Prosperity without Growth: Economics for a Finite Planet. (Anglais) Broché – 18 mars 2011
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Description du produit
Revue de presse
'One of the best books of the year' --Financial Times
'On a planet with finite resources, perpetual growth is not only impossible, but it is endangering the survival of present and future generations. I urge everyone to read Tim Jackson's brilliant and visionary book. He offers a detailed critique of the existing economic paradigm, and makes compelling suggestions for a shared and lasting prosperity.' ***** Read more reviews at http://www.earthscan.co.uk/?tabid=102863#dnn_ctr288528_ViewProductInfo_fragment3 --Bianca Jagger, Founder and Chair, Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation; Council of Europe Goodwill Ambassador; Member of the Executive Director's Leadership Council, Amnesty International, USA; Trustee, Amazon Charitable Trust
Présentation de l'éditeur
Is more economic growth the solution? Will it deliver prosperity and well-being for a global population projected to reach nine billion? In this explosive book, Tim Jackson - a top sustainability adviser to the UK government - makes a compelling case against continued economic growth in developed nations.
No one denies that development is essential for poorer nations. But in the advanced economies there is mounting evidence that ever-increasing consumption adds little to human happiness and may even impede it. More urgently, it is now clear that the ecosystems that sustain our economies are collapsing under the impacts of rising consumption. Unless we can radically lower the environmental impact of economic activity - and there is no evidence to suggest that we can - we will have to devise a path to prosperity that does not rely on continued growth.
Economic heresy? Or an opportunity to improve the sources of well-being, creativity and lasting prosperity that lie outside the realm of the market? Tim Jackson provides a credible vision of how human society can flourish ï¿½ within the ecological limits of a finite planet. Fulfilling this vision is simply the most urgent task of our times.
This book is a substantially revised and updated version of Jackson's controversial study for the Sustainable Development Commission, an advisory body to the UK Government. The study rapidly became the most downloaded report in the Commission's nine year history when it was launched earlier this year.
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But Jackson never really addresses the “elephant in the room”: global human population growth. In fact, four to five times in the book he accepts it as a “given” that the world’s population will be 9 billion in 2050, and we must make adjustments now to accommodate all these new people. Why not just accept the fact that the world’s temperature will increase 2 degrees Celsius by the same date, and make the necessary accommodations? Jackson’s first graph is a plot of “economic growth” vs. “ecological overshoot” over time (the latter is a rather fuzzy concept)… but should not this first graph concerned “population growth”? Indeed should we not actively be striving to determine the optimum population for the planet in direct conjunction with human’s impact on the earth’s warming?
The book was published in 2009, with the “economic meltdown” of 2008 not very far in the rear view mirror. Another of Jackson’s “givens” is that the financial system had to be bailed out, and those who wanted to seize the opportunity to have more meaningful reforms were dubbed “revolutionaries.” But is the concept of eliminating “a bank too big to fail,” through meaningful anti-trust laws, “revolutionary”? Teddy Roosevelt, where are you now that we need you? Jackson never addressed the specific mechanisms that the Federal Reserve used to bail out Wall Street via the expansion of its “balance sheet” through bond purchases (a dressed up version of printing money – but only for a select few) and the 100% tax rate it imposed on savers (by fixing interest rates at almost zero). The government bails out the super-rich from their follies, at least at 100 cents on the dollar, and is only willing “to hear the pain” (and do nothing about it!) of the 99%. This should have been a central focus of this book, and was not.
In his chapter entitled “The Iron Cage of Consumerism” Jackson restates and rehashes many of the points made by Vance Packard over a half century ago in Status Seekers (that is, we purchase goods to “one-up” our friends and neighbors) and The Waste Makers. Jackson’s statements on page 97: “The cycles of creative destruction become ever more frequent. Product lifetimes plummet as durability is designed out of consumer goods and obsolescence is designed in. Quality is sacrificed relentlessly to volume throughput,” could have come directly from the latter work.
Finally, Jackson’s last chapters address ways in which we might be able to move towards a sustainable economy and a lasting prosperity without ever addressing the issue that we have moved away from both of these goals since the days of Vance Packard, and in particular, WHY we have moved away from them. (Packard is not listed in the references). Could it be that the power elites (nor is C. Wright Mills listed!) are quite comfortable with the existing social and economic order which provides a vast “pool” of insecure labor to do its bidding? But don’t get me started… since Jackson never did commence addressing any of these issues. As a final comment, I found much of the prose beset by turgidity as well as tautological platitudes. Alas, I really wanted to like this book, instead, 2-stars.
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Read Charles Eisenstein’s book “Sacred Economics” for a complementary take on this theme, including ideas such as “negative interest” that could be used to guide investment in a contracting economy. Jackson’s mathematics for sustainable economics (Appendix II) has some of the right concepts but lacks the proper mathematical framework, which is the nonlinear system dynamics of the limits-to-growth studies from the 1970s.
Already on page 2 Jackson lays out the fundamental fact that is so unpalatable to capitalists and their investors and cheerleaders: “In pursuit of the good life today, we are systematically eroding the basis for well-being tomorrow”. That is, capitalism, as we know it, is totally dependent on profit, but opportunities for profit in a contracting economy (due to limits-to-growth) are few and often only achieved by damaging exploitation of people, natural resources, or ecosystems. Thus as we head from ecological overshoot into collapse over coming decades, capitalism will lose its credibility. And what will take its place – especially if the endemic warfare we already see in the Middle East spreads globally?
As Jackson says on page 15: “The concept of governance itself stands in urgent need of renewal.” But first Jackson takes a harder look at the financial collapse of 2008, concluding that “The very policies put in place to stimulate growth in the economy eventually led to its downfall.” In fact I just finished a good article demonstrating how China did exactly the same the thing with the same results – the bursting of its real estate bubble in 2014 and stock market bubble in 2015. Jackson concludes that “Our ecological debts are as unstable as our financial debts. Neither is properly accounted for in the relentless pursuit of consumption growth.”
Then Jackson takes a more philosophical look at prosperity, seeking a “happiness based measure of utility, not an expenditure-based measure” (p. 41). Ultimately he concludes that we must learn to live within limits – limits on our consumption hence on our freedom too, which I note could range from the ancient Buddhist practice of detachment up to modern practices of voluntary simplicity. Later he contrasts this approach to the psychology and economics that drives consumerism.
Conventional capitalism fails because it pushes toward either expansion or collapse, when what is needed is resilience (p. 64). But before going deeper Jackson looks at the “Myth of Decoupling”, decoupling being the economists’ claim that it is possible to achieve material economic growth with fewer resources and environmental impacts by sheer efficiency. While seemingly possible in certain theoretical frameworks, it is difficult to find in practice. Part of the problem is “Jevons paradox” – that efficiencies in one area simply lead to new spending in other areas. Another problem is that the “other areas” may be far removed in a global economy, hence not measured, such as replacing smoke stacks in Europe by smoke stacks in China for manufacturing. Another problem is that big efficiencies have typically come from new technology, which itself requires major and sustained investment, hence more resources or at least a significant shift in resource usage. Of course, during a long period of sustained economic contraction the incentives for efficiencies will be strong, so many will happen naturally, mitigating the economic collapse, yet big efficiencies in infrastructure which require major investments may never happen as different factions fight for control over declining resources, even destroying critical infrastructure in the process. Far more likely are minor efficiencies combined with simply using less. Thus Jackson concludes that salvation through efficiency” is nothing short of delusional” (p. 86).
Finally Jackson introduces the economic proposals that seem to make the most sense, such as a “Green New Deal” (p. 107). But are these “too little, too late”? Or would they require financing by strong taxation of luxuries, carbon, etc., elements which are not part of traditional Keynesian stimulus packages? Or would at least partial government ownership of large enterprises be necessary when crucial long term investments yield losses instead of profits?
Jackson also takes a look at labor productivity vs returns on capital, an area where economists have created a great muddle, one that has led Jackson and many others astray. For example, in some places people are calling for work sharing and more leisure time, given current levels of productivity, and this has actually been practiced in Germany. Of course this would seem to make sense for affluent people with economic security. But in the US the majority are not in this position, with intense competition for getting or keeping the shrinking number of jobs that do pay well and have benefits, so many of those who could theoretically job share end up working harder, not less.
Now consider what happens when rising energy and resource costs drive the global economy into long term contraction. This will mean declining productivity of capital and a gradual return of human labor to some endeavors. Already in the US we are seeing a resurgence of organic agriculture as industrial agriculture reaches its limits to growth. Thus, even as energy and resource efficient technologies continue to grow in areas like information and communications, we’ll see a revival of human labor in other areas, and not just services.
However, Jackson fails to see this dynamic, in part because economists typically confuse labor productivity with the productivity of energy, resources, and technology. Thus while it is true that humans and machines can act together to produce enormous quantities of goods and services, what part of that productivity do you attribute to the people and what part to the machine? Marx would attribute most of the productivity to the person, while a capitalist would attribute most of it to the capital. Historically it is obvious that most of the productivity derives from the capital, as GDP correlates closely with energy usage, in contrast to all the problems economists have with their “production functions”. Yet this is the wrong question, since how the benefits of productivity are distributed is entirely a matter of the governing political economy.
In the end Jackson offers the vision of a “resilient” economy as a worthy short term goal, an economy based on an awareness of limits-to-growth and the likely shocks ahead. In other words, it’s the old Boy Scout motto “Be Prepared”. As disasters mount, this point of view should gain traction with both technological optimists and pessimists.
Rebuilding prosperity from the bottom up is what is required, And though it may seem daunting, the reality is that we already know a lot about what's needed.
Beyond the provision of nutrition and shelter, prosperity consists in our ability to participate in the life of society, in our sense of shared meaning and purpose and in our capacity to dream.
p. 63 & 192
Worth reading the first half so you can cite his well researched argument against the perpetual growth economy in your own work.