The Growth Illusion
How economic growth has enriched the few, impoverished the many and endangered the planet

Douthwaite, Richard
Publisher:  New Society Publishers, Gabriola Island, Canada
Year Published:  1999   First Published:  1992
Pages:  386pp   ISBN:  0-86571-396-0
Resource Type:  Book
Cx Number:  CX6141

Douthwaite argues that strategies used by governments to raise national income often increase poverty and unemployment. Moreover, in the USA, Britiain, Germany and Australia, each increase in national income consumes more resources than it creates on a sustainable basis. In other words, these economies are running backwards and making their citizens worse off.


Table of Contents

Graphs and Illustrations


Foreword by David C. Korten

A new way of looking at economic growth is emerging which will radically adjust the way we treat the natural world.

1. Quality or Quantity?
Politicians often promise to raise our standard of living. What they do not say is that this will inescapably reduce the quality of our lives.

2. Why Capitalism Needs Growth

3. Capitalism cannot survive without growth.
Firms are compelled to expand to avoid collapse. In the world up to 1914, this compulsion built empires, destroyed indigenous cultures and, finally, led to world war.

4. The Benefits of War and Depression
Major advances in the living conditions of the British people resulted from two world wars, the depressions of the twenties and thirties and the fiercely redistributive policies of the 1945 Labour government. Whenever growth appeared, life for the majority got worse.

5. Mrs Thatcher and the Struggle Against Inflation
Because Mrs. Thatcher had mistaken ideas about the evils of inflation and sought to accelerate growth by improving investor's returns, her three governments engineered a major shift in the distribution of incomes and wealth in favour of the better-off.

6. Ned Ludd Was Right
The growth process perverts the national economy within which it works. It causes unemployment and yet makes labor less affordable. It enables the concentration of economic power and requires ever-higher shares of national income to be spent by the state.

7. Growth and the National Health
It was not until 1955 that accelerating the growth rate became the major British economic obsession. Since then, the methods used to generate higher levels of output have caused a large increase in chronic illness.

8. How Growth Damaged Family and Community Life
All the indicators of the quality of life show that this deteriorated in Britain between the '50s and the end of the '80s shows that the process brought very few benefits at all.

9. What Has All the Growth Done?
Has growth kept its promises? An examination of the changes in Britain between the '50s and the end of the '80s show that the process brought very few benefits at all.

10. Growth Must Have a Stop
Because their need for growth forces firms to adopt new technologies before their impact can be assessed, environmental disasters such as the large-scale release of CFCs and PCBs are inevitable. Innovations must only be permitted when it is clear that society and the environment will benefit.

11. Growth in the Greenhouse
Politicians are more concerned about maintaining conditions in which economic growth is possible than holding the world's climate unchanged.

12. The Dutch Dilemma
Continuing to grow economically is neither necessary for the wellbeing of the Dutch people nor desirable for their environment. They are, however, both unwilling and unable to bring the process to a stop.

13. The Mahatma's Message
India has found that industrialization has created many more problems than it has solved and there is a growing group of people who would like to see Mahatma Gandhi's put-the-weakest-first policies used instead.

14. De Valera's Dream
Ireland made economic growth its priority in the late 1950s. At first it raised its people's incomes by introducing labor-saving technologies and sending those whom the process makes redundant to live overseas. More recently, it has denied the large numbers of people a fair share of the higher incomes produced by growth by keeping their wage rates down.

15. The Myth of Sustainable Growth
The only sustainable society is a stable society- there is no such thing as sustainable growth. What are the principles on which such a society can be built? In particular, how can we stabilize world population?

16. Guiding the Invisible Hand
Morality lost almost all control over the direction of economic change after Adam Smith's concept of the 'invisible hand' gained acceptance. If the world is to have a bright future, morality must govern our actions against.


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