Counterpoint by Mark Nicol – Beyond the constant growth economy

| August 22, 2020

For those able to form an intelligent overview of the prevailing human and ecological conditions on this planet today there are two alarm bells ringing. There is an escalating geoecological crisis, fundamentally caused by the ever growing human footprint. And there is a clearly developing geopolitical confrontation.

Logistically, this is also propelled by excessive human numbers, the last scramble for land, natural resources. The impetus towards outright confrontation is further impelled by nations mad enough to conceive that sustainable empires can still be profitably built.

Global depopulation, methodically, unilaterally, and humanely planned for the duration of several generations presents as the first logical solution to our enveloping geoecological, geopolitical problems. There are multiple agencies, vested interests, which will resist any push towards global depopulation. But if there is one agency, one locus of vested interest chiefly responsible for defeating a depopulation call, actually responsible for ideologically defaming the very idea, which is it?

The Common Man, upon grounds of fecund liberty, egoistic liberty, will preponderantly refuse any call for population diminution. However, the Common Man may well be talked around, if an intelligent, humane argument pointing out the necessity and long-term benefit of the action is developed. Commons conversion to the cause is even possible for Second, Third World cultures, not just for the West. It only requires that a respected intelligentsia calmly, convincingly promotes the cause.

Within the West, the Green-Left lobby insidiously evades any call for, even any talk about global depopulation. As a transfixed underling-patronizing lobby the Green-Left perceives any call for global depopulation, somehow, as an affront to the underling’s rights. Yet the Third World citizen’s right to breed, in constant increase, is fuelling global ecological and political crises.

The right of Third/Second World citizens to seek immigrant or refugee status in the West does the same thing. Such patronization fails to send the message that over-breeding and volitional incompetency are inter-servicing. But what if the counter-productive ecological and human consequences of the Green-Left stance on population reduction can be revealed? If this intelligence can penetrate beyond the fixed ideological mantra there is hope that the Western Green-Left lobby might be brought on board.

But at this juncture there presents a profound, complex, and seemingly insuperable obstacle. In near all areas of political debate we expect the Right and Green-Left lobbies to disagree. If this reliable diametric is not generated out of fundamental ideological divergence, then it seems to present as a cynical exercise of polemics, of tactical politicking.

But, in the question of any call to population reduction the Right and Green-Left lobbies are virtually positioned in lock-step. The Green-Left is insidiously resistant, this arising out of an ideological knee-jerk reaction, not out of any rational analysis. The call for global population reduction is feared as an attack upon the universal socio-economic underling, the most prolific breeder in the world, and the reliable Socialist supporter. But Right-wing resistance to the depopulation argument is, in the first instance, rational.

So what is this rational reason, this rational consequence of any global depopulation initiative that makes entrepreneurial culture so belligerently resistant?

It is very simple. Any action that would decrease global population, even reduce population growth, it would devastate the viability of the modern economic paradigm. A decrease in population would immediately equate to a decrease in economic demand, in the call for supply. And this would immediately register as a global fall in investment confidence, in investment itself. This would precipitate a plummeting of global Stock prices, plus likely destabilize global monetary mechanisms.

The Capitalist economic paradigm operates upon a Constant Growth formula, wherein the dynamo for all enterprise is the assurance that increasing profits can always be procured so long as the global economy keeps growing. The protracted irrationality, the current irrationality of the design exercise does not matter.

For the focus of the Constant Growth paradigm is only the ongoing perpetuity of the cycle itself. So long as demand keeps growing the cycle is sustained. There is confidence that more material wealth can be had, or, at least, the apparence thereof. This keeps investor confidence high, sustaining investment, productivity, and the buoyancy of the Market.

The immediate irrationalities of the Constant Growth ideological paradigm are, by Free Market advocates and dealers, purposefully hidden. For instance, the constant growth of populations ensures that land becomes scarcer, housing dearer. Paradoxically, this increasing scarcity and price of land, housing, it fuels increased market competition to keep prices, always, moving higher.

But the negated reality is the fact that people, the world over, are always having to work longer hours to buy a smaller parcel of land. The finance and realtor sectors, and the Modern Economist will bury this fact. For advocates of the Constant Growth system the only thing that matters is constant appreciation of the Greed Prospectus, regardless if appreciation in wealth is only a paper or nominal-paper reality.

The protracted irrationalities of the Constant Growth system, where human population is always escalating, consist, firstly, in ongoing and ruinous ecological degradation. The second, aligned consequence is increasing nationalist competition for dwindling natural resources. When nationalist push comes to shove in a scenario of desperate competition for diminishing land, sea dominions, then the world is ripe for war.

Yet, because the whole world economy is locked into the Constant Growth paradigm, not even these twin alarm bells predicting geoecological and geopolitical crises move the doomed economic and cultural navigation. Worse, at the bottom line no single nation can afford to pull out, to depopulate alone. For the nation that depopulates alone would immediately sees its economy diminished, its capacity to sustain military self-defence degraded.

So how can Modern Man supercede utilization of the Constant Growth economic paradigm? This, in fact, is the most pressing question for any astute environmentalist, for any astute humanitarian. The human destiny is likely doomed if we do not depopulate soon. It is also likely that the biosphere will be totally ravaged.

We can provide a unilateral disincentive to grow national populations, by placing global tariffs or taxes upon nations not meeting depopulation targets. Thereby we state that the act of national population increase equates to an act of ecological and human aggression. Ultimately, national population increase equates to an act of military aggression.

Even at the personal level, this is the case. A couple who has six children triplicates their human footprint. A couple that has one child halves theirs. The excessive breeders, ultimately, have to be viewed as ecological and human aggressors. If we are to transcend the ruinous consequences of the Constant Growth vision, we must unilaterally penalize map aggressors, excessive breeders. Nations that do not meet depopulation targets must face punitive taxes, individuals likewise.

But there must be some positive incentive to adopt global depopulation, some materialistic incentive that satisfies self-interest. For self-interest, though it is the crudest denomination of moral interest, it is always the most powerful and the only reliable moral force. How do we universally incentivize depopulation, and the obvious concomitant transition into the Constant Contraction economy?

The Growth Carrot utilized in the current economic paradigm is one that induces the lust for ever increasing urban building, a mad suicidal project, ultimately. Eventually, as such, man will have built himself back into a cave, albeit a concrete one, an act contingent with total devastation of our first and last sustaining habitat, the biosphere.

But what if we replace the Concrete Carrot with a Green Carrot? Can we induce the animal currently lusting for a high-rise condominium to invest in a large rural estate? If we are methodically reducing population then we will need to demolish urban housing, infrastructures, manufacturing plants, etc. We can then redevelop areas of wilderness. But where does a materialistic, self-interest incentive fit into this ecological rebirthing schema? How do we kick-start a vast, global entrepreneurial movement that will see personal profit in this Green Carrot industry.

If we say that he who develops the land for ecological refurbishment owns the land, can live on it or on-sell it, perhaps we have an answer to the question. Perhaps the post-Constant Growth entrepreneur is a developer of Wilderness Estates, not of the Concrete Jungle. If there is the perception of ongoing profitability in the venture, then money will flow, the Market will invest in the new industry, the New World vision.

There remains the critical problem of navigating first passage into the dire straight of the Constant Contraction economy. A market crash would kill the whole depopulation project. So governments, for a while, will have to reinvent infrastructure investment. For this critical, interim period, government’s will promote the redevelopment and acquisition of wilderness as the new form of infrastructure investment.

It’s simple, do you want a chunk of concrete, or a chunk of nature?