Good to see the Echonetdaily delving into a major issue of our time by broaching the question of a steady-state economy. With the GFC still a close memory, Greece on the verge of financial collapse and Australia stuck in a two-speed economy, you have to wonder where traditional economic policies will ultimately lead us? It has been a gospel truth since the Great Depression of the 1930s that economic growth is the answer to all our financial questions. But could it be the opposite?
The Echonetdaily article overlooked a fundamental point close to most people’s hip pockets – interest rates. In reality interest rates are the driver of the growth economy – not global corporations or national politicians. Put simply, if I lend you $100 and expect $110 in return (ie at a 10 per cent interest rate) you have to come up with an extra $10 from somewhere. That is, you have to dig stuff up from the earth such as coal or sell stuff that was once free, such as water. That’s what economic growth really means. Economists and politicians speak as if we just grow from nothing. Nothing is further from the truth. We grow because we take it from the earth or from future generations.
On the other hand, if interest rates were zero per cent there is no necessity for economic growth. You don’t have to dig up more stuff to pay your ever-increasing debts. You just produce enough to cover your needs and maybe even share the rest with your neighbours. In this way communities are built and not destroyed. We start to live within our means and the earth is protected now and for future generations. This is a true steady-state economy, one that is balanced, sustainable and in tune with nature.
Get rid of interest rates and you change the world.
One author who has described this in much more eloquent detail is Charles Eisenstein who wrote the book Sacred Economics. Charles is emerging as one of the ‘poster boys’ of the global occupy movement. He is turning classical economics on its head and offers a road map for an alternative economic future. He has outlined how the global money system has contributed to alienation, competition, scarcity and community destruction – and necessitated endless growth. He argues for a transition to a more connected, ecological and sustainable way of living.
Do yourself a favour and Google him.
Paul Spooner, Byron Bay