Skip to main content

The End of Endless Growth?

In my assigned role as the (anti) Thomas Robert Bannister (Malthus), I thought I would return to the blog after a far-too-long hiatus with this post to share recent work. Note that this work is the other main area of research beyond my dissertation interest of the role of energy revolutions in economic history. I'll return to that one given recent posts here, but for now:

This work asks many questions, the fundamental one being do we really need to radically change behaviours to attain zero growth, or, what do we really mean by zero growth?

The conditional answer is that our world can achieve zero total growth (in the expected lifetimes of some of us) while still having per-capita GDP growth. The key, wearing my anti-Malthus hat, is population-conditional. To introduce the topic, here is a figure from my model that shows GDP levels peak at about 2080. I think that is a very radical outcome, with many implications. It is based on several forecasts, including the current UN low population forecast.

The only other forecast I'll mention for now is that the per-capita real GDP increases through the forecast period. The second-largest caveat is the large forecast error bands; I'll simply note that at least I show them. Most climate models (of which this is a member) eschew error estimates. I can do so because I use empirical forecasting methods.

So, peak GDP levels in 2080 with continuing real per-capita output growth (forever). A surprising result certainly to me. The largest caveat in this method is the population curve you believe we are on. I'll discuss that in a future post. For now, just enjoy that a (credible?) model exists that allows the zero-gowth crowd and the lift-the-poor crowd to coexist on the same model path.

I will monitor questions. This will be my EEA talk; just a heads-up for those who wish to stockpile (potatoes and other) ammunition.

Comments

  1. Thanks for the post. It's been a while. I'm a bit against the zero growth argument as you know. Thought it might be good to link to my post on that here http://nakedkeynesianism.blogspot.com/2012/02/farewell-to-growth.html

    ReplyDelete
  2. As I am, Matias, which is why the model, in this parameterization, is so radical! Other parameterizations are less sanguine, and I'll continue to post on those. This method should keep us intensely focused on our policy choices range and leverage.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I really like this model Steve. I am still struck by the fact that we will still have to make some hard choices regarding climate change long before we get a zero growth rate to avoid tipping points. But at least if this model is correct those hard choices might be somewhat 'temporary'.

      Delete
    2. An article worth taking a look at is "The Limits to Entropy: Continuing Misuse
      of Thermodynamics in Environmental and Marxist Theory" by David Schwartzman

      Delete
  3. Zero-growth fanatics conflate the genus and species of capitalism, fetishize the dynamics resource extraction, and distortedly interpret the second law of thermodynamics within a closed-system physical framework. In addition, their persistent reference to Jevon's paradox is nonsensical as they ignore the fact that the model has to do with effects of INCOME, NOT SUBSTITUTION. Yes, there is a relationship between economic growth, population growth, and growth in surplus value, however, the penetrating research question has more to do with matters of conscious collective planning with respect to the organization of production, with specific attention to ecological constraints and macroeconomic implications. Until this is considerably accomplished with the provision of real-world solutions, those in the no-growth camp are going to plagued by the same problems that encumbered the former New Left, that is, alienation from working-class people, & material detachment stemming from the foolishness of Kantian idealism.

    ReplyDelete
  4. The primary method of research by no-growth folks is the so-called STIRPAT - http://www.stirpat.org/; mind you, their estimates of population size and degree of affluence are limiting from both a theoretical and empirical sense - the reasons I will leave Mr. Bannister to elucidate in his next post.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

A few brief comments on Brexit and the postmortem of the European Union

Another end of the world is possible
There will be a lot of postmortems for the European Union (EU) after Brexit. Many will suggest that this was a victory against the neoliberal policies of the European Union. See, for example, the first three paragraphs of Paul Mason's column here. And it is true, large contingents of working class people, that have suffered with 'free-market' economics, voted for leaving the union. The union, rightly or wrongly, has been seen as undemocratic and responsible for the economics woes of Europe.

The problem is that while it is true that the EU leaders have been part of the problem and have pursued the neoliberal policies within the framework of the union, sometimes with treaties like the Fiscal Compact, it is far from clear that Brexit and the possible demise of the union, if the fever spreads to France, Germany and other countries with their populations demanding their own referenda, will lead to the abandonment of neoliberal policies. Aust…

A brief note on Venezuela and the turn to the right in Latin America

So besides the coup in Brazil (which was all but confirmed by the last revelations, if you had any doubts), and the electoral victory of Macri in Argentina, the crisis in Venezuela is reaching a critical level, and it would not be surprising if the Maduro administration is recalled, even though right now the referendum is not scheduled yet.

The economy in Venezuela has collapsed (GDP has fallen by about 14% or so in the last two years), inflation has accelerated (to three digit levels; 450% or so according to the IMF), there are shortages of essential goods, recurrent energy blackouts, and all of these aggravated by persistent violence. Contrary to what the press suggests, these events are not new or specific to left of center governments. Similar events occurred in the late 1980s, in the infamous Caracazo, when the fall in oil prices caused an external crisis, inflation, and food shortages, which eventually, after the announcement of a neoliberal economic package that included the i…

What is the 'Classical Dichotomy'?