HOW CAN WE CREATE A SUCCESSFUL ECONOMY WITHOUT CONTINUOUS ECONOMIC GROWTH?
The economy is a thing of nature. It’s wild and out of anyone person’s control. When it is fed and fed with growth hormones it will indeed grow, but it will grow unhealthy and unstable. When the economy is unhealthy everyone is at risk, I don’t mean in terms of money or assets, I mean well being. An ideal economy supports everyone’s needs and creates a balanced living. That unfortunately is nowhere near the truth of its position today. In today’s society there is one thing that reigns supreme; novelty. People want that new thing. Investment is now mainly a business term. People don’t invest themselves in one thing. They don’t invest in a few nice pieces of clothes, instead they must keep up with the times. They want the newest model of car or the freshest iPhone. Quantity over quality. New over reliable. Though there are great parts to having a more connected world than ever it comes at the cost of things people buy not coming from the person down the street. Products are shipped around the globe so that people can have access to anything that anyone else can. That comes with a cost, it all comes with a cost. That cost is the health of the world. In exchange for material goods people have sacrificed the well being of the world around them. Part of the reason for my belief that current economic growth is unhealthy is due to the competition in the economy. There’s competition between businesses and there’s competition between consumers. Businesses must compete to have consumers buy their product or have some component that the others don’t have, so their resources focus more towards beating the competitors and less towards supporting the customers. Consumer battles are in the form of flaunting or trying to be equal to the other, which ends up creating excessive amounts of waste. Here is a basic idea of how consumer competition fuels the stream of new technology; there are three people (this is a generalized and vastly scaled-down example), Bob (need-based consumer with a little bit of flaunting), Susan (doesn’t want to be outdone), and Tom (gets the butt end of the stick), they all have the same Grillmaster 100 grill. Bob’s grill breaks down, the Grillmaster company sees this as a trend and instead of working to fix the problems with the current model, they release a new model, the Flamemaster 1000, which fixes the old problems and adds some extra flair and bumps up the price. Bob doesn’t mind the price bump or extra flare so he buys the new grill, Susan sees that Bob got a new grill and doesn’t want to be one-upped and also buys the new model. This leaves Tom, Tom doesn’t mind having the old grill and his is working just fine, but the Grillmaster company decides that because everyone is getting the new model that they’re not going to support the Grillmaster 100 anymore so Tom can’t get parts that work with his grill anymore and is forced to buy a new grill and throws the old one away. This situation spreads like wildfire, companies know people like and want cool things so they make them without any concept of need, and then demand goes up and they make more and more resources are used and more people are exploited. Just saying that all struggles would be fixed if people started moving towards a need-based consistent economy instead of a want based growth economy is not quite right. They want based economy holds a certain space for personal expression as a business. With the explosion of the fashion industry comes a surge of people using that to express their creativity. Because people are so creative consumers see hundreds of different options to choose from. Thing is that consumers like to express themselves as well, and they don’t want to only express themselves one way. They want the colorful and stylish shirt but also the dark and formal jacket, and they want a set of clothes to pair with each piece. They know that in a year or half a year or a month the fashion will change and they won’t care about the jacket anymore so they go cheap instead of quality and they throw it away six months later. If the want based economy isn’t used then people start to lose self-expression or the “happiness” they get from new clothes or other things. That’s what a lot of people feel, that the restriction of material goods means the restriction of happiness. From my experience and what I’ve seen and heard that doesn’t appear to be the truth. From what I’ve seen in my travels, people who lack material wealth make it up in happiness, now this isn’t 100% true because many such people have very difficult and painful struggles due to the way the economy has treated them, but I believe that people find happiness when left to their raw selves. I personally swing from being attached to the material and wanting nothing to do with it. During my times of attachment I find myself unsatisfied and unhappy. During my times of detachment I find myself having a much better time and being far more appreciative of the people around me. I however am in an economically middle to high ground, so my experience with this may not be shared. Now I don’t think we need to ignore people’s wants. Wants and goals are what drive people. People dream of one day getting that car, or that house, or impressing that person, but that’s not what rules the economy. The economy is ruled by the “want now”s, and so we need to change the whole world’s structure away from that in order to be fine with a steady economy. I believe that an economy with continuous growth isn’t a successful economy, I believe that a successful economy is one that supports its whole population. I believe a successful stable economy is fair trade, and benefits everything locally. There are so many problems in today’s society that have to change in order to make a stable economy work. Though there are many parts of the economy that are good for most people, and it would be near impossible to change, I believe that it is important that it is changed. The damage that the economy does at this time is huge. It damages people, animals, environment, etc. and isn’t sustainable. The economy may be growing larger, but the rest of our resources are fading away.