Citizen Action Monitor

“We have to design our economies to live within ecological limits and resource constraints” – Tim Jackson

“Start with the idea of what prosperity is and then ask questions about what kind of economy you need to get there.”

No 2007 Posted by fw, July 15, 2017

Tim Jackson

“You start from fundamental assumptions…. They are that we are living on a finite planet; that there are ecological limits; that there are, or will be, resource constraints that we have to live within our means in relation to those resource constraints; and that we have to design our economies to live within those means…. So start with the idea of what prosperity is and then ask questions about what kind of economy you need to get there. And we need an economy that is not trashing the planet, that is providing people with livelihoods, that distributes work and incomes decently, and that provides the services that improve our quality of life.”Tim Jackson

Prime Minister Trudeau loves to tell us how  “We will grow our economy while reducing emissions. We will capitalize on the opportunity of a low-carbon and climate-resilient economy to create good-paying and long-term jobs.” Problem is, he has yet to explain in detail, and with numbers that add up, how he will accomplish this “enormous challenge.”

In stark contrast to Trudeau’s empty rhetoric, Tim Jackson lays out in 310 pages how to achieve prosperity without growth.

Tim Jackson, Professor of Sustainable Development at the University of Surrey and Director of the Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity, has been at the forefront of international debate about sustainable development for almost three decades.

The second edition of his widely read book, Prosperity Without Growth, was released in 2016-17. The first edition, originally released as a report by the Sustainable Development Commission, became the most downloaded report in the Commission’s nine-year history when it was launched in 2009.

Jonathon Porritt, Founder Director of Forum for the Future, UK said this about the second edition:

“With much of the world in turmoil, calling for higher economic growth is every politician’s comfort blanket of choice. But Tim Jackson compellingly urges those politicians to give up their comfort blanket, to re-think our continuing dependence on economic growth, and to start preparing – urgently – for a world where such growth is no longer viable as its environmental cost massively exceeds its benefits. Prosperity Without Growth remains the single most important book addressing this most critical of contemporary challenges.”

If you think the above three paragraphs about Jackson look familiar, they are. They’re copied from my July 5 post, Endless economic growth endangers our future, which is also about Tim Jackson’s book Prosperity Without Growth. I have just purchased the eBook version, and right now I’m busy noodling around, excited to find, at last, a rich source of information that does justice to a complex topic. So, watch for many more posts from Tim Jackson on this blog.

Today’s repost includes an embedded 5:45-minute video, along with my transcript, of an interview recorded as part of Jackson’s presentation to members of The European Trade Union Institute. It is offered as a cursory introduction to Tim Jackson and a few of his key ideas.

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Tim Jackson on prosperity without growth posted on You Tube by The European Trade Union Institute, March 3, 2017

TRANSCRIPT

Tim Jackson – You start from fundamental assumptions. What are those fundamental assumptions? They are that we are living on a finite planet; that there are ecological limits; that there are, or will be, resource constraints that we have to live within our means in relation to those resource constraints; and that we have to design our economies to live within those means.

Willy De Backer – Mr. Jackson, welcome to the European Trade Union Institute. You’re here to present your new book, Prosperity Without Growth to the European Trade Union movement. So, what would be your main message to the trade unionists here today?

Tim Jackson – For the trade union movement, I think there’s never been a better time to be engaged in this debate. There’s never been a more important time to be engaged in this debate. This is not a hairshirt call for some kind of ecological utopia. It’s actually about the fundamental basis of our economy over the next decades. The economy works in part because people work in it. And the labour movement is the foundation for ensuring that there is decent meaningful work that provides not just a livelihood but a sense of participation, and, indeed, is one of the foundations for prosperity itself. Having some meaningful participation in society is the basis for prosperity.

QuestionIn your book Prosperity Without Growth, you argue that the economic growth we had in the past is over. Trade Unions have been focusing on redistribution via growth. Do we have to think differently?

Tim Jackson – We certainly have to think differently about redistribution. In fact, I would argue we have to think about distribution. It’s not so much about pushing and pushing on growth, allowing some of the population to grow very much richer and then hoping that we can then distribute that to those who are less well-off. It’s actually about providing fundamental services in an equitable way that allow us to flourish as a society and allow for a good distribution of incomes from the very start.

QuestionLooking at Trump and Brexit, who does this book fit in the current political climate?

Tim Jackson – This is a very tricky political climate. I wouldn’t try to hide that at all in all sorts of ways. And, of course, I’m living it to some extent in the politics of the UK at the moment. But at the same time, it’s a climate in which there is a call for an economy that works. And that’s a very interesting call for all sorts of reasons.  Firstly, the phrase itself actually was borrowed initially from the Green Party and then by the Labour Party and is now an axiom for the right wing Tory government.

So this call for an economy that works actually is fundamental even in this tricky politics. It does, I think, challenge some of what’s coming through government; in particular its attempt to deregulate, to open up markets, to stimulate growth. The reality is we haven’t seen those things being effective over the last seven or eight years. We haven’t seen a return to that idea of relentless productivity growth and the increasing output as a result of that. And the distribution of that output to wages. Those things have not materialized. And that’s the reason, I think, why even in this climate we have to think differently. We have to think about the foundations of the economy of tomorrow. We have to think about an economy that works.

QuestionSo are you talking about degrowth?

Tim Jackson – The degrowth agenda has placed on the table the shortcomings of the growth-based agenda. When it comes to thinking about the kind of economy that we want, it seems to me you should start with first principles. So start with the idea of what prosperity is and then ask questions about what kind of economy you need to get there. And we need an economy that is not trashing the planet, that is providing people with livelihoods, that distributes work and incomes decently, and that provides the services that improve our quality of life. Now it seems to me that if you start from there rather than from deciding what kind of growth you need, or what kind of growth rate you need or don’t need, then you have the possibility to think creatively, to think fresh thoughts about the economy itself and how that economy is structured.

And that, I believe, is the foundation for a renewal of the economies that we have without being hampered either by a growth target or a degrowth target. And thinking primarily about that relationship, that fundamental relationship between the economy and the prosperity it delivers.

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