According to economists, this represents a negative result because it is a dramatic fall in society’s material wealth, in other words, fewer amounts of goods for the enjoyment of people. Therefore, countries are desperately looking to recover the losses and continue on the path of expansion and prosperity.
Nevertheless, the recent history of the global and Colombian growth process has demonstrated that growth has concentrated prosperity on the wealthy, and consumption filling the “void” gap with unnecessary objects, increasing the debt with banks, consolidating, and expanding revenue and profiteering.
Also, it is evident that the capability of producing employment in economies was substantially reduced. If one looks at how much employment grows for every GDP percentage point, it may be seen that at the beginning of the 90s this result was close to 3% in Colombia, therefore the economic growth would be a 9% employment creation rate. However, after the market reforms of the 90s, this indicator fell, and after the crisis of 1999, it was at an average close to 0.5%, showing that with the same growth rate of 3%, employment only increased 1.5%.
Amit Bhaduri 1 economy Ph.D. discovered a similar result for countries such as India or regions like Asia o or sub-Saharan Africa, confirming this is a global phenomenon.
Furthermore, the most serious questioning of the society of growth is directed to the base over which it sustains its prosperity, as it is incoherent unsustainable and brutal.
Incoherent because consuming is not an act of satisfying needs, but a mechanism to establish power, status, and appearance relationships as posed by sociologist and economist Thorstein Veblen 2. This mechanism ends up establishing a limitless growth and demand dynamic based not on satisfying individuals that look to fit in and look superior to the rest, but also looking for happiness in buying objects, as claimed by French sociologist Jean Baudrillard 3.
To this end, the media has played an intensifying the role as it has contaminated and colonized the human imaginary–as a disease, a real pandemic– that is manifested in scenarios like the first day without VAT, where people showed that instead of having detox period, have accumulated an uncontainable desire to consume unnecessary goods they do not need.
In the end, the satisfaction provided by endorphins that are released over the feat of risking contagion is rapidly lost when people realize of the debt acquired, the possibility of seeing their health compromised, and the void of a senseless life, producing a new circle of need to produce and work for these goals.
Unsustainable, because the human merchandise production system is really about transformation but not a production system. The answer to this is in the classic wage theory of people like Adam Smith and David Ricardo, who perceive a viable production system as a one capable of replenishing the production media used in this process, as highlighted by Professor Eduardo Bolaños, in his book Lecciones de teoría clásica de los precios 4 (Lessons on Classic Price Theory).
From this perspective, the human natural resources goods and services transformation system is not viable, as its operations needs a subsidy from fossil fuels, the destruction of aquifers, and in general, irreparable destruction of the biosphere. As proposed by German economist Ernst Friedrich Schumacher 5, “a serious mistake of modern life is considering the production problem is solved: we treat non-renewable resources as revenue-producing goods while in reality, they are a natural capital that needs to be rated on the use of for its non-reproducible nature. This distorts the prices of these resources increasing its consumption and drawing us near to the end.
Brutal because prosperity that humans achieve is at the expense of other living beings, the growth rate and capital accumulation are synonymous of a predator rate. The worse thing is that other human beings will not achieve such a life standard as the biosphere will not be able to support this load level. As German historian, Oswald Spengler 6 said, “the emergence of cities created a parasitic, unproductive, intelligent and life aversive human being, which represents a huge step towards the inorganic, towards the end.
Therefore, the current COVID-19 crisis is manifested not as an exogenous phenomenon –as the dominating economic theory usually considers in all types of crisis– but as an endogenous fact of the growing biosphere fragility due to the level of current capital accumulation, sponsored by sustained growth for more than two centuries in several regions of the western world.
The path seems to be just one: stop the growth machine, and in fact, take a step back; decreasing is the way out, above all in countries with larger GDPs. Perceived as this, the current lockdown has been a drill of positive degrowth consequence, where all types of life have had the change to take a breather and reveal themselves before us.
It has also been a drill to become aware of how the adjustment costs fell on the most vulnerable through greater unemployment, poverty, and inequality; this is exactly why the Keynesian policies should be a strategy to carry out a serene degrowth process, as proposed by French economist Serge Latouche 7.
English professor Tim Jackson 8 says that the first step is to reduce the level of consumption to detox the human imaginary and ecosystems, but to avoid the collapse of the aggregate demand, we would need to offset this with greater public expense and an incentive for investment, like a type of Green New Deal, or set of political proposals to help approach global warming and the financial crisis, as some authors call it. It is time to ponder, rethink and act, and let’s hope it’s not too late.
1 Bhaduri, A. (2011). Repensar la economía política. Buenos Aires: Manantial.
2 Veblen, T. (2005). Teoría de la clase ociosa. México, DF: FCE.
3 Baudrillard, J. (2018). La sociedad del consumo. Bogotá: Siglo XXI.
4 Bolaños, E. (2012). Lecciones de teoría clásica de los precios. Medellín: Editorial Universidad de Antioquia.
5 Schumacher, E. (2013). Lo pequeño es hermoso. Madrid: Akal.
6 Spengler, O. (2011). La decadencia de Occidente. Barcelona: Austral.
7 Latouche, S. (2009). La apuesta por el decrecimiento. Barcelona: Icaria.
8 Jackson, T. (2011). Prosperidad sin crecimiento. Barcelona: Icaria.
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