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Jay Chatterjee

Freelance Writer & Researcher

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Why should we not adopt or promote steady-state economy and de-growth model of development for our countries and corporate houses?

China maintained ~ 10% growth rate for last three decades which increased its per capita GDP to ~ $ 4000 (while that for US is ~ $ 43,000) after increasing social instability & polluting its environment. Lately, more precisely after recent financial turmoil, China type unsustainable growth model is criticized, even in China, for countries like China (that include BRICS countries). None of those “developing” countries are anywhere near the "desired" living standard that people in very few affluent, first world countries enjoy. We can easily understand the consequences if other under-developed countries (home of majority of world population) try to achieve the same "growth based" economic prosperity. It is believed that current world population needs about 1.2 worlds to sustain it, with high discrimination in quality of living and wealth distribution.

A couple of feasible alternative models are proposed that recognize ecological limits of human development and emphasize social equality. 1) STEADY-STATE ECONOMY: one that has stopped growing in terms of GDP, but continues to improve quality of life and is maintained by an ecologically sustainable rate of resource throughput and a constant human population. 2) Sustainable DE-GROWTH MODEL: defined as “an equitable down-scaling of production and consumption that increases human well-being and enhances ecological conditions at the local and global level, in the short and long term”.
It seems that progress without economic growth is possible. It has been shown repeatedly that higher GDP does not correlate with either poverty reduction or happiness above a certain level. It seems that earning more than a threshold level does not translate into increasing overall happiness & satisfaction, while may have negative impact on quality of life.
I think we should adopt or promote such steady-state economy and/or de-growth model of development for our societies & all corporate houses that have major global presence or impact.

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    Oct 24 2011: Thanks Krisztian finally someone besides me who is not pro government telling us what makes us happy.
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      Oct 25 2011: stop lamenting in the US! the number of small government believers there is like 10-100 times as high as here, in hungary. you at least have ron paul in congress and as pres nominee. here, we have all greens and reds. :)
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        Oct 26 2011: Ahhhh just not sure now that there are two of us that are alone with this we are a crowd. I know so little of Hungary and reds and greens do you know of a good reference I can read to bring myself up to speed?
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          Oct 26 2011: i see absolutely no reason why would you catch up on hungarian politics. it is not at all enlightening in any way, more like disappointing. in short: there is no freedom movement here at all. liberalism is represented by a so called "eco-socialist" party. how does that sound?
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        Oct 26 2011: Like you are disappointed with the situation. Could you run for office? I would like to understand your country more. Do you have the Romani people there? Here they are called Gypsy's and breed really great horses.
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          Oct 26 2011: i'll consider it. i want to get in the guinness book of records for getting the lowest number of votes ever :)

          gipsies we have. approx 5-6% of the total population. de facto apartheid is in effect against them. basically many of them live outside society. alas, they are not involved in horse breeding at all. they are not involved in anything really, large percent live on welfare benefits and aids. many of them are smalltime criminals. they rarely go to high school. their representation in politics is negligible. the situation is getting worse.
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        Oct 26 2011: Hi Krisztian. I did not realize that you are from Hungary. Now I can understand why are you so against "big" (yeh, really BIG) government.
        Probably we are not in the same page in defining "big". My "big" is not as "big" as yours :)
        From my experience in India, I know how closed (I define that as "close" rather than "big") system would suffocate entire society, kill free thinking that generates ideas, that makes corruption all pervasive.
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    Oct 24 2011: numerous misconceptions.

    first. there is no physical limit on GDP growth. a future phone will have no more silicon and lithium in it than a current phone, rather, more likely, less. so we can have more value out of the same amount of matter. with technology advancing, our life standards can be better and better, even using the same resources. so it makes no sense to cite the GDP growth in relation with depletion of resources.

    second. not only we can grow without using more resource, we can actually grow using less resources. so this number of 1.2 earthes, even if it has any validity, is a current value, and it is subject to change. with better technology, the theoretical population limit the earth can support is unimaginably high.

    third. it is not very wise to tell people what they want or like. i don't want any psychologist to tell me that my life would not improve if i could visit a hotel on the moon, if i could travel to kathmandu with one hour flight time, if i could have a cooking robot with 75 built in recipes, if i could work 3 hours a day. only i know whether these things would make my life better, whether i'm excited about having such stuff. such things represent a great value to me, so please psychologists, stop telling me what should i enjoy. thank you.
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      Oct 24 2011: First of all- I think there ARE limits to "grow" using natural resources. We need more food, more fuel, more road, more houses, more coal, more steel, more cement and so on for increasing number of people. Those companies/countries that make those commodities (food, fuel, house, coal, steel, cement etc) would prefer more demand, more sale and subsequently more profit.
      Yes, in some cases (as you mentioned) you can have better technology that can reduce dependence on natural resources. That's why many now emphasize of renewable, more sustainable technology. But such technology has limited use, mainly in underdeveloped countries and in some 'developed" countries (e.g USA).
      None of my proposed models oppose development or use of such renewable or truly sustainable technology.

      Secondly, you may not need any psychologist yet, but there are people who may need one. There are many who would love to see all (or most) government controls fade away to allow more people to open their purses. They want their countries for expansion of market (for its products) and resources (raw materiel, manpower etc.). They can effectively do it by coercing many such "common" people to believe that they are the best person to chose the "best" fit option for them. "Best" decision comes from best available information. Flow of information is severely restricted, particularly by corporate entities. That's why taking the "best" or most suitable, informed decision is not always possible for a common person, even when there are suitable laws. Many times laws are either non-existent or tilted towards those who can lobby or have influence.
      I am seeing many people who truly believed in "smaller government" and voted accordingly in last US by-election, are now out of job and started visiting food banks for daily food, in a developed country like US, where Govt is more disciplined or functional and has huge natural resources and bigger economy (than majority of other countries).
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        Oct 24 2011: before we go ahead, can you please just confirm what i think you've just said?

        do i interpret it right that you say, people who want to "fade away" government controls need a psychologist?
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          Oct 24 2011: No, no, I did not say or mean that.
          In fact, they (who want to reduce government to a bare "minimum" level) act as (fake) physiologists and tend to decide on behalf of many others, deliberately provoking them to think that they (others) are the best person to decide for themselves (without full and proper information).
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        Oct 24 2011: that's good, because it seemed so.

        it simply does not make sense to say that someone is not the best person to decide for himself. shifting responsibility to another person is a decision itself. if you trust the government to arrange things for you, it is a decision you have made. there is no escape from that. but we digress.

        to reflect to your original message:

        we don't need more materials to make more food. food is 100% recycled, since we only temporarily use food. we don't need more fuel and more road. technology of transportation constantly lowers fuel usage, and increases non-road transportation options. we don't need more materials to build more houses. with advanced materials, we can build lighter houses using cheaper materials. coal, concrete, cement will be all forgotten in a not so distant future. what would the limit be? i don't know any.

        there is no such thing as coercing to believe. coercion can not change beliefs. what is your point here? maybe you mean deception? it is not advisable to declare an opposing opinion as deception. yes, small government believers try to convince people. just as big government believers do. i claim that big government believers are wrong, and not lying. could you at least respect small government believers in the same way? we might be wrong, but please don't call the police or the psychologists on us.
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          Oct 24 2011: I got your point. and I disagree.
          It has been shown by many studies that people tend to become more unhappy (or unsatisfied) when given too many options. Sometimes it becomes too confusing and without divulging the real consequences of different options. Generally governments are in better position to minimize options, particularly the misleading options that predatory corporations (including the private financial institutions) tend to promote or advertise, and framing proper legal frameworks to protect general customers. There are many checks and balances in a government and most importantly it is accountable to its people, while corporations are accountable only to shareholders.
          Food is renewable but it need land and other inputs to produce. Land for farming is becoming less due to increase in population and more demand. Same land is also competing to satisfy demand for many other reasons (e.g. more demand for fuel, biofuel, mining, setting up industries). In countries like India and China it has become a real problem and becoming more acute source of social unrest.
          Do you know how many houses are built or can afford to be built with "advanced material"? Do you know how houses are built for majority of people in the world? I think it will be safe to say that those houses need many non-renewable material and most importantly -land.

          Please do not think that coercion can only be done using force. In fact, the most effective way for coercion is the tactful ones as we see in many misleading TV advertisements (political or commercial) in US and many (if not all) other countries. I do understand the problem of all pervasive, communist type "big"(-brother type) governments, closed societies. Here I am not discussion that.
          Of course I do respect opposition views but that must not be at the cost of well being of the planet, livelihood of majority people and consolidation of wealth in fewer people with more people hungry and homeless.
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        Oct 25 2011: you are welcome to reduce the number of choices you have. but i'm quite sure you don't want to limit the choices i have, do you?

        what is the purpose of a discussion? or thinking? is it to win? or is it to make our understanding deeper? if the former, i have no comment. if the latter, i advise you against twisting the meaning of words. coercion is a word with a strict definition. it does not include deception, misleading, lying and such stuff. you can claim that coercion and deception are equally bad. but you can not validly claim that deception IS coercion. it is not.
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          Oct 25 2011: The purpose of the discussion is to make my thinking deeper, listen to valid criticism and get viable alternative opinions. You have not offered any, so far. You hardly have presented any credible data but beating in the bushes and keep on telling the same thing without any logic or data (that I can follow). By the way, do you own or desire to own a business that use or exploit "smaller" Government (which is so common in many countries) and feel that it is your responsibility to protect the "free market" ideology?

          I am not sure what do you mean by "coercion". Here is one definition that I agree with- "Coercion (pronounced /koʊˈɜrʃən/) is the practice of forcing another party to behave in an involuntary manner (whether through action or inaction) by use of threats, rewards, or intimidation or some other form of pressure or force".
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coercion
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    Oct 24 2011: I was wondering how many people this world can sustain. Obviously the answer depends on how we define sustainability and what quality of life we like to have to calculate that number. Initially we used to think that this world can sustain 4 billion people. Later we revised that data to 6 billion. Now we know that world can (rather “have to”) support more than that.
    The same question is intimately related to many other questions related to “sustainability” and "growth", two favorite terms for many, if not majority, corporate, government and even non-profit organizations worldwide. These terms are highly misused or used very vaguely as an advertising tool.
    I was also wondering what type of model of development we should have, to sustain this world and our quality of life. It becomes more important for developing countries like India where we almost constantly hear about "development" and conflicts arising from that. In one hand, we hear the conservation and global warming experts and enthusiasts like Al Gore who tell us to consume less, create less carbon footprints in our daily lives. On the other hand, we are constantly hearing many economists and policy makers that we need “growth”, that we need to spend more (i.e consume more). National governments, corporate houses, even NGOs (or non-profit organizations); all are talking about this "growth". From our childhood we had an impression that low or zero “growth” is very bad! I was confused like many other general citizens, who want to behave responsibly. Then I came across an interesting article in a reputed research journal. Basically the article is about consequences and desirability of a second green revolution to feed ever increasing global population (and eventually turning the world into a giant farmhouse).

    I explained it more in my blog and like to share with this forum: http://jaychatterjee.blogspot.com/2010/10/de-growth-model-of-development.html