Managing Without Growth
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Managing Without Growth

Slower by Design, Not Disaster

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.
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Chapter 11: Policies for Managing Without Growth

Peter A. Victor


What all this amounts to is a different sort of macroeconomic policy in an environmentally friendly world. The centrepiece will be a shortening of standard working hours backed up by public investment in environmental productivity improvements. (Booth 2004) macroeconomic policies must be judged not on whether they promise growth, but on what kind of qualitative change in economic systems they achieve. (Harris and Goodwin 2003) The opening chapter of this book described the emergence of the idea of economic growth and its comparatively recent ascent as the near universal, overarching public policy objective of government, no matter how rich their economies. That the OECD would launch an initiative named ‘Going for Growth’ in 2005 (OECD 2006) shows how important ‘vigorous sustainable economic growth’ remains to the governments of its member countries. As Jonathan Porritt states, ‘Of all the defining characteristics of post World-War II capitalism, the centrality of economic growth as the overarching policy objective is perhaps the most important’ (Porritt 2005, p. 45). Is vigorous, sustainable economic growth feasible in OECD countries if it is also to be enjoyed by much poorer countries where the contribution of economic growth to well being is so much greater and more obvious? In Chapter 2, we described economies as open systems embedded in and dependent on the closed system of planet Earth. Material and energy flows between the economy and the environment are increasing while the capacity of the environment to accommodate them is not. If anything it is shrinking....

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