We need not fear economic growth

Economic growth is destroying our souls and our planet, writes columnist George Monboit. He believes ending capitalism is essential to human survival (A lesson from Hurricane Irma: capitalism can’t save the planet – it can only destroy it). He touches on several of issues in this piece and I am sympathetic with some aspects. Overall, this is mostly an expression of neo-Malthusian.

First, his analysis assumes an inexorable coupling of resource usage to economic growth. Yet what we see over the past two hundred years is a decoupling of the two. Imagine living in 1915, observing that the US had 300 million acres in agricultural production. You are told the population will triple within one hundred years. That means you will need an additional 600 million acres – an area equal to most of the land east of the Mississippi River. How many acres do we use today? About 300 million – and we produce a surplus. The global growth in agricultural land has nearly stalled and will likely soon shrink, thanks to the expansion of improved farming methods, new technologies, and reductions in waste of food in transport.

Furthermore, consider that through use of new synthetic materials and technologies, we can build ever larger and sturdier structures with a less material. Israel has been rolling out the first large scale water desalinization facilities holding promise for radical improvement in the abundance of potable water. We are in the early stages of nanotechnology where things can disassembled and reassembled at the molecular level. Virtually everything we use today could eventually be made from renewable resources. We are in the early stages of that. I am not saying this all happens seamlessly and without imbalances, but the abundance of the past 200+ years and the trajectory of the future weigh heavily against neo-Malthusian visions of inexorable coupling.

Second, ending growth is a convenient position to take for a wealthy Western intellectual. There are hundreds of millions of people in absolute poverty, with another billion or two only a little better off. What of these people? Are people in the West altruistically going to give up their wealth in order to adjust an imbalance? Not likely. Without economic growth, there is no hope for the world’s poor to attain some semblance of prosperity and well-being.

Third, I am not unsympathetic to some of his concerns about environmental issues. He is right to raise concerns like using the ocean as a trash bin. We must somehow address these externalities. I am not suggesting better coordination and cooperative efforts are not needed but none of this negates a parallel need for growth. (We should also note that annual global CO2 emissions have remained the same for the past three years and dropped by 15% over the past decade in the U.S.)

Fourth, yes, markets are imperfect. Yes, all sorts of abuses happen. But if not markets, where do we find this race of super-humans who will manage a centralized world economy, who are tuned into the endless changes in needs of each person and community, and will make decisions only for the common good, free of personal gain or pursuit of political power? They are mythical. Incorporation of markets (not sole reliance) is a more reliable long-term approach.

The answer is responsible growth with green technology and decoupling. Capitalism is part of the answer.

Pay raise, Perks or Benefits

Does your workplace offer a wellness program? Do you participate? Would you want more pay, more benefits or different benefits than you are offered?

From LinkedIn, #workplacewellness

A pay raise or great perks and benefits?

Are free food, fitness plans and mental health support becoming the way of the future at work? Office wellness programs have burgeoned into a $6.8 billion industry over the past few years, largely based on the promise of reduced employer healthcare costs. As of 2016, 76% of employers had a wellness program. But multiple studies by nonprofit think tank RAND Corp. show that employers typically end up spending more on these programs than they do on health care. So why do employers continue to buy in? Beyond the perceived dollars saved, wellness programs are thought to boost employee productivity and attract new talent. • Join the conversation — What are the most important benefits to you? And what do employees want more: a pay raise or great perks and benefits?

A Labor Day Appeal

“While it may be politically expedient to blame globalization for the job losses, the real culprits are increased automation and investment in software. According to some predictions, half of all jobs in industrialized countries will vanish in the next 20 years due to automation, computerization, and advances in robotics and artificial intelligence. It will take time before new jobs replace those that are lost.”

Maintaining a sense of purpose in a changing workplace

I need your help?

My current research project involves interviewing people who I meet on the road (literally and virtually) who have experienced or find themselves facing the kinds of changes in work and working highlighted in this article.

Many of us have stories to tell and these stories need to be told in our colleges, seminaries and through related faith@work organizations. If professors and other leaders are to be equipped and to equip those they teach to help people through these challenges they will need your help – they need your story.

If you have a personal story you would like to share and include in this research on work disruption, unemployment, under-employment, mid or late career pivoting, or the like, I’d love to hear from you and hear your byway tale.

I am asking 3 basic questions

  1. What is your story through your working life and how have changes in work and working effected you and your ‘career’?
  2. How did you respond to these changes or disruptions and how did you maintain a sense of meaning, purpose or personal identity in the process, and did faith or spirituality play a role positively or negatively through this journey?
  3. Did ‘play’ (recreation, travel, art…) help you or distract you during your transitions?

You may write your responses, or make a short video (e.g. on your phone) and send it to me. (Contact me for details for submitting a video.)

If you wish to participate, I will send you a ‘consent form’ as I will need your permission to share your story in publication and in educational presentations.