Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Degrowth: Still the Worst Idea on the Left since Communism

I've written about this before but it's still around and still a dumb idea, so I thought I'd point people to this very useful item in Bryan Walsh's Axios Future newsletter. It includes a lot of useful links that you might find useful as well.
"Some environmentalists and economists are pushing for "degrowth" — stabilizing or even shrinking the economy — to avert environmental catastrophe.
The big picture: Degrowthism may seem like the only reasonable response to the climate challenges we face, but the experience of enforced economic shrinking during the pandemic indicates the pain would outweigh the benefits — especially for the world's poorest....
How it works: However accidental, 2020 represented perhaps the best example we've ever experienced of degrowthism in action.
* For degrowthers, simply cleaning up the global economy by switching from fossil fuels to zero-carbon sources of energy isn't enough. Economic growth — the goal of essentially every government everywhere — is itself the problem.
* Environmental activist Greta Thunberg summed up the argument when she chastised delegates at a UN climate summit in 2019: “We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”
* The movement now has its own dedicated academic journals, associations and conferences.
The catch: The very real human pain of 2020 — and the political fallout it created — should be taken as a warning sign to degrowthers.
* A new Pew Research Center analysis found the ranks of the global middle income — those who live on $10.01 to $20 a day — fell by 54 million in 2020 compared to the number projected before the pandemic, while the number of global poor rose by 131 million.....
Between the lines: The strongest argument around degrowth is one rooted in a goal that its own advocates strive for: global equity.
* In a piece posted earlier this week, economist Max Roser of Our World in Data estimated the amount of global growth required to bring everyone in the world up to the level of poor people in the fairly rich nation of Denmark would be 410%.
* Whether or not global poverty can be truly conquered — meaning getting everyone at least to the minimum of the developed world — "overwhelmingly depends on whether the average incomes in those countries that are home to the poorest billions of people in the world will increase or not," Roser writes....
The bottom line: To paraphrase Winston Churchill on democracy, the pursuit of growth has its faults, but it still may be the least worst way to organize an economy."

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