Economic growth is such an established mantra in political and economic circles that it can seem almost outlandish to question it. Tim Jackson not only questions it but affirms we can do better without it. His book Prosperity Without Growth: Economics for a Finite Planet, published last year, is based on a report he wrote earlier in the year as Economics Commissioner of the Sustainable Development Commission, the U.K. Government’s independent watchdog.
The prosperity Jackson writes of is our ability to flourish as human beings. It transcends material concern. It has to do with such matters as physical and mental health, access to education, relationships and sense of community, meaningful employment and the ability to participate in the life of society. He argues that in the developed countries we can (and must) have such prosperity without the economic growth paradigm that currently rules our thinking.
Jackson recognises the difficulties of the situation we have landed ourselves with. On the one hand growth is unsustainable, at least in its current form. The burgeoning consumption of finite resources and the heavy costs being imposed on the environment are accompanied by profound disparities in social well-being.