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 9: The Disappointments of Economic Growth

Peter A. Victor

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


Growth is widely thought to be the panacea for all major economic ills of the modern world . . . poverty . . . unemployment . . . overpopulation . . . environmental degradation. (Daly 2005) Few would dispute the tremendous contribution that two centuries or more of economic growth have made to raise the standard of living of people in countries fortunate enough to have experienced it. Economic growth has made it possible for people to live longer, healthier lives at a level of comfort that even the wealthy in pre-industrial societies could scarcely imagine let alone experience. Easterlin (1996) puts the case well though Douthwaite (1999) is less impressed. But economic growth has its costs. These can be environmental costs, referring to people’s relationship to nature, and social costs, people’s relationships with one another. Environmental costs include the adverse effects of resource extraction, waste disposal, and the loss of habitat and species. Social costs include the breakdown of communities, alienation, crowding and crime. Some of these costs have been borne by those who have benefited from growth. Others have been borne by those who have benefited far less from growth. Sometimes the disparity between the gains and losses from economic growth is local and regional, as between people living in different parts of a city or different regions in the same country. The more egregious disparity is between entire countries, where growth in some has taken place at the cost of de-development and oppression in others. The impact of the European colonizers on the native...

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