Stimulated by reading something in a discarded newspaper by Jonathon Porritt, standing down this month as chairman of the government’s Sustainable Development Commission, I dug out their report “Prosperity without Growth“.
It’s long, over a 100 pages, and could do with a bit of editing. I think it was Greg Dyke who when faced with a difficult decision would ask “What would it mean for my mother?” My view is that if a bit of technical writing can’t be presented clearly and simply, then they may be a waste of all that brain heat.
I only managed the summary (pages 6-13). But the frustration and confusion leaps off the page. The author (Tim Jackson of Surrey University) seemingly can’t understand why others simply don’t get it, and he isn’t happy about it.
His point is that economic growth, in the way we commonly understand it now, is completely at odds with living on our planet in a way that gives all 6 billion or more of us a decent life.
The current macro-economic model doesn’t work socially (letting us all be happy people), environmentally (keeping our ecosystems alive), and economically. Economically it fails when it peaks and troughs, leading to the kind of financial “meltdown” we have experienced recently; but then neither does reversed growth, leading as it does to increased unemployment and so on.
I don’t pretend to understand the complexity of all this – I am no economist. But I do think it’s sad when minds are closed, as Porritt suggests they are, at some of our leading institutions.
Porritt claims that, in the Treasury, for example, there is “no readiness to interrogate the macro-economic model”.
I sometimes come across businesses who aren’t ready to interrogate their own local economic models. But after a bit of to-ing and fro-ing, the realisation comes that without a sustainable economic model, the business won’t be around long. There simply has to be some kind of effective balance between what goes in and what goes out.
Anybody can see that, especially my mother. And I don’t want to live in a world with a broken economic model.
Maybe Porritt’s plan is to embarrass the Treasury into change. Whatever it is, I’d rather hear the news that all the intelligent people out there are working together, facing the facts, doing a bit of brainstorming, and coming up with some new, practical ideas about creating a new model that really does work.
I know it takes courage to challenge the status quo. But people are full of courage. So come on.