Prosperity Without Growth

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Book: Tim Jackson. Prosperity Without Growth. Earthscan, 2009



George Monbiot:

"Jackson accepts that material wellbeing is a crucial component of prosperity, and that growth is essential to the wellbeing of the poorest nations. But in countries such as the UK, continued growth and the policies which promote it undermine prosperity, which he defines as freedom from adversity or affliction. This means, among other blessings, health, happiness, good relationships, strong communities, confidence about the future, a sense of meaning and purpose.

But how do you escape from growth without tanking the economy – and our prosperity? Under the current system, you can't: when growth stops, it collapses. So Jackson has begun developing a macroeconomic model which would allow economic output to be stabilised. He experiments with raising the ratio of investment to consumption, changing the nature and conditions of investment and shifting the balance from private to public spending, while staying within tight constraints on the use of resources. He finds that the redistribution of both income and employment (through shorter working hours) is essential to the project. So is re-regulation of the banks, enhanced taxation of resources and pollution and measures to discourage manic consumption, such as tighter restrictions on advertising.

His system is not wholly different to today's: people will still spend and save, companies will still produce goods and services, governments will still raise taxes and spend money. It requires more government intervention than we're used to; but so does every option we face from now on, especially if we try to sustain the growth illusion. The results, though, are radically different: a stable, growthless economy which avoids both financial and ecological collapse." (


Chris Carlsson:

"Tim Jackson is the author of Prosperity Without Growth, and he was joined by a Mexican Miguel Valencia, and Sophy Banks of Transition Towns Totnes in England.

Jackson's presentation was quite sharp, laying out the problems of pursuing the growth paradigm onwards, but also looking frankly at the destabilizing problems that accompany a process of "degrowth." He ran through a lot of the arguments and then paused to say that he wished, like many people (especially eco-activists in my home base in Northern California!) to find a bit of land above the rising waters where he could get off the grid, have a couple of goats and some chickens, and grow his own vegetables and fruit.

But he quickly dismissed this escapist fantasy to argue in favor of engagement, but to engage he admitted we had to overcome our sense of the intractability of the impossibilities we can easily identify. He argued for an "Economics for a Finite Planet," which involved ecological investment in poverty alleviation, low carbon transition, adn eco-system maintenance.

His program is centered on "ecological enterprise" that "treads lightly, supports and embeds itself in communities, and provides good livelihoods," since he does not shy away from the problem of work and self-sustainability that we currently look to wage-labor and the Economy to provide. Ultimately he seeks to redefine prosperity as our ability to flourish as humans within the ecological limits of a finite planet.

But his ringing endorsement of public goods and public spaces is most important, from a point of view. If people are to participate meaningfully in redirecting our lives, it depends on a sense of belonging, which in turn depends largely on the availability of public space and public goods." (