In 2010 I took the train up to Leeds and joined Britain’s first Steady State Conference, organised by CASSE and Economic Justice for All. It was a conference that aimed to generate ideas rather than just talk at its attendees, and the series of workshops produced a big stack of possible policies for creating a steady state society. Dan O’Neill and Rob Dietz, who both spoke at the conference, took those ideas away with them. First they were written up as a report, and three years later they form the basis of this book, Enough is Enough: Building a Sustainable Economy in a World of Finite Resources.
The great thing about Enough is that it picks up where many post growth books finish. Some authors spend their page count laying into the status quo and then sketch a vague alternative at the end, but not these ones. “The purpose of this book is to describe how to establish a prosperous yet non-growing economy” say Dietz and O’Neill. “This is not a book that focuses on the problems while relegating solutions to the last few pages.”
Theme by theme, the book works through aspects of the economy and society – finance, business, population, describing how things could be different. Each chapter is guided by three questions to keep it practical: What are we doing? What could we do instead? Where do we go from here?
There are many ideas that you may have encountered before, such as alternative currencies, reducing work hours, or the citizen’s income. Many more will be new. Importantly, the book includes a few things that are often overlooked in these sorts of debates, such as the developing world context and how different growth rates could be negotiated according to need. It also recognises that a major cultural shift is required, a change in values. That’s not so simple, it can only be a gradual reassessment of what we think is important. But the book has ideas here too, how consumerism can be undermined and a more cooperative ethic cultivated.
The book doesn’t cover everything. One outstanding problem that isn’t addressed is existing debt and how it can be repaid without growth. Without a massive debt write-off to clear the decks, debt repayments would take up a growing slice of expenditure in a shrinking economy. That’s not an unsurpassable obstacle to a steady state economy, but it’s something that post growth writers need to examine.
Still, Dietz and O’Neill have done the post growth movement a great service. Plenty of people can see the problems with the growth economy, but don’t have an alternative vision to fight for. There have been ideas out there, but only if you went looking for them. Now they’re in one place, and they’re useful ideas too – things that real citizens, businesses and governments can start on today, not utopian theories for an imaginary ideal world.
Enough is Enough shows that it is entirely possible to create “a better future where sustainable and equitable human well-being is the goal.” So read the gloomy book that dismantles growth economics. Then read this one. And then join us and get to work.