Cancer Of Growth
23 Novembe, 2007
has become possible, only after tragedies such as the one that took
place in Tabasco, to publicly debate a central precept of the dominant
religion: the goal of accelerated economic growth. Fifty years of propaganda
have converted the economists' dogma into a general prejudice. Without
discussion, we accept that accelerated economic growth is desirable.
Now the time has come to abandon this pernicious obsession.
To get as much growth as possible from the economy as well as growth
in population appears to be a common sense principle. But it is not.
Many things should grow until they reach their correct proportion: plants,
animals, people. When something reaches its correct size, and then continues
to grow, the resulting protuberance is called a cancer. Much of what
increases when formal economy continues to grow is a type of social
cancer. Speculation grows, irrational or destructive production grows,
corruption and waste grow – all at the cost of what really should
increase: social justice and the well-being of the majority.
country there are things that have grown too much, things which should
be made smaller – and others that have not grown enough or need
to continue growing for the greater good. A high rate of economic growth,
measured through the gross national product, habitually reflects a growth
in what is already large, an authentic social cancer, and a diminishing
of what should continue growing.
growth produces the opposite of what it promises. It does not imply
greater well-being or employment for the people, or greater efficiency
in the use of resources. Quite the opposite: it generates poverty, inefficiency
and injustice. There is an abundant historical record to support this
argument. To continue to propose a high rate of economic growth as a
social goal is pure nonsense. It can only be attributed to the ignorance
of a simple soul, cynicism or a combination of the two.
years ago, Paul Streeten rigorously documented for the ILO the perverse
connection between economic growth and injustice. He demonstrated that
greater growth corresponded to greater poverty, and that there is a
relation of cause and effect between one and the other. He demonstrated
as well that the famous “trickle down effect” – the
idea that concentrated riches spill out onto the majority generating
well-being in their wake – is a perverse and unfounded illusion.
social efforts on economic growth disguises the real goal: greater opulence
for a few, at the expense of generalized poverty and the destruction
of the natural patrimony. This result is hardly logical, as the economist's
obsession does nothing more than apply to the whole of society a strict
capital necessity that applies only to him: capital that does not grow,
dies; and so it follows indefinitely. For this reason, cultivating the
obsession implies writing a blank check to the market leaders or the
State, so that they do their thing in the name of the well-being of
the majority, a well-being that doesn't appear, and following that path,
will never appear.
We need to
recover a sense of proportion that is simply another form of common
sense: that sense that exists in community. To struggle against a culture
of waste, disposability, destruction and injustice, and the culture
that has produced global warming to which disasters caused by irresponsibility
are now attributed, we can reclaim the sensible and responsible rejection
of what is unnecessary in the name of socially viable goals, and discard
forever the idolatry of economic growth.
has arrived to seriously propose the advantages of a negative growth
rate, clearly specifying what we would continue to stimulate. For example,
the support of highly efficient, productive and sensible sectors, such
as those that make up the majority of the persecuted “informal
sector.” This will imply a focus on strengthening the productive
capacity of the majority, instead of supporting the inefficient giants.
The economists’ nightmare, a drop in the gross national product,
could be a blessing for the majority.
It is time
to stop the dominant insanity. Some things need to grow, and others
need to contract. Let our capacity to sustain ourselves and our vital
autonomy grow. Let our expressions and spaces for exercising liberty
and initiative grow. Let the opportunities for a good life multiply,
according to the way in which each individual and culture defines that
good life. And, to make that possible, let us reduce the weight of a
formal economy that oppresses us and wears us down, through everything
that contradicts a good life for everyone or destroys nature.
Esteva is a grassroots activist and deprofessionalized intelectual.
He received the National Award of Economics in 1978, the Mexican Pulitzer
in 2006, as well as an honorary degree, honoris causa, from the University
of Vermont. He was Chairman of the Board of the United Nations Research
Institute for Social Development and advisor to the Zapatistas. Author
of more than 30 books and many essays. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Share Your Insights
it! And spread the word!
Here is a unique chance to help this article to be read by thousands
of people more. You just Digg it, and it will appear in the home page
of Digg.com and thousands more will read it. Digg is nothing but an
vote, the article with most votes will go to the top of the page. So,
as you read just give a digg and help thousands more to read this article.