Joy in Enough: Summary of our Proposed Strategies
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A lot of political debate is about economic growth or the lack of it over the past few years. But what if we don’t need or want growth any more. A new school of Steady State economists is now saying that continued growth is not only unnecessary, but impossible, and we would be better off with a more stable and fixed-size economy.
Amongst their arguments is that growth is dependent on increased use of resources and energy. On a finite planet, we must eventually hit limits, both in what is available for use, and in the planet’s ability to absorb waste products, and they argue we are already reaching that point: an environmental observation we are unfortunately all too aware of.
They thus say we need to radically shift the global economy as well as how we value things: GDP should no longer be king. As well as concerning us as environmentalists, this should concern us as Christians too. We are warned repeatedly that seeking excessive wealth is a cause of sin. Instead, Paul tells us that he has “learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (Phil 4:12). Or, in short, to have joy in enough.
So if we are to take this seriously, what changes are needed: let’s start by thinking globally, looking at the big picture that illustrates where we need to go, and then work down to the more local action that different people and agencies will be in a position to take. These proposals reflect the broad ideas that the various steady state economists have come up with to move us to a stable and sustainable future economy.
Our ultimate aim is a global economy that operates within strict boundaries or caps for emissions and resource use – and which prioritises the well-being of all over the luxurious living of the few. An economy in which air miles, burger consumption, etc. will be very much constrained, but the quality of our lives will be enhanced – more time and opportunity for craft, cultural and sporting activities, for the development of friendship, etc.
To that end we need international agreements on the implementation and the enforcement of such caps. We need substantial reform of financial systems: curtailing the power of the banks to create debt (thus fuelling excesses in consumer demand); supporting local currencies, thereby encouraging more local trade. We need a range of policies aimed at dismantling the ‘culture of consumerism’ created by the powerful corporate marketing processes: restrictions on various marketing activities (especially those targeted at the more vulnerable in society); educational programmes to reduce our vulnerability to the emotionally powerful messages that many people are exposed to; challenging the various processes used to create unnecessary obsolescence.
A two-level investment strategy is required. Firstly expansion of what is now the ‘Cinderella’ economy – more local, low-carbon economic activities employing people more meaningfully promoting well-being – community energy, local food, local services, local training and skills centre, etc. These will be employment intense but not very lucrative. So support will be required from the more conventional economy. Secondly, a more selective conventional economy: lower output overall, but highly efficient in the use of both human and non-human resources (including of ecosystem resources which are currently under-valued if not discounted.) To that latter end, we will need substantial investment in energy efficiency, renewable energy, design for durability, etc. Both private and public investment sources will be required to play roles in this strategy.
But with reduced demand overall, and some increases in labour productivity in the conventional economy, there will be less employment hours overall. Therefore work-sharing, the redistribution of employment hours and income will be another key requirement. The Dutch, Danish and other European experiences can be learned from, and sophisticated employment redistribution models have been developed
. This experience has shown that reducing systematic inequalities overall is a prerequisite for employment redistribution, while employment redistribution can also reduce inequality, in turn. A combination of national level (taxes, minimum income legislation etc) and corporate level (maximum/minimum income ratio reductions) measures will be required to reverse the enormous increases in systematic inequality over the last 30 years. Greater income inequality also helps reduce the excesses in consumer demand arising from luxury good purchases and from ‘keeping up with the Jones’ consumerist pressures.
We also need changes in our national economic goals and the way we measure progress. With less emphasis on the GDP, much more importance given to measures of ecosystem health and quality, quality of life and of equality.
Finally, but most importantly, as Christians, we need to discover what the Bible and our theology says about these ideas. We cannot accept them blindly, but read them alongside our faith and what we believe God is saying to us. But it does seem to us that the two are consistent, and this new economy is more consistent with the Kingdom of God than the one we have currently.
Joy in Enough main page
The two principles sources for this summary are Prosperity without Growth (by Tim Jackson, 2011, Earthscan, London) and Enough is Enough (by Rob Deitz and Dan O’Neill, 2013, Routledge, Oxford). The employment redistribution model developed by Peter Victor is elaborated in both texts.
Summary by Tony Emerson for the CEL Joy in Enough project. Accompanying diagram by Dónal Emerson
Comments on "Joy in Enough: Summary of our Proposed Strategies"
You can link to the summaries from this page: https://www.greenchristian.org.uk/archives/6111
My wife and I would like to join a working group each if it is not too late, but I could not find anywhere on your website a concise summary of what each working group was tackling. My wife Judith Hodgson would like to join working group 4 about consumerism, and I think I would like to join working group 3 if it is about tackling inequalities. Could you please confirm this. Happy Eastertide.