Citizen Action Monitor

Faced with “a captured, powerless, inefficient government’, Jackson explores a new role for the state

Can we envision a new role for government, one suited to thrive in a resource-constrained, warming world?

No 2135 Posted by fw, January 4, 2018

To access all other synopses from Prosperity without Growth, click on the Tab titled “Prosperity without Growth” — Links to All Posts in the top left margin of the Home page.

Tim Jackson

In this synopsis of Section 1, a short Introduction to Chapter 10, “The Progressive State”,  Tim Jackson paints a bleak outlook for planet Earth if we don’t dig ourselves out of the hole we find ourselves in. Our best hope, perhaps our only hope, is to “conceive a renewed vision of the role of the state.”

As he does with all his chapters, Jackson begins this one with a contextually appropriate quote:

The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only object of good government. — Thomas Jefferson, 1809

(For my own purposes, I label this synopsis Section 1, and title it “Introduction”, neither of which is used by the author).

Tim Jackson is a British ecological economist and professor of sustainable development at the University of Surrey.


Introduction, a synopsis, from Chapter 10, “The Progressive State” of Tim Jackson’s book, Prosperity without Growth, Routledge, 2nd edition, 2016-17

The challenge we face, says Tim Jackson, is to achieve a lasting prosperity by providing people with the capabilities to flourish, to prosper within limits determined by the ecology and resources of a finite planet. Freedom without limits on our seemingly insatiable consumer appetites is unsustainable.

We’re caught between a rock and a hard place: undoing consumer capitalism would be a formidable challenge, while gradual change would be too little, too late. “Governments,” notes Jackson, “sometimes appear powerless to intervene, weakened by electoral cycles or captured by corporate interests.”

Our options — Cling fast to business as usual and hope for the best? Or accept the inevitable – climate change, inequality, collapse? Faced with such a bleak outlook, who would not choose to selfishly look after number one?

Perhaps revolution is an inevitable consequence of social and ecological turmoil. Out with the old, in with the new. Revolution is not risk free: “Constrained for resources, threatened with climate change, struggling for economic stability: how long could we maintain civil society in such a world if we have already torn down every institutional structure we can lay our hands on?

Jackson introduces an alternative to “a captured, powerless, inefficient government” – a new vision for the role of the state.

In Chapter 10, Jackson will explore three questions:

1/ Can we envision a new role for government to thrive in a resource-constrained, warming world?

2/ Can we define a clear set of tasks?

3/ Can we identify the resources that would be needed to govern for prosperity?

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