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 8: Economic Growth and Happiness

Peter A. Victor

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


There is a paradox at the heart of our lives. Most people want more income and strive for it. Yet as Western societies have got richer, their people have become no happier . . . It is a fact proven by many pieces of scientific research. (Layard 2005b) In Chapters 4, 5 and 6 we considered several biophysical limits to long term economic growth. In Chapter 7, we questioned the extent to which changes in the composition of what we produce and consume and in technology can be relied upon to overcome these limits. The outlook is anything but rosy. What if the rich countries of the world have to make room for the poor countries by deliberately slowing their rate of economic growth? If the whole purpose of economic growth is to make people happy then does this mean that those who live in the rich countries are doomed to a life of boredom and unhappiness? In this chapter, we consider the relationship between economic growth and human well being and in particular, the relationship between economic growth and happiness. We will discover that higher incomes do make people happier but only up to a point. After that, more money does not help very much. We will look at the growing body of evidence on which this finding is based. We will also employ a simple, two person, two product model to show how the pursuit of status through consumption can be selfdefeating and is best avoided. All this is good...

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