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We’ve Outgrown Growth
We can have it all – full employment, no poverty, lower greenhouse gas emissions and fiscal balance without relying on growth.
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July 12, 2017
Alternatives Journal

 “It turns out that money really does grow on trees, as well as in the soil, the water, and the inspiration and perseverance of the thousands of people who’ve worked to make the Greenbelt a major – and sustainable – economic force while keeping its core mandate intact.”

– Burkhard Mausberg, The Greenbelt: Protecting and Cultivating a Great Ontario Treasure

Credit: Vartkes Peltekoglu

In my research, I’ve asked the question: can we in Canada have full employment, no poverty, greatly reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and fiscal balance without relying on economic growth? Sounds nice, doesn’t it?

I first addressed the implications of managing without growth 10 years ago in a book called Managing Without Growth: Slower by Design, not Disaster. I deliberately focused on rich countries where it has been shown in many studies that further increases in average GDP (gross domestic product) per person contribute less and less to people’s sense of well-being.

I used a simulation model of the Canadian economy to generate scenarios indicating that it is possible to move the economy towards prosperity and well-being without increasing GDP. I also considered some of the changes that would be necessary to make it so. These included a modest reduction in average annual working hours to reduce unemployment, an escalating carbon tax to discourage greenhouse gas emissions, and a number of anti-poverty measures to reduce poverty. Ultimately, I found that it would be possible for Canada to manage just fine without growth.

That was 10 years ago. Back then, it looked possible to make a reasonably smooth transition to an economy that would provide high and improving levels of well-being to all Canadians. Now it’s not so clear.


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