For many years, a small band of us “voices of decline” and “enemies of enterprise” who “don’t understand aspiration” have been trying to point out that increments in gross domestic product do not equate to increments in happiness. We have argued that no one wins the human race. We have sought to explain that what mainstream economists call progress is what ecologists call planetary ruin. We’ve contended that infinite growth on a finite planet is a recipe for catastrophe. I hope Liz Truss is right to claim that so many people now accept our arguments.
Even if this coalition is not yet as broad as she suggests, she seems determined to widen it. Her plans to rip down planning controls, to cut public services, deregulate business, crush protests, unleash exploitation and destroy economic security, all in the name of boosting the rate of economic growth, could scarcely be better calculated to reveal the difference between GDP and prosperity.
Is our prosperity enhanced by increasing the volume of sewage in our rivers and on our beaches? No. It may boost the profits of the water companies and the remuneration of their directors, very little of which – unlike the effluent they release – will trickle down into our lives. Will a new roadbuilding programme enhance our lives? Not if, as new roads always do, it pushes congestion to the next bottleneck, while increasing noise, pollution and the destruction of landscapes. Will we be happier if the regulations protecting workers and consumers are stripped away? No. We will find that our health, wealth and wellbeing decline, even as the companies exploiting us become richer. Our lives do not grow in these circumstances. They are shrunk by poverty, pollution, poor health and exploitation.
dizzy: As a blogger, I should only quote small excerpts of copyrighted works and as a rule of thumb I tend to go for 3 paragraphs of newspaper articles. I recommend the rest of Monbiot’s article.