The Growth Illu$ion: How Economic Growth Has Enriched the Few, Impoverished the Many, and Endangered the Planet

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New Society Publishers, Jan 1, 1999 - Business & Economics - 383 pages
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List of Graphs and IllustrationsviiAcknowledgmentsixForeword by Edward GoldsmithxiIntroduction11 Quality or Quantity?5Politicians promise to raise the standard of living. What they do not say is that this will inescapably reduce the quality of our lives.2 Why Capitalism Needs Growth18Capitalism cannot survive without growth. Firms are compelled to expand to avoid collapse. In the world up to 1914, this compulsion built empires, destroyed indigenous cultures and, finally, led to world war.3 Ill Fares the Land33Growth in Britain during the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions made life progressively worse for ordinary people until about 1850. Conditions then began to improve - but as a result of depression, not growth. By 1914 living conditions might, just, have returned to their level of two hundred years previously.4 The Benefits of War and Depression51Major advances in the living conditions of the British people resulted from two world wars, the depressions of the twenties and thirties and the fiercely redistributive policies of the 1945 Labour government. Whenever growth appeared, life for the majority got worse.5 Mrs Thatcher and the Struggle Against Inflation57After thirty years in which both major British political parties fought over the best way to achieve a high economic growth rate rather than the division of the economic cake, Mrs Thatcher?s three governments engineered a major shift in incomes and wealth in favour of the rich.6 Ned Ludd Was Right77The growth process perverts the national economy within which it works. It causes unemployment and yet makes labour less affordable. It enables the concentration of economic power and requires ever-higher shares of national income to be spent by the state.7 Growth and the National Health96It was not until 1955 that accelerating the growth rate became the major British economic obsession. Since then, the methods used to generate higher levels of output have caused a large increase in chronic illness.8 How Growth Damaged Family and Community Life120All the indicators of the quality of life show that this deteriorated in Britain over the past three decades. Unemployment soared, crime increased eightfold and many more marriages ended in divorce. 9 What Has All the Growth Done?151Has growth kept its promises? An examination of the changes in Britain since the fifties shows that the process brought very few benefits at all.10 Growth Must Have a Stop172Because their need for growth forces firms to adopt new technologies before their impact can be assessed, environmental disasters such as the large-scale release of CFCs and PCBs are inevitable. Innovations must only be permitted when it is clear that society and the environment will benefit.11 Growth in the Greenhouse193Politicians are more concerned about maintaining conditions in which economic growth is possible than holding the world?s climate unchanged. 12 The Dutch Dilemma217Continuing to grow economically is neither necessary for the wellbeing of the Dutch people nor desirable for their environment. They are, however, both unwilling and unable to bring the process to a stop.13 The Mahatma?s Message229India has found that industrialization has created many more problems than it has solved and there is a growing group of people who would like to see Mahatma Gandhi?s put-the-weakest-first policies used instead.14 De Valera?s Dream249Since Ireland made economic growth its priority in the late 1950s, it has raised its people?s incomes by introducing labour-saving technologies and by sending those whom the process makes redundant to live overseas.15 The Myth of Sustainable Growth284The only sustainable society is a stable society - there is no such thing as sustainable growth. What are the principles on which such a society can be built? In particular, how can we stabilize world population?16 Guiding the Invisible Hand305Morality lost almost all control over the direction of economic change after Adam Smith?s concept of the ?invisible hand? gained acceptance. If the world is to have a bright future, it must govern our actions again.Epilogue 324 / References 325 / Bibliography 333 / Index 348

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About the author (1999)

Richard Douthwaite is a columnist for The Irish Times, New Internationalist, and Earthwatch, and author of the influential book, Short Circuit: Strengthening Local Economies in an Unstable World. He lives in Westport, Ireland.

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