The illusion of everlasting economic growth

December 6, 2016

Not very long ago. A newbie farmer came up to me all excited and begun to recount how bountiful his harvest had been and what a good price he has able to procure at market. I could tell, he was at the top of the world…it must have all gone to head faster than 40% proof alcohol…there was even a boastful swagger in the way he carried himself when he offered to pay for lunch for everyone.

When I stiffened my newspaper to all this and showed hardly a trace of reaction – the newbie farmer seemed confused. Eventually he asked, why are you so unhappy with my good fortune.

I simply kept quiet. Later on the newbie farmer pursued the matter and asked again….what have I done wrong this time?

I simply told him – good and bad times are both imposters, one of the same reality even. I then turned to him and asked – observe carefully, do you see any experienced farmers going out at night for karaoke, drinks and pussy? No….in fact there is hardly a ripple of change in their daily routine…observe if you will…there is something very serious about them…like sailors preparing for a perfect storm….their jaws are all tight…there is something very purposeful in their eyes.

That is because they know all this will not last – that is really another way of saying, they know this road so well…while you know so very little.

I went on to share with this fellow – sure I am happy he has an opportunity to taste success – but I also went on to emphasize that I was also nervous as well – as if one is not wise…one may think this is all there is to turning the wheel of life from the good earth.

I went on to share with this fellow – in good times, be thrifty, set some aside for lean times, better still prepare for war – as it’s impossible for either you or me to stay young and energetic forever. A day will surely come, when everything has to eventually growl old and slow down. This is not unnatural…not at all…if it appears to be so, it is only because you have been brainwashed by delusional leaders who don’t see the world as it truly is, but much prefer to see it as what they think MUST be…if you follow these delusional leaders, they will take you and your family to the hottest places in hell!

I went on to share with this newbie farmer – just as when a tree grows old and produces less fruits each season or a man grows old and catches less fish – this does not mean it’s the end…it just means…this is the way of the world.

Coming to terms with the natural way of the world is not defeatism – it is wisdom, but to deny this and insist all things can continue to grow, grow and only grow forever…must I think be the clearest form of insanity.


‘For the last ten years of my life whenever I shared with people my version a dystopian futurescape – how wages will continue to regress while the cost of living will continue to ratchet up….how economic growth is illusionary and can never be expected to grow in perpetuity, only because this logic is the purest form of processed nonsense – how mankind will experience a class war between the have’s and have not’ that will see brother turning against brother – Whenever I am called upon to share my views. I seem to always provoke all sorts of negative reactions.

Some shout me down. And those are the educated and polite ones. Others react angrily. Then there are those who even want to beat me up and teach me a lesson. There was once when a man even threatened to jump out a window if I did not stop my recount. I do not know whether he survived. Yet another tried to straggle me. Fortunately I have an instructors grade for Aikido and I was able to subdue him to eventually cool down.

I did not know it then – and that lack of insight might have been attributable to the fact. I am autistic. However as I sit quietly and reflect now against the backdrop of post Brexit and Trump – it could be said I can now understand why these people felt so much anger and even anxiety and fear for what I had to share with them. As whenever people believe in truths, they are really no so different from pillars that might support beams along with whole floors along with walls….but when these basic illusions are exhausted…then suddenly part of their world threatens to come crashing down.

This is very natural…I do not harbor any resentment or anger for many who once wanted to beat me up….I understand completely now.

After all the power of myth is very strong – often just to go on with life, it’s necessary to believe in these fairytale.

One of these myths is the idea economic growth, the grand illusion of our age can go on in perpetuity.

Growth underpins every aspect of modern society. Economic growth has become the universal solution for all political, social and economic problems, from improving living standards, reducing poverty to now solving everything from whether you might be able to enjoy a holiday during your next annual plan leave or might you have to settle for a weekend in Bintan.

All brands of politics and economics are deeply rooted in the idea of a robust economic model that is like Peter Pan – it never grows old…it is forever young and can reliably grow with vigor and governments can always exert control over the speed and trajectory of this growth.

But now as the reality of the Brexit and Trump era seeps slowly in – things are not so clear any longer. I do not doubt many will continue to insist there is such a thing called economic growth in perpetuity as they will probably argue the existence of perpetual motion as well – but one thing is certain, this is the way of the world…it is very natural.

Besides less or no growth at all, may not necessarily by itself be a bad thing for people and planet…if we believe it is bad, it is only because we buy lock and stock into the version of reality of our ‘leaders’ without once interrogating their goals. On the contrary, low or negative growth, may even have positive effects, especially for the environment and most certainly for the conservation of animals and tribes people. As for workers they will be less stressed out as well.

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