When orthodox economists first encounter the idea of degrowth, they often jump to the conclusion that the objective is to reduce GDP. And because they see GDP as equivalent to social wealth, this makes them very upset.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
I reject the fetishization of GDP as an objective in the existing economy, so it would make little sense for me to focus on GDP as the objective of a degrowth economy. Wanting to cut GDP is as senseless as wanting to grow it.
The objective, rather, is to scale down the material throughput of the economy. From an ecological standpoint, that’s what matters. And indeed some orthodox economists might even agree. Where we differ is that while they persist in believing (against the evidence) that this can be done while continuing to grow GDP, I acknowledge that it is likely to result in a reduction of GDP, at least as we presently measure it. In other words, if we were to keep measuring the economy by GDP, that’s what we would see in a degrowth scenario.
And that’s okay.
It’s okay, because we know that human beings can thrive without extremely high levels of GDP.
There are many pieces to this argument, but I want to focus on one here in particular. One of the core claims of degrowth economics is that by restoring public services and expanding the commons, people will be able to access the goods that they need to live well without needing high levels of income.
Take London, for instance. Housing prices in London are astronomically high, to the point where a normal one-bedroom flat can cost upwards of $1 million.
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