Slower by Design, Not Disaster
Advances in Ecological Economics series
Chapter 1: The Idea of Economic Growth
In countries that are already very rich, we especially need to ﬁgure out if there are feasible alternatives to our hidebound commitment to economic growth, because it’s becoming increasingly clear that endless material growth is incompatible with the long-term viability of Earth’s environment. (Thomas HomerDixon 2006) It is hard to imagine a time when economic growth was not paramount in the minds of politicians, the media, business, trade unions, and the public at large. For years Statistics Canada, Canada’s world class statistical agency, published annual estimates of Canada’s gross domestic product (GDP). Then it started producing quarterly estimates and now it releases estimates each month; such is the appetite for information about Canada’s economy. The statistical news is spread in print and electronically by newspapers, TV, radio, the Internet and by banks and investment houses. The latest estimates of GDP are compared with previous ones. The greater the increase the better. Or is it? Comparisons of GDP, GDP per capita, and growth rates with other countries are also popular (Conference Board of Canada 2007, p. 38). A ready audience can always be found for anyone who expresses concern about threats to Canada’s high position in the international GDP league tables. We are told to spend more on education to prepare employees for the ‘new economy’ (a term that quickly became old after the dotcom crash of the late 1990s), or ‘knowledge-based’ economy (as if the ‘old’ economy ran without knowledge). We need more immigrants, particularly those with marketable skills and...
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