>>>  Laatst gewijzigd: 15 mei 2019  
Ik

Woorden en Beelden

Filosofie en de waan van de dag

Start Glossen Weblog Boeken Denkwerk

Samenleving en economie

Voorkant Jackson 'Prosperity without growth - Economics for a finite planet' Tim JACKSON
Prosperity without growth - Economics for a finite planet
London-New York: EarthScan from Routledge, 2009, 264 blzn.; ISBN-13: 978 18 4971 3238

[Jackson werkt als ecologisch econoom / hoogleraar duurzame ontwikkeling aan de University of Sussex in de UK. Hij is al zo'n twintig jaar met deze thematiek bezig. Het boek dat ik hier samenvat is zijn meest invloedrijke publicatie en werd vertaald in meer dan vijftien talen. Het is helder en met kennis van zaken geschreven, Jackson neemt standpunten in en onderbouwt die met overtuigende argumenten. Hij is van mening dat het idee van een voortdurende economische groei geen stand houdt, ook al wordt dat ondanks de fundamentele en globale crisis sinds 2008 nog steeds door de meeste economen en politici en managers verdedigd, een crisis die nota bene juist door dat dogma veroorzaakt is. Jackson vindt dat voorspoed, welvaart en welzijn ook mogelijk zijn zonder economische groei. Zo is het maar net!]

(xi) Forewords

Dat van Herman E. Daly begint bijzonder scherp:

"The fundamental axiom of growth, rigorously stated by Kenneth Boulding, is that 'When something grows, it gets bigger!' When the economy grows it too gets bigger. So, dear economist, when the economy grows, (a) exactly what is it that is getting bigger? (b) How big is it now? (c) How big could it possibly get? (d) How big should it be? Given that economic growth is the top priority for all nations, one would expect that these questions would get major attention in all economics textbooks. In fact (b), (c) and (d) are not raised at all, and (a) is answered unsatisfactorily. Prosperity Without Growth makes a large contribution to filling this void. Given academic economists' long track record of mind-numbing irrelevance it should perhaps not be so surprising that this report originated in the government."(xi)

Kritiek op de fixatie op het BNP. Het economische subsysteem is te groot geworden voor het ecosysteem waarbinnen het functioneert, vindt Daly.

Bill McKibben - die Deep Economy schreef - noemt Rachel Carson's boek Silent Spring als een eerste kritiek op het sprookje van de eindeloze groei. Ook hij heeft niet veel op met economen:

"So the time has never been better for a sober and clearheaded book like this, which lays out what we know in clear terms – one is tempted to say so clear that even an economist might understand them. But don't bet on that – they've got the most at stake and will be the last to wake up from this spell. Which is why the rest of us had really better pay attention!"(xiv)

Mary Robinson geeft de situatie nog eens weer, er is geen sprake van verbetering sinds in 1948 de Universal Declaration of Human Rights werd aangenomen.

"At a time of unparalleled prosperity for some, 54 countries are poorer now than they were a decade ago. Worldwide, the number of people living in chronic poverty and daily insecurity has not changed for more than ten years, with women and children suffering disproportionately.
Perhaps most extraordinary of all is that six decades of economic growth – and a global economy which is now more than five times the size it was in 1948 – has not brought about equivalent progress on fulfilling basic human rights to adequate food, access to health care and education or to decent employment. And the situation for some has worsened. In a world of nearly 6.7 billion people, 4 billion still live without basic entitlements."(xv)

Pavan Sukdhev stelt:

"Human society needs to change – its economics, its accounts, its implicit biases against natural capital (versus man-made capital), against public wealth (versus private wealth) and against logical and less consumption (versus manic and more). And perhaps above all, human society needs to re-examine and change its relationship with nature to one of harmony and co-existence."(xix)

(1) 1 - Prosperity lost

[De vertaling van 'prosperity' is 'voorspoed', maar raakt natuurlijk ook aan welvaart en welzijn.]

We zeggen dat alles voorspoedig gaat wanneer ons leven verloopt naar onze verwachtingen. Mijn voorspoed hangt samen met de voorspoed van anderen.

"Writ large, this shared concern translates itself into a vision of human progress. Prosperity speaks of the elimination of hunger and homelessness, an end to poverty and injustice, hopes for a secure and peaceful world. And this vision is important not just for altruistic reasons but often too as reassurance that our own lives are meaningful. It brings with it a comforting sense that things are getting better on the whole – rather than worse – if not always for us then at least for those who come after us. A better society for our children. A fairer world. A place where those less fortunate will one day thrive. If I cannot believe this prospect is possible, then what can I believe? What sense can I make of my own life?"(1-2)

Die beelden geven hoop, maar hoe realiseren we voorspoed? Wat is het juiste mechanisme daarvoor?

"One of the key messages of this book is that we're failing in that task. Our technologies, our economy and our social aspirations are all mis-aligned with any meaningful expression of prosperity. The vision of social progress that drives us – based on the continual expansion of material wants – is fundamentally untenable. And this failing is not a simple falling short from utopian ideals. It is much more basic. In pursuit of the good life today, we are systematically eroding the basis for well-being tomorrow. We stand in real danger of losing any prospect of a shared and lasting prosperity."(2

Er moet dus gezocht worden naar een oplossing voor het grootste dilemma van vandaag de dag: het verzoenen van onze behoefte aan een goed leven met de beperkingen die een eindige planeet aan ons stelt. Het huidige antwoord op die kwestie is zoiets als voorspoed = economische groei = hoger BNP. Daarbij wordt geen verschil gemaakt tussen rijke en arme landen.

"But does the same logic really hold for the richer nations, where subsistence needs are largely met and further proliferation of consumer goods adds little to material comfort? How is it that with so much stuff already we still hunger for more? Might it not be better to halt the relentless pursuit of growth in the advanced economies and concentrate instead on sharing out the available resources more equitably?"(4)

"But it's worth making quite clear here that to many economists the very idea of prosperity without growth is a complete anathema. Growth in the GDP is taken for granted. Reams and reams have been written about what it's based on, who's best at making it happen and what to do when it stops happening. Far less is written about why we might want it in the first place."(4)

Die koppeling van voorspoed aan een toename van materiële welvaart (weergegeven door dat BNP) is vreemd en bestond vroeger dan ook niet. Bovendien is duidelijk dat die toename bijzonder ongelijk verdeeld is over de wereldbevolking, zelfs binnen de rijke landen zijn de inkomensverschillen de laatste twintig jaar alleen maar gegroeid. Toename van materiële welvaart is er dus alleen maar voor een bevoorrechte kleine groep.

"Fairness (or the lack of it) is only one of the reasons to question the conventional formula for achieving prosperity. Another is the growing recognition that, beyond a certain point at least, continued pursuit of economic growth doesn't appear to advance and may even impede human happiness."(5)

Bovendien is de vraag hoe lang groei door kan gaan en waar er grenzen opduiken. Die vraag is niet nieuw. Thomas Malthus had het er al over op het eind van de 18e eeuw (de man die schreef over overbevolking), de Club van Rome schreef er over in de 1970-er jaren (het rapport Limits to growth), en het 'peak oil' - debat (over wanneer de piek in olieproductie bereikt zou zijn) is actueel. De schaarste van alle mogelijke bronnen is een belangrijk thema in die discussies.

"Even the International Energy Agency (IEA) now suggests that the 'peak' could arrive as early as 2020. Other commentators believe it could be even sooner. Oil will not disappear beyond that peak. But it will be scarcer and more costly to extract. The era of cheap oil would to all intents and purposes be gone and the economics of energy would be irrevocably altered as a result."(9)

"This third phase of the limits debate is different from the last two. Resource scarcity – the problem of 'sources' in the language of environmental economists – is only part of the concern. The debate is driven even more strongly by the problem of 'sinks' – the capacity of the planet to 'assimilate' the environmental impacts of economic activity. 'Even before we run out of oil,' explains ecologist Bill McKibben, 'we're running out of planet.'
Climate change is one of these sink problems. It's brought about by the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere – accelerated by human activities, especially the burning of fossil fuels. The ability of the climate to assimilate these emissions without incurring 'dangerous' climate change is fast running out."(11)

De cijfers over de grenzen aan de groei spreken zo duidelijk en toch bestaat er een soort van collectieve blindheid voor. Wanneer de groei hapert raken politici in paniek omdat een recessie werkloosheid en zo verder met zich mee brengt.

"Questioning growth is deemed to be the act of lunatics, idealists and revolutionaries.
But question it we must. The idea of a non-growing economy may be an anathema to an economist. But the idea of a continually growing economy is an anathema to an ecologist. No subsystem of a finite system can grow indefinitely, in physical terms. Economists have to be able to answer the question of how a continually growing economic system can fit within a finite ecological system."(14)

"In short, we have no alternative but to question growth. The myth of growth has failed us. It has failed the 1 billion people who still attempt to live on half the price of a cup of coffee each day. It has failed the fragile ecological systems on which we depend for survival. It has failed, spectacularly, in its own terms, to provide economic stability and secure people's livelihoods.(...)
In these circumstances, a return to business as usual is not an option. Prosperity for the few founded on ecological destruction and persistent social injustice is no foundation for a civilized society. Economic recovery is vital. Protecting people's jobs – and creating new ones – is absolutely essential. But we also stand in urgent need of a renewed sense of shared prosperity. A deeper commitment to justice in a finite world.(15) "()

Daartoe moet ook de politiek hervormd worden, omdat die in materialistische korte-termijn oplossingen denkt die uiteindelijk niet werken.

(17) 2 - The age of irresponsibility

Is het mogelijk om voorspoed te hebben zonder economische groei? Met de financiële crisis van 2008 en erna is die vraag actueler dan ooit.

"If nothing else, the economic crisis presents a unique opportunity to address financial and ecological sustainability together. And, as this chapter argues, the two things are intimately related."(18)

Regeringsleiders hielden de banken - die voor een groot deel verantwoordelijk zijn voor de crisis - overeind met miljarden aan publiek belastinggeld, omdat ze op dat moment niet anders konden. De banken werden erna tijdelijk aan meer regels onderworpen. Het merkwaardige is dat ze in de praktijk al gauw weer konden doen wat ze altijd al deden.

"Extraordinary though some of these interventions were, they were largely regarded as temporary measures, necessary evils in the restoration of a free-market economy. The declared aim was clear. By pumping equity into the banks and restoring confidence to lenders, the world's leaders hope to restore liquidity, re-invigorate demand and halt the recession.
Their ultimate goal was to protect the pursuit of economic growth. Throughout the crisis, that was the one non-negotiable: that growth must continue at all costs. Renewed growth was the end that justified interventions unthought of only a few months previously. No politician seriously questioned it.
And yet allegiance to growth was the single most dominant feature of an economic and political system that led the world to the brink of disaster."(21)

De (groei van de) kapitalistische economie draait op de - van het inkomen losgekoppelde - uitgaven van consumenten en daarmee op de schulden die zij aangaan om dingen te kunnen kopen.

"In an extensive study of differences across market economies, Hall and Soskice distinguish two main types of capitalism within advanced nations. The so-called 'liberal market economies' (specifically Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the US) led the march towards liberalization, competition and deregulation during the 1980s and 1990s. The so-called 'coordinated market economies' (including Belgium, France, Germany, Japan and the Scandinavian countries) were much slower to de-regulate and tend to depend more heavily on strategic interactions between firms – rather than competition – to coordinate economic behaviour.
Both varieties of capitalism are in common agreement about the pursuit of economic growth. But they differ on the right prescription for it. One of the key differences lies in levels of consumer indebtedness. Typically the liberal market economies have encouraged higher levels of consumer debt than coordinated market economies in order to maintain consumption growth. The UK and the US seem to have been particularly prone to this."(22-23)

"The important point here is that when this strategy becomes unstable – as it did during 2008 – it places large sections of the population at risk of lasting financial hardship. Inevitably, that risk falls mainly on those who are most vulnerable already – the lower income groups who profited less from the last two decades of growth. Far from delivering prosperity, the culture of 'borrow and spend' ends up detracting from it.
The same vulnerability can afflict the nation as a whole."(26)

"In short, what emerges from all this is that the market was not undone by isolated practices carried out by rogue individuals. Or even through the turning of a blind eye by less than vigilant regulators. The very policies put in place to stimulate growth in the economy led eventually to its downfall. The market was undone by growth itself."(30)

"For over two decades, de-regulation of financial markets was championed under monetarism as the best way to stimulate demand.(...)
In short, the message from this chapter is that the 'age of irresponsibility' is not about casual oversight or individual greed. The economic crisis is not a consequence of isolated malpractice in selected parts of the banking sector. If there has been irresponsibility, it has been much more systematic, sanctioned from the top, and with one clear aim in mind: the continuation and protection of economic growth."(31)

[Dit standpunt haalt naar mijn smaak te veel de verantwoordelijkheid weg bij individuele personen: er was wel degelijk sprake van 'greed': bij bankiers, speculanten, consumenten was hebzucht een sterk motief voor wat ze deden, ze hadden ook andere keuzes kunnen maken. Maar, ja, het economische systeen en de nadruk op groei gaf ze de ruimte. Dat maakt ze alleen niet minder verantwoordelijk.]

"Environmental factors, resource and land scarcities, also played a key part and will inevitably continue to do so as the economy recovers."(32)

"The material and environmental impacts of growth were paramount in prompting this inquiry. The economic crisis may appear to be unrelated; but it is not. The age of irresponsibility demonstrates a long-term blindness to the limitations of the material world. This blindness is as evident in our inability to regulate financial markets as it is in our inability to protect natural resources and curtail ecological damage. Our ecological debts are as unstable as our financial debts. Neither is properly accounted for in the relentless pursuit of consumption growth."(32-33)

(35) 3 - Redefining prosperity

"Climate change, ecological degradation and the spectre of resource scarcity compound the problems of failing financial markets and economic recession. Short-term fixes to prop up a bankrupt system aren't good enough. Something more is needed. An essential starting point is to set out a coherent notion of prosperity that doesn't rely on default assumptions about consumption growth.
Accordingly, this chapter searches for a different kind of vision for prosperity: one in which it is possible for humans beings to flourish, to achieve greater social cohesion, to find higher levels of well-being and yet still to reduce their material impact on the environment."(35)

Er bestaan allerlei andere visies op voorspoed: psychologische, sociologische, filosofische, religieuze. Geen van allen ontkennen ze het belang van materiële basiszekerheden (voedsel, water, kleding, beschutting). Maar allemaal leggen ze er de nadruk op dat méér nodig is om een goed leven te kunnen leiden:

"Prosperity has vital social and psychological dimensions. To do well is in part about the ability to give and receive love, to enjoy the respect of your peers, to contribute useful work and to have a sense of belonging and trust in the community. In short, an important component of prosperity is the ability to participate freely in the life of society.
Some approaches suggest a 'transcendental' need in human beings. For the more religious perspectives this may entail belief in some higher power. But even secular understandings accept that the human psyche craves meaning and purpose in life. Some perspectives – particularly from the wisdom traditions – add in an important moral or ethical component to prosperity."(36)

Er bestaat en sterke relatie tussen die aspecten van voorspoed en je gelukkig voelen. Jackson ziet drie verschillende concepten van voorspoed (naar Amartya Sen):

"Broadly speaking, Sen's first concept – opulence – corresponds to a conventional understanding that prosperity is about material satisfactions. Opulence refers to the ready availability and steady throughput of material commodities. An increase in the volume flow of commodities represents an increase in prosperity. The more we have the better off we are, in this view."(38)

"Quantity is not the same thing as quality. Opulence is not the same thing as satisfaction. Sen's second characterization of prosperity – as utility – recognizes this. Rather than focusing on the sheer volume of commodities available to us, this second version relates prosperity to the satisfactions which commodities provide.(...) Even something as basic as food doesn't follow a simple linear pattern in which more is always better."(39)

"Sen uses these distinctions to argue (with a nod to Aristotle) for a third concept of the living standard based on the capabilities that people have to flourish. The key questions we should be asking, he insists, are to do with how well people are able to function in any given context."(43)

"But this vision needs to be interpreted carefully: not as a set of disembodied freedoms, but as a range of 'bounded capabilities' to live well – within certain clearly defined limits."(45)

"These limits are established in relation to two critical factors. The first is the finite nature of the ecological resources within which life on earth is possible. These resources include the obvious material ones: fossil fuels, minerals, timber, water, land and so on. They also include the regenerative capacity of ecosystems, the diversity of species and the integrity of the atmosphere, the soils and the oceans.(...)
The second limiting factor on our capability to live well is the scale of the global population. This is simple arithmetic. With a finite pie and any given level of technology, there is only so much in the way of resources and environmental space to go around. The bigger the global population the faster we hit the ecological buffers, the smaller the population the lower the pressure on ecological resources. This basic tenet of systems ecology is the reality of life for every other species on the planet. And for those in the poorest nations."(45)

"Physical and mental health matter. Educational and democratic entitlements count too. Trust, security and a sense of community are vital to social well-being. Relationships, meaningful employment and the ability to participate in the life of society appear to be important almost everywhere. People suffer physically and mentally when these things are absent. Society itself is threatened when they decline.
The challenge for society is to create the conditions in which these basic entitlements are possible. This is likely to require a closer attention to the social, psychological and material conditions of living – for example, to people's psychological well-being and to the resilience of communities – than is familiar in free-market societies.(...)
As social psychologist Tim Kasser has pointed out (Kasser, 2007), this new vision of prosperity may serve us better than the narrow materialistic one that has ensnared us thus far."(47)

(49) 4 - The dilemma of growth

Voorspoed heeft niet alleen met inkomen te maken en de toename ervan is niet hetzelfde als economische groei. De vraag blijft echter nog even of economische groei toch niet een noodzakelijke voorwaarde is voor voorspoed. Daar gaat dit hoofdstuk over.

"It examines three closely related propositions in defence of economic growth. The first is that opulence – though not synonymous with prosperity – is a necessary condition for flourishing. The second is that economic growth is closely correlated with certain basic entitlements – for health or education, perhaps – that are essential to prosperity. The third is that growth is functional in maintaining economic and social stability.
Any of these propositions, if supported, could threaten our prospects for achieving prosperity without growth and would place us instead between the horns of an extremely uncomfortable dilemma. On the one hand, continued growth looks ecologically unsustainable; on the other, it appears essential for lasting prosperity. Making progress against such an 'impossibility theorem' would be vital."(49-50)

Eerste punt: overvloed

Het eerste punt - over 'opulence' [overvloed] - roept de vraag op waarom mensen in rijkere landen - waar in principe aan alle materiële behoeften is voldaan - nog steeds de behoefte voelen aan méér materiële welvaart in hun leven.

"The clue to the puzzle lies in our tendency to imbue material things with social and psychological meanings. A wealth of evidence from consumer research and anthropology now supports this point. And the insight is devastating. Consumer goods provide a symbolic language in which we communicate continually with each other, not just about raw stuff, but about what really matters to us: family, friendship, sense of belonging, community, identity, social status, meaning and purpose in life.
And crucially, these social conversations provide, in part, the means to participate in the life of society. Prosperity itself, in other words, depends on them.(...)
... identifiable as a basic human desire to be noticed, to be included, to be liked, to find friendship – possibly more (as the singles ads put it). All of these things are fundamental components of participating in the life of society, of flourishing."(50-51)

Onderzoek laat zien dat dat niet iets westers of moderns is: de symbolische rol van materiële zaken lijkt universeel. Maar het is zeker waar in een consumptiemaatschappij. En die is inmiddels zo groot als de wereld.

"In short, the material and the non-material dimensions of prosperity are inextricably intertwined with each other through the language of goods. Though it is essentially a social rather than a material task, our ability to participate in the life of society depends on this language. Anyone who has ever felt – or watched their kids feel – the enormous pressure of the peer group to conform to the latest fashion will understand how access to the life of society is mediated by sheer stuff."(52)

[Hm, juist dat laatste voorbeeld over die kinderen versterkt bij mij het gevoel dat dit toch alles te maken heeft met westerse, kapitalistische waarden en normen die mensen via allerlei marketingtechnieken en reclame ingegoten krijgen, waarden en normen die door de globalisering vanuit het westen mondiaal geworden zijn. Ik vind de redenering hier wat te gemakkelijk. Ik denk dat heel veel antropologisch onderzoek stiekem uitgaat van westerse waarden en dat universele constateringen zoals die zojuist gegeven werden weinig te maken hebben met een universele menselijke natuur.]

Als materiële zaken die rol spelen dan is het niet gek dat mensen hun inkomen erg belangrijk vinden: inkomen geeft er toegang toe en bepaalt daarmee iemands sociale status en via die weg weer iemands welzijn. Maar:

"This reasoning suggests that, at the level of society as a whole, income growth – and the associated material throughput – may be a 'zero-sum game'. The population as a whole gets richer. Some people are better off than others and positions in society may change. But overall this positional competition adds little or nothing to the levels of well-being in the nation. This is one of the arguments that has been used to explain the life-satisfaction paradox (Chapter 3).
If it's right, it suggests the possibility that a different form of social organization – perhaps a more equal society – in which social positioning is either less important or signalled differently – could change things."(53)

[Precies. Sociale status is een problematisch thema. Wat is het en waarop is het gebaseerd? En willen alle mensen het? En zo verder. Ik kan me niet voorstellen dat sociale status - en daarmee sociale competitie - in alle samenlevingen zo belangrijk gevonden wordt of zo afhankelijk gemaakt wordt van je materiële bezittingen.]

"Clearly, we would still need to confront the social logic that conspires to lock people into positional competition (Chapter 6). We would also have to identify less materialistic ways for people to participate in the life of society (Chapter 9). But in principle, these strategies could allow us to distinguish prosperity from opulence and reduce our dependency on material growth. In other words, this particular aspect of the dilemma of growth may just turn out to be avoidable."(55)

[Dat denk ik ook.]

Tweede punt: Basisrechten

"The possibility that certain basic entitlements – such as life expectancy, health and educational participation – rely inherently on rising income would cast a serious doubt on our ability to flourish without growth.
The following paragraphs test this proposition using cross-country correlations between income and certain key components of human flourishing."(55)

Er bestaat geen directe samenhang tussen inkomen en levensverwachting of babysterfte.

"The ambivalent relationship between income and health indicators is echoed in the relationship between income and education."(58)

"Interestingly, there is no hard and fast rule here on the relationship between income growth and improved flourishing. The poorest countries certainly suffer extraordinary deprivations in life expectancy, infant mortality and educational participation. But as incomes grow beyond about $15,000 per capita the returns to growth diminish substantially. Some countries achieve remarkable levels of flourishing with only a fraction of the income available to richer nations."(59)

"Clearly growth doesn't guarantee improved prosperity, even in such basic components of flourishing as life expectancy. Incremental improvements have been possible in most developed nations, alongside more or less continuous economic growth. But there are also examples where life expectancy has increased much faster than income and one or two where it has increased even in the face of prolonged or severe recession."(61)

Derde punt: Economische stabiliteit

Is groei noodzakelijk om economische en sociale stabiliteit in stand te houden?

"It is clear from the evidence here that collapsing economies do present a risk of humanitarian loss. Economic stability or, at the very least, some form of social resilience, is important for prosperity."(61)

"Humanitarian loss in the face of economic turbulence, in other words, may be more dependent on social structure than on the degree of economic instability that is encountered."(62)

"Recession has a critical impact on the public finances. Social costs rise with higher unemployment. But tax revenues decline as incomes fall and fewer goods are sold. Lowering spending risks real cuts to public services. Cutting spending affects people's capabilities for flourishing – a direct hit on prosperity.
Governments must borrow more not just to maintain public spending but to try and re-stimulate demand. But in doing so, they inevitably increase the national debt. Servicing this debt in a declining economy – as we noted in Chapter 2 – is problematic at best. Just maintaining interest payments takes up a larger proportion of the national income."(63)

"Crucially, there is little resilience within this system. Once the economy starts to falter, feedback mechanisms that had once contributed to expansion begin to work in the opposite direction, pushing the economy further into recession. With a growing (and aging) population these dangers are exacerbated. Higher levels of growth are required to protect the same level of average income and to provide sufficient revenues for (increased) health and social costs.
In short, modern economies are driven towards economic growth. For as long as the economy is growing, positive feedback mechanisms tend to push this system towards further growth. When consumption growth falters the system is driven towards a potentially damaging collapse with a knock on impact on human flourishing. People's jobs and livelihoods suffer.
There is, of course, something of an irony here. Because at the end of the day the answer to the question of whether growth is functional for stability is this: in a growth-based economy, growth is functional for stability. [Mijn nadruk - GdG] The capitalist model has no easy route to a steady state position. Its natural dynamics push it towards one of two states: expansion or collapse."(64)

Het dilemma is dus: De groei stoppen is noodzakelijk vanuit milieu etc. perspectief, maar lijkt te destabiliseren, tot recessie te leiden - maar dat laatste geldt dus binnen de huidige economische uitgangspunten.

(67) 5 - The myth of decoupling

Ontkoppeling is de standaard reactie op het groei-dilemma: herdefinities van het productieproces (meer efficiëntie bijvoorbeeld), van de verhouding tussen de productie van goederen en diensten, waardoor economische 'output' minder afhankelijk wordt van materiële 'throughput', waardoor de economie zou kunnen groeien zonder de nadelen voor het milieu. Er is relatieve en absolute ontkoppeling. Bij de eerste zijn de afnemende gevolgen voor bronnen gerelateerd aan het BNP (wel toenemende groei en economische activiteit, maar met minder gevolgen voor milieu en bronnen door bijvoorbeeld meer efficiëntie, minder energieverbruik, minder verbruik van materialen, minder emissie): de uitputting verloopt misschien trager, maar neemt niet absoluut af. Bij de laatste is dat wél het het geval.

"The aim of this chapter is to explore the evidence for both relative and absolute decoupling. It concentrates in particular on trends in the consumption of finite resources and the emission of greenhouse gases. These examples don't exhaust the concerns associated with a continually growing economy. But they are already of immediate concern and illustrate clearly the scale of the problem.
How much decoupling has been achieved in these examples? How much needs to be achieved? Is it really possible for a strategy of 'growth with decoupling' to deliver ever-increasing incomes for a world of 9 billion people and yet remain within ecological limits? These questions are central to the inquiry here.
As the title of this chapter suggests, the evidence that decoupling offers a coherent escape from the dilemma of growth is far from convincing. The 'myth' of decoupling is the claim that decoupling will necessarily achieve ecological targets. This is not to say that decoupling itself is unnecessary. On the contrary it's vital – with or without growth."(68)

"Global resource intensities (the ratios of resource use to GDP), far from declining, have increased significantly across a range of non-fuel minerals. Resource efficiency is going in the wrong direction. Even relative decoupling just isn't happening. It's clear from this that history provides little support for the plausibility of decoupling as a sufficient solution to the dilemma of growth. But neither does it rule out the possibility entirely. A massive technological shift; a significant policy effort; wholesale changes in patterns of consumer demand; a huge international drive for technology transfer to bring about substantial reductions in resource intensity right across the world: these changes are the least that will be needed to have a chance of remaining within environmental limits and avoiding an inevitable collapse in the resource base at some point in the (not too distant) future.
The message here is not that decoupling is unnecessary. On the contrary, absolute reductions in throughput are essential."(75)

Het idee 'relatieve ontkoppeling houdt geen rekening met zaken als groei van de bevolking en inkomensgroei, het zet alleen in op technologische oplossingen.

"Nonetheless, the intractability of addressing both population and income has tended to reinforce the idea that only technology can save us. Knowing that efficiency is key to economic progress, it is tempting to place our faith in the possibility that we can push relative decoupling fast enough that it leads in the end to absolute decoupling. But just how feasible is this?"(77-78)

"In this context, simplistic assumptions that capitalism's propensity for efficiency will allow us to stabilize the climate or protect against resource scarcity are nothing short of delusional. Those who promote decoupling as an escape route from the dilemma of growth need to take a closer look at the historical evidence – and at the basic arithmetic of growth.
Resource efficiency, renewable energy and reductions in material throughput all have a vital role to play in ensuring the sustainability of economic activity. But the analysis in this chapter suggests that it is entirely fanciful to suppose that 'deep' emission and resource cuts can be achieved without confronting the structure of market economies."(86)

(87) 6 - The 'iron cage' of consumerism

"Accordingly, this chapter confronts the structure of modern capitalist economies head on. In particular, it explores two interrelated features of economic life that are central to the growth dynamic. On the one hand, the profit motive stimulates newer, better or cheaper products and services through a continual process of innovation and 'creative destruction'. At the same time, the expanding consumer demand for these goods is driven forwards by a complex social logic.
These two factors combine to drive 'the engine of growth' on which modern economies depend and lock us in to an 'iron cage' of consumerism. It's essential to get a better handle on this twin dynamic, not least so that we can identify the potential to escape from it. The starting point is to unravel some of the workings of modern capitalism."(88-89)

Het privébezit (in tegenstelling tot staatsbezit) van productiemiddelen is een centraal kenmerk van allerlei vormen van kapitalisme.

"The main thesis of Baumol and his colleagues is that not all types of capitalism are equally good. Some of them lead to growth; others lead to 'stagnation'. Specifically, the 'good' ones lead to growth and the 'bad' ones lead to stagnation! This moral judgement is fascinating in its own right. It's also interesting in suggesting that a capitalist economy doesn't after all inevitably have to be growth-based.(...)
For now, the most useful part of Baumol's thesis is his claim that 'good' capitalism (that is, growth-based capitalism) is entrepreneurial capitalism with a dose of big-firm capitalism thrown in. It won't escape anyone's attention of course that this is pretty much the version of capitalism that characterizes the consumer economies of the west. In fact, much of Baumol's book is focused on how to nurture and protect this rare and beautiful creature and persuade others to adopt it, so that we can all get as much growth as possible from it."(89-90)

Bedrijven leveren inkomen, goederen en diensten aan huishoudens. Huishoudens leveren arbeid aan bedrijven voor inkomen, kopen producten van bedrijven en investeren in die bedrijven (direct via aandelen of indirect via spaargeld dat door banken belegd wordt - de winst daarop is natuurlijk afhankelijk van de winst die de bedrijven maken).

"Profit is key to this system. Why would households give their savings to firms rather than simply hanging on to them or spending the money on consumer goods? Only because they expect to receive a healthy 'return' on their capital at some point in the future. This return is created out of the stream of profits from the firms they invest in.
Firms themselves seek profit for several reasons. In the first place, it provides them with working capital (cash) to invest in maintenance and improvements themselves. Secondly, it's needed to pay off the company's creditors – people who've lent the firm money in expectation of a return. Thirdly, it's used to pay dividends to shareholders – people who've bought a share in the company."(92)

"This ability to re-invest is vital. At a basic level, it's needed to maintain quality. Without it, buildings and equipment inevitably get run down. Product quality is lost. Sales decline. The company loses its competitive position and risks going out of business.
Investment is also needed continually to improve efficiency, in particular labour productivity. The role of efficiency in capitalism has already been noted (Chapter 5). The driver for efficiency is essentially the profit motive: the need to increase the difference between revenues from sales and the costs associated with the so-called factor inputs: capital, labour and material resources.
Cost minimization becomes a core task for any firm. But it involves some inherent trade-offs. Amongst these is that capital investment is needed, in addition to its role in maintenance, to achieve cost reduction in the other two factors: labour and materials."(92-93)

"Understanding the dynamic between labour productivity, working hours and economic growth is important for all sorts of reasons. Not least is the insight it provides into the minds of economists. For instance, the conventional view on labour productivity allows the authors of the EU study cited here to describe the US as 'forging ahead' because of its higher labour productivity and to condemn the performance of certain EU countries as 'dismal' because of their low labour productivity.
We'll have occasion later (Chapter 8) to question these normative judgements. But for now the key point is that the general trend in capitalist economies is quite clearly towards increasing labour productivity. Since this means producing the same quantity of goods and services with fewer people, the cycle creates a downward pressure on employment that's only relieved if output increases.
Efficiency quite literally drives growth forwards. By reducing labour (and resource) inputs, efficiency brings down the cost of goods over time. This has the effect of stimulating demand and promoting growth. Far from acting to reduce the throughput of goods, technological progress serves to increase production output by reducing factor costs."(95)

Maar efficiëntie garandeert niet alles, innovatie als creatieve destructie is minstens zo belangrijk om de economische groei in stand te houden. Voor dat laatste is visie nodig, maar ook kapitaal = investeringen.

"At this point, it's tempting to wonder what the connection is between this self-perpetuating but somewhat abstract vision of creative capitalism, and the needs and desires of ordinary human beings. The circular flow of production and consumption may once have been a useful way of organizing human society to ensure that people's material needs are catered for. But what does this continual cycle of creative destruction have to do with human flourishing?"(96)

"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. The throw-away society is not so much a consequence of consumer greed as a structural prerequisite for survival. Novelty has become a conscript to the drive for economic expansion."(97)

"But neither can we see novelty as entirely neutral in the structural dynamic played out through capitalism. In fact, there is something even more deep-rooted at play here, conspiring to lock us firmly into the cycle of growth. The continual production of novelty would be of little value to firms if there were no market for the consumption of novelty in households. Recognizing the existence, and understanding the nature, of this demand is essential."(97)

Volgt weer een uitwerking van de symbolische rol die comsumptiegoederen innemen in mensenlevens - zie hf. 4. Mensen zijn gehecht aan hun bezittingen, die bezittingen maken deel uit van je 'extended self'. Soms duurt die gehechtheid maar kort, soms een levenlang. Met nieuwe dingen kun je je onderscheiden, je status verhogen, of er bij horen ('Keeping with the Joneses' p.99).

"Arguably it is precisely this cornucopia of material goods and its role in the continual reinvention of the self that distinguishes a consumer society from its predecessors. Material artefacts were always capable of carrying symbolic meaning. They were often used to establish social position. Only in modernity has this wealth of material artefacts been so deeply implicated in so many social and psychological processes."(99)

"But it is this social dynamic, rather than physiological flourishing, which serves to explain why our desire for material goods appears so insatiable. And why novelty matters to us."(100)

"The restless desire of the 'empty self ' is the perfect complement for the restless innovation of the entrepreneur. The production of novelty through creative destruction drives (and is driven by) the appetite for novelty in consumers."(101)

Het is een systeem, een wederzijdse relatie, gedreven door angst.

"The extended self is motivated by the angst of the empty self. Social comparison is driven by the anxiety to be situated favourably in society. Creative destruction is haunted by the fear of being left behind in the competition for consumer markets. Thrive or die is the maxim of the jungle. It's equally true in the consumer society. Nature and structure combine together here to lock us firmly into the iron cage of consumerism."(101-102)

"But it's clear that this task isn't sufficient. We also have to find a way through the institutional and social constraints that lock us into a failing system. In particular, we need to identify opportunities for change within society – changes in values, changes in lifestyles, changes in social structure – that will free us from the damaging social logic of consumerism (see Chapters 9 and 10).
Only through such changes will it be possible to get ourselves 'unhooked' from growth, free ourselves from the relentless flow of novelty that drives material throughput and find instead a lasting prosperity – the potential to flourish, within ecological and social limits."(102)

[Ik blijf dit een heel merkwaardige insteek vinden: alsof mensen van nature zo zijn dat ze steeds nieuwe producten willen, alsof de behoefte aan status via je bezittingen iets universeels is. Ik geloof daar helemaal niets van. En woorden als 'marketing', 'reclame', 'manipulatie van behoeften' worden hier niet eens opgevoerd. Te veel antropologie en psychologie, te weinig sociologie. Als die behoefte aan status via je materiële bezittingen zo natuurlijk was dan hoefden bedrijven niet zo veel moeite toe doen - marketing, reclame - om die behoeften op te roepen!]

(103) 7 - Keynesianism and the 'Green New Deal'

Tijdens de crisis van na 2008 werd de hele tijd benadrukt dat de consumentenbestedingen omhoog moesten om de groei aan te jagen.

"The reason is obvious enough. When spending slows down, unemployment looms large. Firms find themselves out of business. People find themselves out of a job. And a government that fails to respond appropriately will soon find itself out of office. In the short-term, the moral imperative to protect jobs and prevent any further collapse is incontrovertible."(103)

"Those inclined to question the consensus wisdom were swiftly denounced as cynical revolutionaries or modern day luddites."(104)

Hier worden vier vaak voorgestelde methoden besproken om de groei aan te jagen. De eerste is niets-doen, de markt herstelt zichzelf wel weer. Maar die is politiek onhaalbaar vanwege alle ellende die dat minstens voor een tijd met zich mee zou brengen. De tweede is het vergroten van de financiële ruimte voor mensen zodat ze meer kunnen kopen (vergroting crediet; verlaging rente op spaargelden). Maar juist die schuldenberg leidde tot de huidige financiële crisis. Derde weg is iets dergelijks, maar dan via het verlagen van belastingen. Je weet alleen niet wat mensen dan met het vrijgekomen geld gaan doen (wie weet sparen ze het op in plaats van het uit te geven). Bovendien kan het de staatsschuld verhogen. Een vierde weg is het investeren in publieke werken zoals in Roosevelts 'New Deal'. Maar ook dat kan de staatsschuld verhogen.

In lijn met die vierde oplossing om de groei te stimuleren is wel een Green New Deal voorgesteld: de investering in nieuwe technologie die energie bespaart, het milieu ontziet, banen creëert.

"In summary, the idea of a green stimulus has many strengths. Investment in the transition to a sustainable economy is vital. Targeting stimulus spending towards that investment makes perfect sense. Stimulus measures which support the least well-off are particularly to be welcomed."(117)

"At the same time, the broad assumption behind all the recovery packages put forward through the crisis was that they would help to stimulate consumption growth. Credit would flow, consumers would spend, business would invest and innovate, productivity would return and the wheels of the machine would start turning again. This is the logic of Keynesianism."(118)

"And yet, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that in the longer term, we're going to need something more than this. Returning the economy to a condition of consumption growth is the default assumption of Keynesianism. But for all the reasons highlighted in preceding chapters this condition remains as unsustainable as ever.
There is still no consistent vision of an economy founded on continual consumption growth that delivers absolute decoupling. And the systemic drivers of growth push us relentlessly towards ever more unsustainable resource throughput. A different way of ensuring stability and maintaining employment is essential. A different kind of economic structure is needed for an ecologically constrained world. It is to this possibility that we now turn."(118-119)

(121) 8 - Ecological macro-economics

"It's now widely accepted that technological efficiency is both an outcome from and a fundamental driver of economic growth.
Proponents use this feature of capitalism to suggest that growth is not only compatible with ecological goals but necessary to achieve them. Growth induces technological efficiency as well as increases in scale. All that's needed to remain within ecological limits is for efficiency to outrun (and continue to outrun) scale.
But historical evidence for the success of this strategy is deeply unconvincing. Global emissions and resource use are still rising."(121)

"In short, efficiency hasn't outrun scale and shows no signs of doing so.
That doesn't mean such a transition is impossible. On the contrary, we've already seen how little effort has truly been dedicated towards achieving it. But it's also abundantly clear that we won't make much progress without confronting both the economic structure and the social logic that lock us into the 'iron cage' of consumerism.
In the next chapter, we'll address the social logic. Here we focus on economic structure. In particular, we explore the need for a different kind of macro-economics. One in which stability no longer relies on ever-increasing consumption growth. One in which economic activity remains within ecological scale. One in which our capabilities to flourish – within ecological limits – becomes the guiding principle for design and the key criterion for success."(122)

Het is vreemd dat een ander macro-economisch systeem nog niet bestaat. John Stuart Mill, Keynes, en Herman Daly wezen al op de noodzaak van een 'steady state economy'. Maar economen zijn het niet gewend te denken in termen van milieu en natuur.

"Economics – and macro-economics in particular – is ecologically illiterate."(123)

"Daly's pioneering work provides a solid foundation from which to rectify this. But what we still miss is the ability to establish economic stability under these conditions. We have no model for how common macro-economic 'aggregates' (production, consumption, investment, trade, capital stock, public spending, labour, money supply and so on) behave when capital doesn't accumulate. We have no models to account systematically for our economic dependency on ecological variables such as resource use and ecological services.
Though these are unfamiliar goals for economists, the aim of this chapter is to show that they are not only meaningful, but achievable. In fact, this call for a robust, ecologically-literate macro-economics is probably the single most important recommendation to emerge from this book."(123)

Over de belangrijkste parameters in de macro-economie. Het BNP als eerste, waarvan de formules gegeven worden.

"It is literally a measure of different kinds of activity. It makes no explicit normative judgement about the nature of those activities. On the other hand, it has implicitly already made some normative judgements. Firstly, by counting only the monetary value of things exchanged in the economy, and secondly by assuming that all of these monetary values are equivalent.
These implicit judgements give rise to some of the criticisms raised against the GDP. Lots of things happen outside of markets that result from or impact on economic activity. Some of these are positive things like the value of household work, caring and voluntary work. Others are negative things, such as the ecological or social damage from economic activities. No attention is paid by the GDP, for example, to the health or environmental costs of pollution or the depletion of natural resources.
By contrast, all kinds of things are included in the GDP – the costs of congestion, oil spills and clearing up after car accidents, for example – which don't really contribute additionally to human well-being. These 'defensive expenditures' are incurred because of economic activities that are also counted positively in the GDP. But to count both sets of activities as contributing meaningfully to economic welfare seems perverse.
A more general criticism of the GDP is its failure to account properly for changes in the asset base, even when it comes to financial assets. Gross fixed capital investment is measured. But depreciation of capital stocks goes unaccounted for and the GDP is almost completely blind to the levels of indebtedness identified in Chapter 2. Perhaps even more importantly from our perspective, the depreciation of natural capital (finite resources and ecosystem services) is missing completely from this macro-economic account.
These perversities have generated a long-standing critique of conventional macro-economic accounting."(125)

Andere macro-economische variabelen: vraag en aanbod. Maar bij de huidige benadering blijft het dilemma van de groei bestaan.

"Taking a step back for a moment, there are only two ways out of this dilemma. One is to make growth sustainable; the other is to make de-growth stable. Anything else invites either economic or ecological collapse. We'll look at the option of making de-growth stable in a moment. But first let's just revisit the possibility that a different kind of growth could deliver us from the dilemma."(128)

Het eerste is nastrevenswaardig, maar lijkt moeilijk op grotere schaal te realiseren (een Cinderella-economie wordt het genoemd, waarvan de productiviteit op het moment niet is af te lezen aan de economische statistieken of negatief als de sector 'persoonlijke en sociale dienstverlening').

"In short, this sector – the one where our hopes might lie for a 'different engine of growth' – just doesn't perform well by conventional standards. On the contrary, it's already 'dragging Europe down' in the productivity stakes. If we start shifting wholesale to patterns of de-materialized services, we wouldn't immediately bring the economy to a standstill, but we'd certainly slow down growth considerably.
We're getting perilously close here to the lunacy at the heart of the growth-obsessed, resource-intensive, consumer economy. Here is a sector which could provide meaningful work, offer people capabilities for flourishing, contribute positively to community and have a decent chance of being materially light. And yet it's denigrated as worthless because it's actually employing people. This finding is instructive in various ways. In the first place, it shows up the fetish with macro-economic labour productivity for what it is: a recipe for undermining work, community and environment.
This is categorically not to suggest that increases in labour productivity are always bad. There are clearly places where it makes sense to substitute away from human labour, especially where the working experience itself is poor. But the idea that labour input is always and necessarily something to be minimized goes against two well-supported understandings.
Firstly, there's a very good reason why de-materialized services don't lead to productivity growth. It's because, in most cases, human input is what constitutes the value in them. The pursuit of labour productivity in activities whose integrity depends on human interaction systematically undermines the quality of the output. Secondly, work itself is one of the ways in which humans participate meaningfully in society. Reducing our ability to do that – or reducing the quality of our experience in doing so – is a direct hit on flourishing. Relentless pursuit of labour productivity in these circumstances makes absolutely no sense.
In summary, it seems that those calling for a new engine of growth based around de-materialized services are really on to something. But they may have missed a vital point. The Cinderella economy is an incredibly useful starting point from which to build a resource-light society. But the idea that it can (or should) provide for ever-increasing economic output doesn't quite stack up."(132-133)

"If labour productivity increases overall, then the only way to stabilize output is for the total hours worked by the labour force to fall. In a recession this typically leads to unemployment. But there is another possibility here. We could also systematically set about sharing out the available work more evenly across the population. Essentially, this means reduced working hours, a shorter working week and increased leisure time.
Interestingly, some of the increased labour productivity in Europe during the period between 1980 and 1995 was taken up in exactly this way, as increased leisure. This trend was reversed during the last decade, with working hours increasing and labour productivity growing more slowly. But as a route to prevent large-scale unemployment, sharing the available work has much to recommend it."(134)

De Canadese ecologische econoom Peter Victor is een van de eersten die een 'low or no-grow economy' probeert te ontwerpen en hij doet het op de aangegeven manier (verdeling van werk; ook pleit hij voor een basisinkomen).

"But the point here is that – even within a relatively conventional macro-economic framework – different configurations of the key variables are possible. And these configurations deliver different outcomes. The goal of achieving economic stability while remaining within ecological limits begins to look more achievable."(136)

"Clearly the target of investment would also need to change. The traditional function of investment, framed around increasing labour productivity, is likely to diminish in importance. Innovation will still be vital, but it will need to be targeted more carefully towards sustainability goals. Specifically, investments will need to focus on resource productivity, renewable energy, clean technology, green business, climate adaptation and ecosystem enhancement. These are precisely the kind of targets that emerge from the consensus around a global Green New Deal (Chapter 7).
Foregoing consumption growth seems inevitable if we are to sustain this enhanced need for ecological investment. What we don't yet know is whether ultimately the scale and nature of this kind of investment can maintain the growth potential of the economy as a whole."(138)

(143) 9 - Flourishing – Within Limits

Naast de aanpak van de economie moet dus vooral ook de 'social logic of consumerism' aangepakt worden, wat lastig is vanwege de verwevenheid van (het hebben van) materiële bezittingen met psychische en sociale behoeften.

"But the appealing idea that (once our material needs are satisfied) we could do away with material things flounders on a simple but powerful fact: material goods provide a vital language through which we communicate with each other about the things that really matter: family, identity, friendship, community, purpose in life.
There is clearly a puzzle here. If participation is really what matters, and material goods provide a language to facilitate that, then richer societies ought to show more evidence of it. In fact, the opposite appears to be the case. Robert Putnam's groundbreaking book Bowling Alone provided extensive evidence of the collapse of community across the USA.
More generally, western society appears to be in the grip of a 'social recession'."(143-144)

[Lijkt me niet zo'n puzzle. Die stelling in de eerste alinea is gewoon niet zo verdedigbaar als Jackson elke keer weer herhaalt. En omdat die stelling niet opgaat, is het niet vreemd dat materialisme en hebzucht leiden tot een afbraak van de sociale verhoudingen tussen mensen.]

"In other words, some degree of responsibility for the change appears to be attributable to growth itself. As evidence for flourishing it doesn't look good. And it becomes even more puzzling why rich societies continue to pursue material growth."(146)

[Dat doen ze omdat marketing en reclame hun uiterste best doen mensen en hun behoeften te manipuleren. Heel het gepsychologiseer dat hierna volgt is aanvechtbaar. Waarom zouden mensen zich schamen voor hun armoede wanneer ze daar niets aan kunnen doen? Ja, wanneer dat aangepraat wordt door rijke liberale machthebbers die armen proberen wijs te maken dat dat allemaal aan jezelf ligt (met een slogan als 'als je maar wil, dat is het verschil'). Of wanneer hun vrienden de priesters die armen proberen wijs te maken dat het 'een straf van god' is.]

"Putting aside for a moment the fact that higher incomes have been partly responsible for diminished flourishing, there is an even more striking point to be noted here. If we take for granted the importance of material commodities for social functioning, there is never any point at which we will be able to claim that enough is enough. This is the logic of Sen's argument. The baseline for social functioning is always the current level of commodities. And the avoidance of shame – a key feature of social flourishing – will drive material demand forward relentlessly."(147)

[Maar we hoeven dat dus niet 'for granted' te nemen. Schaamte is geen antropologische categorie. Schaamte wordt aangepraat, zeker wanneer het gaat over het al of niet hebben van materiële dingen. Materialisme is simpelweg een ideologie die we niet moeten willen volgen, wat alle kapitalisten en neoliberalen en marketingbureaus ook allemaal roepen.]

"Psychologist Tim Kasser has highlighted what he calls the high price of materialism. Materialistic values such as popularity, image and financial success are psychologically opposed to 'intrinsic' values like self-acceptance, affiliation, a sense of belonging in the community. Yet these latter are the things that contribute to our well-being. They are the constituents of prosperity.
Kasser's evidence is striking here. People with higher intrinsic values are both happier and have higher levels of environmental responsibility than those with materialistic values. This finding is extraordinary because it suggests there really is a kind of double or triple dividend in a less materialistic life: people are both happier and live more sustainably when they favour intrinsic goals that embed them in family and community. Flourishing within limits is a real possibility, according to this evidence.
It's a possibility that has already been explored to some extent from within modern society. Against the surge of consumerism, there are already those who have resisted the exhortation to 'go out shopping', preferring instead to devote time to less materialistic pursuits (gardening, walking, enjoying music or reading, for example) or to the care of others. Some people (up to a quarter of the sample in a recent study) have even accepted a lower income so that they could achieve these goals.
Beyond this 'quiet revolution', there have also been a series of more radical initiatives aimed at living a simpler and more sustainable life. 'Voluntary simplicity' is at one level an entire philosophy for life. It draws extensively on the teachings of the Indian cultural leader Mahatma Gandhi who encouraged people to 'live simply, that others might simply live'. In 1936, a student of Gandhi's described voluntary simplicity in terms of an 'avoidance of exterior clutter' and the 'deliberate organisation of life for a purpose'."(148-149)

[Hè hè, we zijn er. En zoeken naar 'eenvoudig leven' hoeft echt niets te maken te hebben met religie of spiritualiteit. Zie inderdaad The Simplicity Forum en de Downshifting Downunder-beweging. En natuurlijk is het niet gemakkelijk om je leven anders in te richten wanneer je bedenkt hoe de dominante boodschappen zijn. En ja, vrijwillige gedragsverandering van individuen is niet voldoende, omdat er structureel van alles moet veranderen.]

"Equally, it's clear that changing the social logic of consumption cannot simply be relegated to the realm of individual choice. In spite of a growing desire for change, it's almost impossible for people to simply choose sustainable lifestyles, however much they'd like to. Even highly-motivated individuals experience conflict as they attempt to escape consumerism. And the chances of extending this behaviour across society are negligible without changes in the social structure.
Conversely, of course, social structures can and do shift people's values and behaviours. Structural changes of two kinds must lie at the heart of any strategy to address the social logic of consumerism. The first will be to dismantle or correct the perverse incentives for unsustainable (and unproductive) status competition. The second must be to establish new structures that provide capabilities for people to flourish, and particularly to participate fully in the life of society, in less materialistic ways."(153)

Meer gelijkheid tussen mensen, bestrijding van inkomensverschillen, investeringen in het publieke domein zijn mogelijke wegen.

"Better recognition for those engaged in child-care, care for the elderly or disabled and volunteer work would shift the balance of incentives away from status competition and towards a more cooperative, and more altruistic society."(155)

"The rewards from these changes are likely to be significant. A less materialistic society will be a happier one. A more equal society will be a less anxious one. Greater attention to community and to participation in the life of society will reduce the loneliness and anomie that has undermined well-being in the modern economy. Enhanced investment in public goods will provide lasting returns to the nation's prosperity."(156)

(157) 10 - Governance for prosperity

"How is a shared prosperity to be achieved in a pluralistic society? How is the interest of the individual to be balanced against the common good? What are the mechanisms for achieving this balance? These are some of the questions raised by this challenge. Specifically, of course, such changes raise questions about the nature and role of government itself."(158)

"Oxford economic historian Avner Offer provides a valuable extension of this idea in The Challenge of Affluence. Left to our own devices, argues Offer, individual choices tend to be irredeemably myopic. We favour today too much over tomorrow, in ways which, to an economist, appear entirely inexplicable under any rational rate of discounting of the future. Economists call this the problem of 'hyperbolic' discounting. It's not unfamiliar in itself. Offer's unique contribution is to suggest that this fallibility has (or has in the past had) a social solution.
To prevent ourselves from trading away our long-term well- being for the sake of short-term pleasures, society has evolved a whole set of 'commitment devices': social and institutional mechanisms which moderate the balance of choice away from the present and in favour of the future."(160)

"The principal role of government is to ensure that long-term public goods are not undermined by short-term private interests. It seems ironic then, tragic even, that governments across the world – and in particular in the liberal market economies – have been so active in championing the pursuit of unbounded consumer freedoms, often elevating consumer sovereignty above social goals and actively encouraging the expansion of the market into different areas of people's lives.
It is particularly odd to see this tendency going hand in hand with the desire to protect social and ecological goals. It's notable for example that the UK, one of the most fiercely liberal market economies, has also been a vociferous champion of sustainability, social justice and climate change policy."(166)

[Jackson herhaalt zichzelf hier vaak en desondanks blijft zijn pleidooi voor een andere rol van regeringen nogal vaag. De algemene lijn is wel duidelijk natuurlijk: er moet meer regulatie komen, en die hele groeifilosofie moet vervangen worden door lange termijndenken in het belang van het volk, het milieu, etc. De vraag is dus welke maatregelen een natie concreet zou moeten nemen. Dat laatste is hier niet duidelijk uitgewerkt.]

(171) 11 - The transition to a sustainable economy

"Consumer society seems hell-bent on disaster; but dismantling the system doesn't look easy either. Overthrowing it completely could drive us even faster along the road to ruin. But incremental changes are unlikely to be enough. Faced with this kind of intractability it's tempting to retrench.(...)
This response is understandable. But it isn't constructive. Nor, as it happens, is it inevitable. Impossibility theorems confront us at every turn. Economies can only survive if they grow. People won't relinquish materialism. The state is powerless to intervene. But time and again axiomatic truths dissolve under a more careful scrutiny. A different kind of macro-economics is conceivable. People can flourish without more stuff. A new vision of governance does make sense. Another world is possible.(...)
But we also need concrete steps through which to build change. And this is still a task which calls for the engagement of governments and those able to make or influence policy.
Specifying those steps with any degree of precision relies in part on the opening out of a public and policy dialogue on the issues. Clearly it lies beyond the scope of this (or any other) volume. But it would be wrong to leave the question of policy hanging in the air completely. And it is possible already to establish some clear directions of travel."(171-172)

[Dat gaat nu al pagina's lang zo. Ja, ja, maar werk nu maar uit hoe het wél kan.]

Jackson gaat aanbevelingen doen op drie punten: het vaststellen van grenzen, het repareren van het economische model, en het veranderen van de sociale logica (dat je je status ontleent aan je materiële bezittingen).

De grenzen betreffen het vaststellen van 'resource and emission caps and reduction targets'(173); belastinghervormingen in het belang van duurzaamheid; ondersteuning van een duurzame groei in ontwikkelingslanden.

Wat betreft het economisch model is het noodzakelijk een ecologische macro-economie te ontwikkelen (op basis van heel andere vooronderstellingen over arbeid, productiviteit, werkgelegenheid, natuurlijk kapitaal, en dergelijke); verder moet er geïnvesteerd worden in banen, infrastructuur, publieke middelen; ook moet er meer voorzichtigheid komen op financieel terrein (niet op het maken van schulden gebaseerd, regulatie van de financiële markten, het afschaffen van risicovolle financiële producten en activiteiten, de Tobin-belasting op internationale valutahandel, e.d.); daarnaast moeten andere indicatoren ontwikkeld worden die indicatoren als het BNP kunnen vervangen.

Wat betreft de sociale logica geeft Jackson vijf aanbevelingen: regulatie van werktijden ('sharing the available work'; minder werkuren; flexibler werkuren; deeltijdwerk; scholing); het aanpakken van systematische inkomensverschillen:

"These include revised income tax structures, minimum and maximum income levels, improved access to good quality education, anti-discrimination legislation, anti-crime measures and improving the local environment in deprived areas. Systematic attention to these policies is now vital."(181)

het meten van factoren van welvaart en welzijn / voorspoed; het versterken van sociaal kapitaal en gemeenschappen:

"A whole raft of policies is needed to build social capital and strengthen communities. These include: creating and protecting shared public spaces; encouraging community-based sustainability initiatives; reducing geographical labour mobility; providing training for green jobs; offering better access to lifelong learning and skills; placing more responsibility for planning in the hands of local communities, and protecting public service broadcasting, museum funding, public libraries, parks and green spaces."(182)

het afbouwen van de consumentencultuur:

"The culture of consumerism is conveyed through institutions, the media, social norms and a host of subtle and not so subtle signals encouraging people to express themselves, seek identity and search for meaning through material goods. Dismantling these complex incentive structures requires a systematic attention to the myriad ways in which they are constructed.
Most obviously, there is a need for stronger regulation in relation to the commercial media. Particular concerns exist over the role of commercial advertising to children. Several countries (notably Sweden and Norway) have banned TV advertising to children under 12. The creation of commercial-free zones such as the one established by São Paolo's 'Clean City Law' is one way of protecting public space from commercial intrusion. Another is to provide systematic support for public media through state funding. As the Institute for Local Self-Reliance argues, 'communities should have the right to reserve spaces free of commercialism, where citizens can congregate or exchange ideas on an equal footing'.
There is also a role for stronger trading standards to protect citizens both as workers and as consumers. The Fair Trade initiative is a good example of what can be achieved by companies prepared to act on a voluntary basis. But it isn't yet extensive enough to protect ecological and ethical standards along all supply chains. Or to ensure that these questions register on people's buying behaviours. Trading standards should also systematically address the durability of consumer products. Planned and perceived obsolescence are one of the worst afflictions of the throw-away society and undermine both the rights and the legitimate interests of people as consumers and citizens."(183-184)

[Eindelijk wordt er eens iets gezegd dat duidelijk maakt dat die 'sociale logica' niet iets noodzakelijks is en dat er gewoon werk gemaakt moet worden van het bestrijden van de commercie. Dit is leuk, maar nog veel te aardig.]

"At the moment, in spite of its best efforts, progress towards sustainability remains painfully slow. And it tends to stall endlessly on the overarching commitment to economic growth. A step change in political will is essential."(184)

"For the advanced economies of the western world, prosperity without growth is no longer a utopian dream. It is a financial and ecological necessity."(185)

(187) 12 - A lasting prosperity

"Simplistic assumptions that capitalism's propensity for efficiency will stabilize the climate and solve the problem of resource scarcity are almost literally bankrupt. We now stand in urgent need of a clearer vision, braver policy-making, something more robust in the way of a strategy with which to confront the dilemma of growth.
The starting place must be to unravel the forces that keep us in damaging denial. Nature and structure conspire together here. The profit motive stimulates a continual search for newer, better or cheaper products and services. Our own relentless search for novelty and social status locks us into an iron cage of consumerism. Affluence itself has betrayed us."(188)

"None of this is inevitable. We can't change ecological limits. We can't alter human nature. But we can and do create and recreate the social world. Its norms are our norms. Its visions are our visions. Its structures and institutions shape and are shaped by those norms and visions. This is where transformation is needed."(188)

"For some people, growth and capitalism go together. Growth is functional for capitalism. It's a necessary condition for a capitalistic economy. And for this reason, the idea of doing without growth is seen as tantamount to doing away with capitalism.
Interestingly, we've already seen that this presumption is false in general. As William Baumol and his colleagues have pointed out, not all varieties of capitalism are equal in terms of growth. Admittedly, the ones that don't grow are 'bad' in Baumol's eyes. But the point is that capitalist economies that don't grow can and do exist. Equally there are non-capitalist economies which do grow."(198)

[Heel veel herhaling in dit hoofdstuk.]

Start  ||   Glossen  ||   Weblog  ||   Boeken  ||   Denkwerk