THE MARKET ECONOMY’S DIRTY LITTLE SECRET

By Tony Dickson  

“If the earth must lose that great portion of its pleasantness which it owes to things that the unlimited increase of wealth and population would extirpate from it, for the mere purpose of enabling it to support a larger, but not a better or a happier population, I sincerely hope, for the sake of posterity, that they will be content to be stationary, long before necessity compel them to it”   John Stuart Mill “Principles of Political Economy” – Book IV, Chapter VI (1848)

Our society is much given to regarding our technological and economic prowess with great complacency.  We now live, so we are told, in a post-industrial age: an age where the primal concerns that engaged the attention of humanity throughout the millennia have been left far behind. We are no longer hunters and gatherers, but economic sophisticates with mobile phones and central locking, who regard the few remaining primitives with implacable condescension. This perception is of course, both a monumental conceit and a profound delusion, because those primitive economies achieved something that quite eludes us: stasis and thereby, sustainability.  Economists tell us that if our economy does not grow it will…it will…well, they’re not sure…. perhaps hold its breath until it turns blue. There is simply no long-term model for a static industrial economy; although we may do well to consider the Japanese as potential canaries. Continue reading