Managing Without Growth

Managing Without Growth

Slower by Design, Not Disaster

Advances in Ecological Economics series

Peter A. Victor

Peter Victor challenges the priority that rich countries continue to give to economic growth as an over-arching objective of economic policy. The challenge is based on a critical analysis of the literature on environmental and resource limits to growth, on the disconnect between higher incomes and happiness, and on the failure of economic growth to meet other key economic, social and environmental policy objectives. Shortly after World War II, economic growth became the paramount economic policy objective in most countries, a position that it maintains today. This book presents three arguments on why rich countries should turn away from economic growth as the primary policy objective and pursue more specific objectives that enhance wellbeing.

Chapter 1: The Idea of Economic Growth

Peter A. Victor

Subjects: environment, ecological economics, environmental politics and policy, politics and public policy, environmental politics and policy


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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