Things are ‘out of whack’ seems a fair summary of our state of affairs. Climate change, economic inequality, mass migration, conflict and human unhappiness. If our economic and political systems are supposed to prevent or address these things, clearly, they aren’t.

Of course, the state of our world and of humanity has many causes but in her book Doughnut Economics economist Kate Raworth focuses on how the economy and in particular economic growth plays a role in this ‘out of whakness’ – and it plays a major one.

Reflect for a moment on ‘growth’. We humans rightly consider growth to be a positive thing – children, trees, plants, growth in knowledge, wisdom, experience. Politicians and marketers know this. But it is possible to have too much of a good thing and a focus on growth to the exclusion of all else leads to imbalance.

What are we told our economy must do? Our business? Our investments? Our wealth? Grow. And if you are scratching your head and saying – ‘yeah, of course!’ you can start to get a sense for how deeply we’ve drunk the ‘growth’ Kool-Aid (I love its original name – Fruit Smack!).

Raworth traces how the goal of economics was defined from its earliest days: “a secure living and jobs for all in a mutually thriving community” to today’s fundamentalist belief in growth: “continual income growth is a decent proxy for ever-improving human welfare”.

How’s that working out for us? In developed countries where politicians had better deliver income growth every year, we have not, once we got past meeting our basic needs, seen improving human welfare. And in emerging economies, developed countries’ obsession with growth and ‘more’ takes so much of the world pie that they are left struggling to meet basic human needs.

Raworth quotes Donella Meadows one of the lead authors of the 1972 Limits to Growth report: “Growth is one of the stupidest purposes ever invented by any culture” and “we’ve got to have an enough”.

Have we had enough? 


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