Tuesday, October 07, 2014
The Lethal Cult of Growthism
Even though the political spectrum has been compressed into the hardtack of neoliberalism there remain at least notional differences between left, centre and right in our national body politic. Yet if there is one reason for us to reject the lot of them, it's their obsessive embrace of perpetual, exponential economic growth.
Canada's political parties, or the tattered remnants that we know today as Conservative, Liberal and New Democrat, are merely following a "it's the economy, stupid" script that guides the political leadership in most, if not all, Western countries. The Guardian's Zoe Williams explores growth-focused politics in Britain and you may find what she has to say applies very much to Canada.
The big idea of the three main parties is the same: not capitalism, or neo-liberalism, or social democracy – but growthism. This term was coined by the author Umair Haque to describe the pursuit, above all other things, of economic growth. Never mind who it benefits, who gets left behind or what it destroys; never mind if its practices are unfair or unsustainable: if the numbers go up, everyone is happy, and if they’re not happy, give them a tax break.
If they’re still not happy – maybe because they don’t earn enough to warrant a tax break – dismiss them as failures (if you’re a Conservative); boost their income with money borrowed from somewhere else (if you’re Labour); or promise to raise taxes on the rich by trivial amounts, knowing this is a promise you’ll never be called upon to keep (if you’re a Lib Dem).
Many ordinary people hate growthism: from the doctors heckling Jeremy Hunt at the Royal College of GPs last week, to the midwives going on strike for the first time in their 133-year history; from the Ukip voters who blame it all on the EU, to the Mumsnetters who just want politicians to be people with “authenticity”. They hate it not because it’s rightwing or leftwing, not because it lets in too many foreigners or creates inequality, but because it is not a worthwhile endeavour in itself. It’s just not worth the candle.
...Green party membership is up 45% this year, over 20,000 for the first time – Natalie Bennett, the party leader, highlights a surge in Young Greens of 100% since March. But if the Greens haven’t captured the whole of the progressive side, it is because they are seen to answer only half the problem. As illustrated by the political pressure group Compass and the thinktank New Economics Foundation, current politics fails, and will always fail, to meet two challenges: climate change and inequality.
I have watched in dismay as the party I once supported gradually, over a period of years, parted company with its progressive element and their once recognized values. Even as I disengaged from my former party I was shocked to see the New Democrats also slip their moorings in a shameless quest for power at the expense of principle.
If you listen to them now they sound like three parrots sharing a shit-stained perch, squawking endlessly "growth, growth, growth." They're oblivious to the very world we live in and the changes that are rapidly overtaking us. They're incapable of meeting the challenges that beset the lives of most of us. Harper used to smear Ignatieff, claiming he was in it for himself. They all are - Harper, Trudeau and Mulcair - and that's why we must accept at some point and sooner rather than later, that we have to get free from this political caste.
At this point it might be useful to repost a YouTube video clip from the past of David Suzuki giving a useful explanation of why exponential growth of the sort cherished by our political class is, in a word, suicidal.