End of Growth

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* Book: The End of Growth. Richard Heinberg.


"The central assertion of this book is both simple and startling: Economic growth as we have known it is over and done with.

The “growth” we are talking about consists of the expansion of the overall size of the economy (with more people being served and more money changing hands) and of the quantities of energy and material goods flowing through it.

The economic crisis that began in 2007-2008 was both foreseeable and inevitable, and it marks a permanent, fundamental break from past decades—a period during which most economists adopted the unrealistic view that perpetual economic growth is necessary and also possible to achieve. There are now fundamental barriers to ongoing economic expansion, and the world is colliding with those barriers.

This is not to say the U.S. or the world as a whole will never see another quarter or year of growth relative to the previous quarter or year. However, when the bumps are averaged out, the general trend-line of the economy (measured in terms of production and consumption of real goods) will be level or downward rather than upward from now on.

Nor will it be impossible for any region, nation, or business to continue growing for a while. Some will. In the final analysis, however, this growth will have been achieved at the expense of other regions, nations, or businesses. From now on, only relative growth is possible: the global economy is playing a zero-sum game, with an ever-shrinking pot to be divided among the winners."


Interview by Transition Culture:

Your new book, The End of Growth, can you summarise what it’s saying, what the central argument is?

"Right, well the central argument is that world economic growth is effectively over. It’s hedged a bit by saying of course we are still seeing economic growth in China, India and a few other countries. But I argue in the book that that’s only a temporary phenomenon; that economic growth in China is unsustainable for a number of reasons I outline. One of them of course is that China just doesn’t have enough coal to keep growing its economy.

I make that argument based on factors internal to the international monetary system saying that we’ve reached limits to debt, household debt in the US, and we’re nearing limits to government debt. Not necessarily theoretical, absolute limits but political limits. Many countries just aren’t willing to run up their debt that much further for fear of imperiling their national currency. We have a situation in the US where the federal reserve wants to continue with quantitative easing – pumping more money into the economy – which is the only thing that’s kept the economy going for the past couple of years, but trading partners – Germany, China and others – are reacting to that very angrily saying it’s unfair in terms of global trade; driving down the dollar to make US exports more attractive and so on.

I don’t think a full blown currency war is in the offing but that does act as a kind of constraint on the ability of governments to intervene and prop up consumption any further. Does this mean that we’ve seen the end of economic growth? It think it’s a very big deal given that we have a monetary financial system that’s set up only to function in the context of growth – they way we loan money into existence for example. We no longer base money on precious metals or things like that, we create money by making bank loans, and that means if people aren’t taking up more loans that means the money supply starts to decrease as people pay off existing loans or default on them.

This is essentially what we’re seeing. It’s a system that is virtually designed to fail in the absence of economic growth. The last couple of chapters of the book are outlining what needs to happen if we’re going to avoid a wall of global financial failure. We have to get past that wall in order to deal with all the other problems we have, the financial problem is just one. I think it’s the most immediate, pressing problem that we have because if we don’t get past that, it will be almost impossible to master the political, economic resources to deal with things like climate change and resource depletion and rebuilding our transport infrastructure and reforming our food system and so on.

But we do have to do all those things too – so we have to get past that wall and then we have to do these other things. That’s a tall order! Right now, the governments of the world have no appetite for any of this. If they’re going to do these things it will only be the result of crisis – they’ll be forced to. Meanwhile, that crisis is going to come down on ordinary people and communities. So the last chapter in the book is about what we ordinary people need to be doing to protect ourselves from the worst consequences of all of this unravelling."

Speaking of Herman Daly – this is a quick question from Peter Lipman. The steady state idea is envisaged as still being sat within a capitalist system, but the capitalist system itself is founded on growth. How do you see the tension between those two things?

Well I think that’s true. The word capitalism is very tricky – it means different things to different people – and certainly in the US it’s one of those red flag words that sets people off immediately. If you question capitalism then clearly you’re a communist because there are only two alternatives in the world. Nevertheless, capitalism as a system, however you define it, really has come into existence just in the last few of centuries of economic growth based on cheap energy. It has incorporated within itself not just psychological expectations but institutional requirements for continued growth.

That makes capitalism really problematic in terms of its survival for the future. But frankly there aren’t many other systems around that haven’t done basically the same thing – socialism and communism also require growth in one way or another unless we really start to tinker with the basic mechanics and assumptions in any and all of these systems. I think we have to really go back and reinvent money itself – not as debt-based currency, but as mutual credit clearance systems or something of that sort – where money can appear and disappear as needed, without the requirement of continued interest being paid on loans. If we have a fundamentally different currency then you can still have private ownership of productive capital and the things till works but it doesn’t work the same way that we currently see.

In the analysis that you have in The End of Growth, is idea of the steady state economy something that’s workable?

Well in the end of course, we have to have a steady state economy. It would almost certainly be an economy that’s smaller than it is now, because we’re over shooting earth’s productive capacity. Ultimately we have to have an economy that’s primarily based on renewable resources used at less than rates of natural replenishment; an economy that uses non-renewable resources only as they’re recycled and otherwise at declining rates. We’re so far from that situation today – just miles and miles away from that kind of steady state situation, so we probably have a fair amount of economic contraction to do before we could get to what could be a steady sustainable state economy.

This is another one from Peter – this is a long kind of question based on the work of Kevin Ayres, on energy and economic growth, and Charles Hall’s work on energy return and investment….assuming that we are increasingly in a world of a decreasing energy return on investment in terms of our energy supply, to what degree is Ayres right that growth comes from net energy if we are in a declining return on energy investment world? Does that mean inevitably, like Tainter argues, that social complexity will decline and where will that leave us now?

That’s a wonderful question, but the answer I think is pretty simple – yes! Yes, I think Ayres is right that energy is the real driver of economic growth – it certainly was at the beginning of the cycle. And yes, Charles Hall is right that the total net energy yield for all energy sources to industrial societies is declining as we shift from fossil fuels to alternatives – fossil fuels themselves are also seeing a decline in net energy yields.

So where does that leave us? Does that mean we can’t support the current levels of societal complexity? Yes I think that’s right. And this isn’t in the question, but Tainter has said recently that there’s no example in history of a society deliberately and methodically reducing its complexity without collapse. That’s kind of a bracing conclusion to face. I hope that we can be the first society to buck that trend… but the odds are against us. I think the strong likelihood is that we will have some level of collapse, at least in most societies around the world. It’s just a question of what that collapse looks like and what’s left afterward. The more effort we can put into building economic and other infrastructure now that would survive the collapse and work for us in a post-collapse situation, the better off we’ll be.

In Powerdown, you have your four scenarios: collapse, waiting for the magic elixir, power down and last one standing. Do you still see those as being the four key scenarios? Have you revised those at all?

I haven’t revisited that in any systematic way – I think David Holmgren has tweaked those scenarios a bit and has come up with a different set that’s at least as useful as the ones I’ve put forward. Clearly, governments of the world still appear to be on the track towards ‘Last One Standing’. Clearly, ‘Powerdown’ is the best way forward on a collective basis and clearly, ‘Building Lifeboats’ is not a bad idea – to the extent that one is not just going about that in a survivalist frame of mind but on a community basis of building some kind of collective infrastructure for survival and renewal and not just heading for the hills. I don’t think there’s much of a future for our species in terms of individual survivalism." (http://transitionculture.org/2011/03/12/richard-heinberg-interviewed-in-totnes-i-think-2011-is-going-to-be-an-interesting-year-in-the-chinese-sense/)

See also part two of the interview at http://transitionculture.org/2011/03/15/richard-heinberg-interviewed-in-totnes-i-think-2011-is-going-to-be-an-interesting-year-in-the-chinese-sense-part-two/

Discussion 1

Excerpts from http://www.energybulletin.net/stories/2010-11-12/end-growth:

Why Is Growth Ending?

"Many financial pundits point to profound problems internal to the economy—including overwhelming, un-repayable levels of public and private debt, and the bursting of the real estate bubble — as immediate threats to the resumption of economic growth. The assumption generally is that eventually, once these problems are dealt with, growth can and will pick up again. But the pundits generally miss factors external to the financial economy that make a resumption of conventional economic growth a near-impossibility. This is not a temporary condition; it is essentially permanent.

Altogether, as we will see in the following chapters, there are three primary factors that stand firmly in the way of further economic growth:

  • The depletion of important resources including fossil fuels and minerals;
  • The proliferation of environmental impacts arising from both the extraction and use of resources (including the burning of fossil fuels)—leading to snowballing costs from both these impacts themselves and from efforts to avert them and clean them up; and
  • Financial disruptions due to the inability of our existing monetary, banking, and investment systems to adjust to both resource scarcity and soaring environmental costs—and their inability (in the context of a shrinking economy) to service the enormous piles of government and private debt that have been generated over the past couple of decades.

Despite the tendency of financial commentators to focus only on the last of these factors, it is possible to point to literally thousands of events in recent years that illustrate how all three are interacting, and are hitting home with ever more force.

Consider just one: the Deepwater Horizon oil catastrophe of 2010 in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico.

The fact that BP was drilling for oil in deep water in the Gulf of Mexico illustrates a global trend: while the world is not in danger of running out of oil anytime soon, there is very little new oil to be found in onshore areas where drilling is cheap. Those areas have already been explored and their rich pools of hydrocarbons are being depleted. According to the International Energy Agency, by 2020 almost 40 percent of world oil production will come from deepwater regions. So even though it’s hard, dangerous, and expensive to operate a drilling rig in a mile or two of ocean water, that’s what the oil industry must do if it is to continue supplying its product. That means more expensive oil.

Obviously, the environmental costs of the Deepwater Horizon blowout and spill were ruinous. Neither the U.S. nor the oil industry can afford another accident of that magnitude. So, in 2010 the Obama administration instituted a deepwater drilling moratorium in the Gulf of Mexico while preparing new drilling regulations. Other nations began revising their own deepwater oil exploration guidelines. These will no doubt make future blowout disasters less likely, but they add to the cost of doing business and therefore to the already high cost of oil.

The Deepwater Horizon incident also illustrates to some degree the knock-on effects of depletion and environmental damage upon financial institutions. Insurance companies have been forced to raise premiums on deepwater drilling operations, and impacts to regional fisheries have hit the Gulf Coast economy hard. While economic costs to the Gulf region were partly made up for by payments from BP, those payments forced the company to reorganize and resulted in lower stock values and returns to investors. BP’s financial woes in turn impacted British pension funds that were invested in the company.

This is just one event—admittedly a spectacular one. If it were an isolated problem, the economy could recover and move on. But we are, and will be, seeing a cavalcade of environmental and economic disasters, not obviously related to one another, that will stymie economic growth in more and more ways.

These will include but are not limited to:

  • Climate change leading to regional droughts, floods, and even famines;
  • Shortages of water and energy; and
  • Waves of bank failures, company bankruptcies, and house foreclosures.

Each will be typically treated as a special case, a problem to be solved so that we can get “back to normal.” But in the final analysis, they are all related, in that they are consequences of growing human population striving for higher per-capita consumption of limited resources (including non-renewable, climate-altering fossil fuels), all on a finite and fragile planet.

Meanwhile, the unwinding of decades of buildup in debt has created the conditions for a once-in-a-century financial crash—which is unfolding around us, and which on its own has the potential to generate substantial political unrest and human misery.

The result: we are seeing a perfect storm of converging crises that together represent a watershed moment in the history of our species. We are witnesses to, and participants in, the transition from decades of economic growth to decades of economic contraction."

Why Growth Is Important

"During the last couple of centuries, growth became virtually the sole index of economic well-being. When an economy grew, jobs appeared and investments yielded high returns. When the economy stopped growing temporarily, as it did during the Great Depression, financial bloodletting ensued.

Throughout this period, world population increased—from fewer than two billion humans on planet Earth in 1900 to nearly seven billion today; we are adding about 70 million new “consumers” each year. That makes further growth even more crucial: if the economy stagnates, there will be fewer goods and services per capita to go around.

We have relied on economic growth for the “development” of the world’s poorest economies; without growth, we must seriously entertain the possibility that hundreds of millions—perhaps billions—of people will never achieve even a rudimentary version of the consumer lifestyle enjoyed by people in the world’s industrialized nations.

Finally, we have created monetary and financial systems that require growth. As long as the economy is growing, that means more money and credit are available, expectations are high, people buy more goods, businesses take out more loans, and interest on existing loans can easily be repaid. But if more new money isn’t entering the system, the interest on existing loans cannot be paid; as a result, defaults snowball, jobs are lost, incomes fall, and consumer spending contracts—which leads businesses to take out fewer loans, causing still less new money to enter the economy. This is a self-reinforcing destructive feedback loop that is very difficult to stop once it gets going.

In other words, the economy has no “stable” or “neutral” setting: there is only growth or contraction. And “contraction” is just a nicer name for Depression—a long period of cascading job losses, foreclosures, defaults, and bankruptcies.

We have become so accustomed to growth that it’s hard to remember that it is actually is a fairly recent phenomenon.

During the past few millennia, as empires rose and fell, local economies advanced and retreated—but world economic activity expanded only slowly, and with periodic reversals. However, with the fossil fuel revolution of the past two centuries, we have seen growth at a speed and scale unprecedented in all of human history. We harnessed the energies of coal, oil, and natural gas to build and operate cars, trucks, highways, airports, airplanes, and electric grids—all the essential features of modern industrial society. Through the one-time-only process of extracting and burning hundreds of millions of years’ worth of chemically stored sunlight, we built what appeared (for a brief, shining moment) to be a perpetual-growth machine. We learned to take what was in fact an extraordinary situation for granted. It became normal.

But as the era of cheap, abundant fossil fuels comes to an end, our assumptions about continued expansion are being be shaken to their core.

The end of growth is a very big deal indeed. It means the end of an era, and of our current ways of organizing economies, politics, and daily life. Without growth, we will have to virtually reinvent human life on Earth.

It is essential that we recognize and understand the significance of this historic moment: if we have in fact reached the end of the era of fossil-fueled economic expansion, then efforts by policy makers to continue pursuing elusive growth really amount to a flight from reality. World leaders, if they are deluded about our actual situation, are likely to delay putting in place the support services that can make life in a non-growing economy survivable, and they will almost certainly fail to make needed, fundamental changes to monetary, financial, food, and transport systems.

As a result, what could have been a painful but endurable process of adaptation could become history’s greatest tragedy. We can survive the end of growth, but only if we recognize it for what it is and act accordingly.

But Isn’t Growth Normal?

Economies are systems, and as such they (to a certain extent at least) follow rules analogous to those that govern biological systems. Plants and animals tend to grow quickly when they are young, but then they reach a more or less stable mature size. In organisms, growth rates are largely controlled by genes, but also by availability of food.

In economies, growth seems tied to economic planning, and also to the availability of resources—chiefly energy resources (“food” for the industrial system), as well as credit (“oxygen” for the economy).

During the 19th and 20th centuries, expanding access to cheap and abundant fossil fuels enabled rapid economic expansion; economic planners began to take this situation for granted. Financial systems internalized the expectation of growth as a promise of returns on investments.

But just as organisms cease growing, economies must do so too. Even if planners (society’s equivalent of regulatory DNA) dictate more growth, at some point increasing amounts of “food” and “oxygen” may cease to be available. It is also possible for industrial wastes to accumulate to the point that the biological systems that underpin economic activity (such as forests, crops, and human bodies) are smothered and poisoned.

But many economists don’t see things this way. That’s probably because current economic theories were formulated during the anomalous historical period of sustained growth that is now ending. Economists are merely generalizing from their experience: they can point to decades of steady growth in the recent past, and they simply project that experience into the future. Moreover, they have ways to explain why modern market economies are immune to the kinds of limits that constrain natural systems: the two main ones have to do with substitution and efficiency.

If a useful resource becomes scarce, its price will rise, and this creates an incentive for users of the resource to find a substitute. For example, if oil gets expensive enough, energy companies might start making liquid fuels from coal. Or they might develop other energy sources undreamed of today. Many economists theorize that this process of substitution can go on forever. It’s part of the magic of the free market.

Increasing efficiency means doing more with less. In the U.S., the number of inflation-adjusted dollars generated in the economy for every unit of energy consumed has increased steadily over recent decades (the amount of energy, in British Thermal Units, required to produce a dollar of GDP dropped from close to 20,000 BTU per dollar in 1949 to 8,500 BTU in 2008). Part of this increasing efficiency has come about as a result of the outsourcing of manufacturing to other nations—which burn the coal, oil, or natural gas to make our goods (if we were making our own running shoes and LCD TVs, we’d be burning that energy domestically). Economists also point to another, related form of efficiency that has less to do with energy (in a direct way, at least): the process of identifying the cheapest sources of materials, and the places where workers will be most productive and work for the lowest wages. As we increase efficiency, we use less—of energy, resources, labor, or money—to do more. That enables more growth.

Finding substitutes for depleting resources and upping efficiency are undeniably effective adaptive strategies of market economies. Nevertheless, the question remains as to how long these strategies can continue to work in the real world—which is governed less by economic theories than by the laws of physics. In the real world, some things don’t have substitutes, or the substitutes are too expensive, or don’t work as well, or can’t be produced fast enough. And efficiency follows a law of diminishing returns: the first gains in efficiency are usually cheap, but every further incremental gain tends to cost more, until further gains become prohibitively expensive.

In the end, we can’t outsource more than 100 percent of manufacturing, we can’t transport goods with zero energy, and we can’t enlist the efforts of workers and count on their buying our products while paying them nothing.

Unlike most economists, most physical scientists recognize that growth within any functioning, bounded system has to stop sometime."

The End of Growth Should Come as No Surprise

"The idea that growth will stall out at some point this century is hardly new. In 1972, a book titled Limits to Growth made headlines and went on to become the best-selling environmental book of all time.

That book, which reported on the first attempts to use computers to model the likely interactions between trends in resources, consumption, and population, was also the first major scientific study to question the assumption that economic growth can and will continue more or less uninterrupted into the foreseeable future.

The idea was heretical at the time—and still is. The notion that growth cannot and will not continue beyond a certain point proved profoundly upsetting in some quarters, and soon Limits to Growth was prominently “debunked” by pro-growth business interests. In reality, this “debunking” merely amounted to taking a few numbers in the book completely out of context, citing them as “predictions” (which they explicitly were not), and then claiming that these predictions had failed. The ruse was quickly exposed, but rebuttals often don’t gain nearly as much publicity as accusations, and so today millions of people mistakenly believe that the book was long ago discredited. In fact, the original Limits to Growth scenarios have held up quite well. (A recent study by Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) concluded, “[Our] analysis shows that 30 years of historical data compares favorably with key features of [the Limits to Growth] business-as-usual scenario...”).

The authors fed in data for world population growth, consumption trends, and the abundance of various important resources, ran their computer program, and concluded that the end of growth would probably arrive between 2010 and 2050. Industrial output and food production would then fall, leading to a decline in population.

The Limits to Growth scenario study has been re-run repeatedly in the years since the original publication, using more sophisticated software and updated input data. The results have been similar each time."

What Comes After Growth?

"The realization that we have reached the point where growth cannot continue is undeniably depressing. But once we have passed that psychological hurdle, there is some moderately good news.

Not all economists have fallen for the notion that growth will go on forever. There are schools of economic thought that recognize nature’s limits and, while these schools have been largely marginalized in policy circles, they have developed potentially useful plans that could help society adapt.

The basic factors that will inevitably shape whatever replaces the growth economy are knowable.To survive and thrive for long, societies have to operate within the planet’s budget of sustainably extractable resources. This means that even if we don’t know in detail what a desirable post-growth economy and lifestyle will look like, we know enough to begin working toward them.

We must convince ourselves that life in a non-growing economy can be fulfilling, interesting, and secure. The absence of growth does not necessarily imply a lack of change or improvement. Within a non-growing or equilibrium economy there can still be continuous development of practical skills, artistic expression, and certain kinds of technology. In fact, some historians and social scientists argue that life in an equilibrium economy can be superior to life in a fast-growing economy: while growth creates opportunities for some, it also typically intensifies competition—there are big winners and big losers, and (as in most boom towns) the quality of relations within the community can suffer as a result. Within a non-growing economy it is possible to maximize benefits and reduce factors leading to decay, but doing so will require pursuing appropriate goals: instead of more, we must strive for better; rather than promoting increased economic activity for its own sake, we must emphasize whatever increases quality of life without stoking consumption. One way to do this is to reinvent and redefine growth itself.

The transition to a no-growth economy (or one in which growth is defined in a fundamentally different way) is inevitable, but it will go much better if we plan for it rather than simply watching in dismay as institutions we have come to rely upon fail, and then try to improvise a survival strategy in their absence.

In effect, we have to create a desirable “new normal” that fits the constraints imposed by depleting natural resources. Maintaining the “old normal” is not an option; if we do not find new goals for ourselves and plan our transition from a growth-based economy to a healthy equilibrium economy, we will by default create a much less desirable “new normal” whose emergence we are already beginning to see in the forms of persistent high unemployment, a widening gap between rich and poor, and ever more frequent and worsening financial and environmental crises—all of which translate to profound distress for individuals, families, and communities." (http://archive.carolynbaker.net/content/view/1839/1/)

Discussion 2

Debating the End of Growth

Timothy Shenk:

"Predicting an end to growth has become something of a cottage industry among economists. Tyler Cowen of George Mason University advanced the case in 2011 with his book The Great Stagnation, and his prognostication won further support from his colleague Robert Gordon’s work heralding, in the title of one recent paper, “The Demise of U.S. Economic Growth.” Lawrence Summers, former head of President Obama’s National Economic Council, has brought these concerns into the mainstream of liberal debate with repeated warnings of “secular stagnation.” Robert Solow—winner of a Nobel Prize for his research in, appropriately enough, growth economics—has added his voice to the chorus. So has Thomas Piketty, whose forecast of capital’s twenty-first-century prospects includes the assumption that countries at the frontier of technological development cannot long sustain per capita growth rates above about 1 percent. That is still exponential growth, but it is a sharp drop-off from expectations set during the last century.

Yet even if high growth rates could be sustained, the conviction is spreading that declining economic growth might be beneficial, even necessary. Though a departure from the recent past, skepticism of growth is also a return to a historical norm. Political leaders have long sought to ensure the well-being of their subjects, but the conflation of prosperity with a steadily rising national income has a much shorter history. National-income accounts were unavailable for most of the world until the middle of the twentieth century. And once they appeared, their relevance for the general population turned on two factors: the dependence of recently expanded welfare states on revenues linked to national economic performance; and the assumption that economic growth benefited rich and poor—or at least the middle class—alike. The first proposition remains true; the second has collapsed.

This is clearest in the United States, where the thread holding together economic growth and median income has been unraveling for decades. Economists have many explanations for this trend, but the phenomenon itself is undeniable. From the aftermath of World War II through the 1970s, most of the total earnings from economic expansion flowed to the bottom 90 percent of Americans. That came to an abrupt end in the 1980s. Although the Clinton years posted marginally better tallies on this front than the Reagan era, the record since 2001 has been abysmal, and the worst has come under Obama. From 2009 to 2012, the last year with reliable data, incomes for the lower 90 percent have declined, while those for the top 10 percent have increased at a healthy clip, with the greatest gains accruing to the 1 percent and above. The tide still rises, but it only lifts yachts.

While the benefits of economic growth for the average American have become increasingly fuzzy, the costs have snapped into focus. Before the Industrial Revolution, economic growth was held in check by the pace at which animals could labor, crops mature and soil recover from depletion (or unexploited territories be acquired). Shifting to fossil fuels—first coal, then oil—upended that system. Energy previously supplied by immense tracts of land worked over decades now came from lumps of coal formed over millions of years. Thus commenced a revolution of economic time and space, with exponentially rising energy consumption propelling economic growth, a flight from the countryside to towns and cities, and a population explosion. Though restricted in the nineteenth century for the most part to Europe and the United States, that revolution has since spread across the planet. Between 1950 and 2000, the world’s population more than doubled, petroleum consumption more than tripled, and the global economy expanded sevenfold. Meanwhile, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere rose by almost a fifth. That has prepared the way for an as yet undetermined statistic: how far and how fast the earth’s temperature will climb.

A future in which the small amount of economic growth that is eked out accumulates in the bank accounts of the rich and boils the planet bears little resemblance to the bright forecasts of perpetual prosperity conjured by optimists in the mid-twentieth century. This bleak vista has convinced some that capitalism has entered its final days: absent the possibility of unlimited growth, the system will stumble forward until it collapses under the weight of its internal contradictions. Others maintain that the same combination of entrepreneurial vigor and technological resourcefulness that has averted catastrophe in the past, and frustrated the many earlier prophets of capitalism’s downfall, will come to the rescue soon, perhaps via apps. Those of a reformist bent see these challenges as the foundation upon which a new generation of activists can build a politics that does more than mouth slogans borrowed from the past. They have reason to hope, as two of the most vibrant movements on the left are the campaigns against economic inequality and climate change, one symbolized by Occupy Wall Street, the other by the People’s Climate March. Yet both the skeptics and enthusiasts of capitalism’s twenty-first-century career tend to ignore one remarkable fact: before the twentieth century, the prospect of continued economic growth struck most people as an impossibility. And those most likely to declare the concept absurd were economists." (http://www.thenation.com/article/188369/apostles-growth)