Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Failure of the Growth God

My good friend Ari once asked me "why does business need to grow?" My answer, somewhat snarky, but I think, on target was that business needs to grow for the same reason sharks need to swim: It's Swim or Die.  This is a problem.
To listen to a political leader at this moment in history is like sitting through a sermon by a priest who has lost his faith but is desperately trying not to admit it, even to himself. Watch Nick Clegg, David Cameron or Ed Miliband mouthing tough-guy platitudes to the party faithful. Listen to Angela Merkel, Nicolas Sarkozy or George Papandreou pretending that all will be well in the eurozone. Study the expressions on the faces of Barack Obama or Ben Bernanke talking about "growth" as if it were a heathen god to be appeased by tipping another cauldron's worth of fictional money into the mouth of a volcano.
Growth is indeed the heathen god of capitalism. The need to gobble up more and more and more is the way the beast operates. That giant sucking sound is capitalism eating the world.
The crisis currently playing out on the world stage is a crisis of growth. Not, as we are regularly told, a crisis caused by too little growth, but by too much of it. Banks grew so big that their collapse would have brought down the entire global economy. To prevent this, they were bailed out with huge tranches of public money, which in turn is precipitating social crises on the streets of western nations. The European Union has grown so big, and so unaccountable, that it threatens to collapse in on itself. Corporations have grown so big that they are overwhelming democracies and building a global plutocracy to serve their own interests. The human economy as a whole has grown so big that it has been able to change the atmospheric composition of the planet and precipitate a mass extinction event.
And this is why we marched in Madison and this is why they're marching in New York.  This is why they occupied the squares of Spain and why they faced tear gas and truncheons in London and Athens.  The world will not stand by while the wealthy rape and pillage, unrestrained by the pseudo-democracies that have emerged in the early 21st century.

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