Uneconomic Growth: When Illth Trumps Wealth


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    Herman Daly is a formidable mind. He has been writing for many years about the true effects of clinging to our perpetual growth paradigm. Daly conclud
    [See the full post at: Uneconomic Growth: When Illth Trumps Wealth]


    Excellent article Ilargi!
    This fella, Professor Daly, states in powerful, if elegant, paragraphs what any thoughtful person understands by just paying attention! One need not be a high-shingled economic scholar (perhaps better not to be) to see the damage being wrought to our globe and, as well, to ascertain the obvious limits to economic growth and expansion. You posted a winner here!
    Glad I found this page as I was wandering through the new set-up this evening, which I am finding to be less enjoyable I admit than the old format.
    By the way TAE folks, the wind blew some of us away this week and we (Hoosiers) are all trying to pitch in and fill the voids as best we can in many Indiana hearts and lives. One NEVER knows…


    This is a very important point.

    Why isn’t this trumpeted from the roof tops?

    Probably because this is not the diagnosis TPTB want to let us hear. If only our government had the public good in mind, instead of their individual re-elections. Why are our public servants doing their jobs? They should be fired. We need some wisdom in public office.

    The growth of the GDP is the opposite of the growth of the public good.

    Only a child is so short sighted that think they can grow forever.

    How about some growth in wisdom? How about planning ahead? How about some real adults in the government?

    How can we get this intelligent information more widely spread? Perhaps the Occupy Movement can be supplied with some short bites for signs at demonstrations. Maybe we should all send Daly’s articles to the White House or to our State governors.


    Great article… …and thoroughly depressing 🙁
    If I’d known twenty years ago what I know now, I’d never have recklessly had 3 children. I love them (and all children) dearly and am fearful of what awaits them. They expect the same opportunities and lifestyle their parents had.

    I guess my challenge is to continue to learn low-tec skills like organic farming that I can pass on to them.

    Thank you for a wonderful and unique website.


    Melville- do NOT regret your 3 kids. While the way forward is dark; the alternative is- oblivion. Which I think is even less desirable.

    Re: growth/steady state: I came to the same conclusions as Daly 4 decades ago, when I first started to seriously study biology. It’s freaking obvious, really, if you actually put the pieces of the puzzle together and look at the picture. “Economists” really don’t; they insist on looking at only 20 pieces of the 200 piece puzzle.

    At the moment the piece I’m most interested in is the VAST momentum and inertia of the current economic fantasies. It’s staggeringly huge; and backed up by a century of fossil fuel inputs. My favorite current measure of this inertia is the manufacture and sales of – pliers.

    I have a sneaking suspicion the world already possesses enough pliers to serve all the needs of the present population; and any conceivable future population, to boot. And yet- the world continues to manufacture more pliers. Sure, there are plenty of “improved” versions to plump up the sales; and increasing numbers of special purpose pliers; but even so. We have ENOUGH pliers for the entire solar system; for all time.

    But they continue to be manufactured- and SOLD; by the millions. I think when we see plier sales start to wane- that will be the horizon when “growth economics” pushers will finally have to face some reality. But frankly- I see no pause in plier sales this year.

    So there you have it. Until we reach the Plier Horizon- the fantasy of endless growth will dominate human thought.


    (I considered using screwdrivers as the measure, incidentally, but they are too variable, greatly increasing possible markets. Phillips? Torx? Stubby/Long? Magnetic/Non? Power/Manual? Just too much- although the reality here is the same; yes; we have ENOUGH; now.)


    This article makes me proud to be a Terp with an Econ degree.


    Excellent article. I am curious however, how “technological advance” (which Daly says will assist with qualitative improvement) is possible without a fully functioning (i.e. growing) economy.

    John Day

    Enjoying your input Ilargi!
    We, who are reading this, need to look at what is at hand, and how to create little living seeds to plant deeply as the forest fire roars in the distance. We have lots of resources, some under-appreciated, and some to undergo deep discounts in the near future as stages of economic withdrawal-convulsions sweep over our human world. Maybe we are in the fortunate position to be out of debt, and valued, with some resources as a result. It has been a long time since I bought a new car, but I just spent $11k in overpaid taxes on a 1.2 kW solar PV set up with 10 kWHr of nickel iron battery storage. This is not for immediate deployment, but when we settle into our longer term situation, the seed we hope will grow after the fire.


    Bluesky, good point. From where I sit we already have enough technology and more to last us forever (kind of like pliers). Much of it is completely superfluous, and some is sadly underutilized. Ultimately I see the low-tech Appropriate Technologies as being the liferaft for human civilization. It’s just a matter of how long we wait to implement these technologies on a massive scale, and how much death and destruction will result from our failure to prepare in a mature and responsible way for the inevitable results of our irresponsibility and immaturity (“our” = those of us in the developed world).



    Thanks, these are the concepts that lie at the heart of our challenges. Call it the Dominant Paradigm, the Pattern Logic of industrial civilization, ultimately it comes down to the systems which drive our culture and economy. Just like the rules of the game of Monopoly inevitably leads to one player owning everything and all the other players bankrupt, we too have been hurtling towards the natural consequences of the way we live.

    3Point Pete

    Maybe someone can help explain this to a cousin of MMT proponent, Monetary Sovereignty. I put this most excellent AE post forward (maybe my favorite) as I regularly debate about the perpetual growth religion that MMT and MS don’t seem to address.

    The blogger, Roger Mitchell writes,
    , ” . . . the added value conveyed by every additional – borrowed – dollar has at the very least threatened to become negative.”

    He doesn’t understand that a Monetarily Sovereign nation doesn’t need to borrow, and when it does borrow, it easily could pay off all its loans in one day. Actually, he doesn’t understand Monetary Sovereignty. Period.

    He also said, ” . . . we may have already reached the point where there no longer is any economic growth, there is only uneconomic growth.”His rationale is, “the costs of things like depletion of resources and pollution resulting from consuming resources”

    Really? The world is doomed? Sounds a bit of hyperbolic to me. Didn’t Malthus say that 200+ years ago?”

    I wonder if one of you big brains could sum up a simple explanation to Mr. Mitchell. I keep thinking “Monetary Sovereignty” is a contradictory term. Sovereign means self-governing. With the Fed and central banks issuing interest bearing debt-based money it seems that we have a command economy. There is nothing self-governing about it and as MS proposes we could eliminate all “debt” with a few keystrokes, the current institutions in place will never allow that to be a reality. Am I off base? Looking to educate myself and another seemingly smart “economic expert” that seems rather cavalier about the growth paradigm’s effect on our ecosystems.

    Thanks ~ Pete


    hombre said “By the way TAE folks, the wind blew some of us away this week and we (Hoosiers) are all trying to pitch in and fill the voids as best we can in many Indiana hearts and lives. One NEVER knows…”

    My daughter in SW Ohio was caught up in the tornadoes. Luckily, she and her husband and pets are fine, her house is fine, but the tornado flattened her barn and everything in it. A dozen+ large old trees blew over, and the cleanup is a daunting task. No matter how prepared one is, Nature will always bat last.


    FWIW there has been an X class solar flare which NASA currently believes is at least partly earth-bound.


    NOAA https://www.swpc.noaa.gov/

    More in-depth from NASA https://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2006/10mar_stormwarning/


    All fine until the end when we are told that the solution is to tax resources. The problem being that the rich will continue to enjoy these resources while the poor will have to do without.

    Otherwise a great article.


    This article encompasses most of the Illth themes and goes well beyond, published by (repentant) former Republican Party strategist Kevin Phillips.

    Numbers racket: Why the economy is worse than we know.



    Great fun- Europe has in fact hit a Plier Horizon event; only, in automobiles:


    Sounds pretty serious, actually. And speaks directly to the concept of “growth”. Not going to happen.

    el gallinazo

    Recommend in particular tonight’s episode of Capital Account with guest Paul Craig Roberts. With Citibank hiring Watson the Robot, CA introduces the Dimonator.

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