Kevin Drum, who is not a no-growth economist, analyzes what a no-growth economy would look like.

This is….a wee bit rosy. If we all worked two days a week, I suspect the real result would be more time spent playing video games and drinking beer, not a renaissance in the arts and sciences. And more time to look after sick relatives? I’m not sure everyone would consider this a boon.

…and then he aptly notes:

…In other words, not only wouldn’t we get a renaissance in the arts and sciences, we probably couldn’t afford video games or beer either.

This is all very correct. No-growth economics is almost exclusively the intellectual realm of the left. I mean the type of lefties that have no problem with sawdust toilets, grass huts, and foraging. For those of you scratching your head as to how one goes about achieving “no-growth economics” in a world where people have a propensity to discover, adapt, and amplify different methods and tools for achieving ends more efficiently…well, I’m right there with you.

The biggest problem that faces the entire world is a scarcity of wealth, and economic growth is the natural result of cooperation and competition that people engage in to maximize their wealth. What is happening here is that proponents of “no-growth economics” have completely misidentified their intended target, and have thus made themselves a model which is extremely high on idealism, and extremely low on realism.

So if economic growth isn’t the proximate cause of the injustice that leads people to an incoherent economic model, what is?

Our money system.

It is assumed in economics that money is a value-neutral accounting device.* That the rules of the monetary system itself do not shape the kind of transactions that are made, it just makes them easier; and that the type of money we use has no effect on the relationships between the users. I make nearly the exact opposite claim, and that we take this fact for granted in a way that artificially prevents us from meeting needs with unused resources.

Humans have an incredible ability to find ways to waste eachothers’ time put eachother to work. I doubt that anywhere in the world there is a shortage of imagination. So what is the problem? A shortage of money. And why is that? Because of the rules governing how the prevailing monetary systems of the world work.

People who advocate for “no-growth economics” should realize the incoherence of their views, and instead advocate the use of complementary currencies — currencies which operate under different rules — that circulate alongside legal tender.


*I am using the term value-neutral in a different way than economists when they talk about the neutrality or super-neutrality of money.

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