Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Growth as a Global Cancer 

Pollution, resource depletion, hesitating economy, war, drug and the likes are parts of what makes today’s reality. We are getting used to be going nowhere but are at the same time hoping that things will get better. For my part, I like to believe that there is an economic model somewhere that can help humanity evolve in terms of interconnectedness and long-term sustainability. Idealism being something that I am slowly accepting to live with, I often read exploratory texts that expose big fat visions of what could be a better world. One of my last findings (even though the text was published in 2002) is worth discussing a bit today.

EGaia, Growing a peaceful, sustainable Earth through communications (intro, part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4) by Gary Alexander definitely had the title to grab my attention. Part 1 (the only one I read so far) describes humanity as a global cancer with many of today’s woes linked to the relentless pursuit of growth.

“Instead of being constrained and controlled by the needs of humanity, much less the natural world, our modern globalised monetary system has taken on a life of its own. Flows of money have become relatively isolated from physical constraints. In 1995, only 2 or 3% of money flows were to do with trade or investment. The rest were speculative – buying and selling currencies.”

“Sustained economic growth, that hallowed goal of politicians, central bankers and business people, appears sensible only in the context of an economy following local goals which are disconnected from physical reality. No natural process can ever grow indefinitely. It will always find some natural limit. A recession may actually be good for the environment because production and consumption are lower.”

I was hooked. For me the fact that money is created from growth instead of value creation in stock markets has always been a systemic problem. Just think of what makes up the value of stocks:
- The market value of current assets
- The actualization of future profits
- Speculation
No profit growth, no value growth. There is indeed a limit to growth and this limit is often reminded to us through crisis (economic, ecological, humanitarian). Yes, I was hooked.

Alexander obviously offers a vision of what would be is “ideal”, which I would describe as a network of hippie-like communities using IT as communication core structure. A bit far-fetched but I am open to bold ideas. But what I was really looking for was an alternative to the growth-driven economy. That came in the form of eliminating money and replacing it with a “footprint” system. Individuals would be paid footprints, instead of money, for their contribution to the community. Which would allow them to “buy” goods and services.

Unhooked (only for the economic aspect)! That is still money to me. Whether you call it dollar, euro, yen or footprint, that is still money. Even in a hippie-like community, there is always someone looking to get more footprints who is ready to lend footprints to those in need (at an interest rate) and who would speculate on how many footprints another individual or organization will get next year.

I am still looking for this sustainable economic model but I recommend Alexander’s text to those interested by finding a way to cure this world’s illnesses. I will probably comment on parts 2 to 4 shortly.

Via George Por

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