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Why the Economy Should Stop Growing—And Just Grow Up

(COMMON DREAMS) David Korten, May 10, 2016 — Listen to the political candidates as they put forward their economic solutions. You will hear a well-established and rarely challenged narrative. “We must grow the economy to produce jobs so people will have the money to grow their consumption, which will grow more jobs…” Grow. Grow. Grow.

But children and adolescents grow. Adults mature. It is time to reframe the debate to recognize that we have pushed growth in material consumption beyond Earth’s environmental limits. We must now shift our economic priority from growth to maturity—meeting the needs of all within the limits of what Earth can provide.

Global GDP is currently growing 3 to 4 percent annually. Contrary to the promises of politicians and economists, this growth is not eliminating poverty and creating a better life for all. It is instead creating increasingly grotesque and unsustainable imbalances in our relationship to Earth and to each other.

Specifics differ by country, but the U.S. experience characterizes the broader trend. Corporate profits as a percentage of GDP are at a record high. The U.S. middle class is shrinking as most people work longer hours and struggle harder to put food on the table and maintain a roof over their heads. Families are collapsing, and suicide rates are increasing.

The assets of the world’s 62 richest individuals equal those of the poorest half of humanity—3.6 billion people. In the United States, the 2015 bonus pool for 172,400 Wall Street employees was $25 billion—just short of the $28 billion required to give 4.2 million minimum wage restaurant and health care workers a raise to $15 an hour.

Humans now consume at a rate 1.6 times what Earth can provide. Weather becomes more severe and erratic, and critical environmental systems are in decline.

These distortions are a predictable consequence of an economic system designed to extract Earth’s natural wealth for the purpose of maximizing financial returns to those who already have more than they need.

Source: Why the Economy Should Stop Growing—And Just Grow Up | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community