MindBullets 20 Years

Degrowth disciples self-destruct

The end of a very bad idea

It’s now hard to believe that, a mere six years ago, some people were actively advocating for degrowth as a social and economic policy. Degrowth can reduce greenhouse gas, they said; it can make us happier by focusing on non-material things; and it can reduce inequality.

But that’s the trouble with Malthusian doomsayers. They forget that the only truly inexhaustible resource is human ingenuity. People will find a way to better their lot in life, if you let them. It’s also patently obvious that economic freedom goes hand in hand with prosperity, which is why countries like Ireland, Switzerland and Singapore are among the world’s richest – they’re also highest on the index of economic liberty.

For a while, the disciples of degrowth welcomed the declining birthrates in developed and emerging economies. It seemed that growth was self-limiting after all. But when Germany and Japan began to actively encourage immigration to sustain their economies, the anti-everything brigade was aghast.

Possibly the biggest failure of degrowth was its attempt to put people last. When you ignore the desperate need to propel people out of poverty in the global south, in the name of ideology, then you’re doomed. Limiting humans in their pursuit of economic prosperity and personal growth isn’t altruism. It’s oppression.

Now some people are calling the 2020s the “lost decade.” We lost the opportunity to supercharge global growth with more freedom and access to resources. We overspent on climate and underspent on development. We put up too many trade walls and barriers to entry, and we tied entrepreneurs up in excessive red tape. And we largely ignored the plunging birthrates.

Now we have woken up to the reality that growth is good. Good for people. Good for the environment. Good for the future.

And degrowth is dead.

Warning: Hazardous thinking at work

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