘numeraire’ is ‘money’, its ‘growth’ and we’re doomed. That’s why [for me] the numeraire v-a-v UNFCCC-compliance for example is C&C: – and money needs to be a function of that.

    Though they all profess C&C: – [scroll down a bit] . . .

    I don’t have the sense any of them have begun to internalise any of that just yet.

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