Slower by Design, Not Disaster
Advances in Ecological Economics series
Chapter 9: The Disappointments of Economic Growth
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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