Monday, March 20, 2017


In the beginning of January, then Pres. Obama wrote an article for the journal Science claiming that the historic relation between CO2 emissions and economic growth (measured as GDP) had been "de-coupled". This is a seductive fantasy entertained by believers in Green Capitalism like Nordhouse, Herman Daly, Tim Jackson, etc. It is intended to provide hope, promising that if we get on such a such pathway and somehow unleash all this promised technological improvement we can meet these international goals yada yada.

It is also an incredibly dangerous proposition. If mankind places its collective hope in this purported "win/win solution" and it proves to be a chimera....The consequences are, shall we say, dramatic. In his article in Real World Economic Review 76, Ted Trainer finds "negligible de-coupling" and that the slight productivity gains of late are "due largely to greater use of energy"( food production, for instance). He pulls in many studies and I find his argument convincing; a "steady state economy" (were it even possible), can not save us from resource depletion and economic collapse. To avoid that scenario, we would need "de-growth" at a fairly rapid rate. Trainer takes the opportunity to promote his "Simpler Way", a small scale, highly self-sufficient, self-governing, primarily collectivist local economy.

The only way I see any of that happening is if Janet Yellin steps up. Indeed, the fate of civilization rests in her lap; quite a responsibility for the girl from Brooklyn, now chairwoman of the Fed and self-described "admirer of capitalism", because to save the humans she is going to have to dismantle her beloved system. Picture this: the neoliberal oracle Queen (as close to royalty as there is in modern times) takes the stage and announces that due to inherent limits to growth, primarily but not exclusively climate change, the global economy will need to shrink by 10% per year for the next ten years. This is not some doltish boor like Trump speaking; this is an actual serious person the entire global financial system listens to. So Janet; this is the voice of your conscience speaking.....

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