By Hank Stone, August 31, 2022
A friend recently circulated this summary in email. It is a clear and focused summary of Smith’s article so, you can see the point and if you want to read the detailed article that inspired this piece it was published on Truthout a few years ago and is linked in the first paragraph. [jb]
Economic historian Richard Smith published, “Beyond Growth or Beyond Capitalism” a scholarly article making the case that we human beings need to choose between saving capitalism, and saving ourselves .
Smith begins with scientists who conclude that CO2 emission trends which are “perfectly in line with a temperature increase of 6 degrees Celsius, which would have devastating consequences for the planet.”
The problem is, how can we ever make deep cuts in consumption of energy (or anything else) in a capitalist economy? We all depend upon economic growth to provide jobs and higher living standards for a growing world population.
What would happen to the economy if we actually forced the fossil fuel companies to cut production by 90 percent? That would mean immediate bankruptcy, economic collapse, global depression and mass unemployment. Capitalism, supported by corporations, government and the public, could never let that happen.
Corporations are in business to make money, not to save the Earth. But Smith says “We urgently need to change our economy to live within its environmental budget…” and “continuing economic growth is not possible if nations are to tackle climate change.”
No-growth capitalism “is not a pretty sight,” but a recipe for mass unemployment: recession, or depression. And it would not save us from our present unsustainable consumption.
We have to impose sharp limits on the production, use and consumption of all sorts of specific resources like coal, oil, gas, lumber, fish, oil, water, minerals, and toxic chemicals. This means violating the capitalist freedom to produce and sell whatever the market demands.
At the same time, we’re going to have to sharply increase investments in things society does need, like renewable energy, organic farming, public transit, public water systems, public health, and quality schools for our children. After all, people will still need jobs, and energy.
Smith says we must transition from the most economically efficient to the most ecologically efficient system. We need a “new macro-economic model,” a practical, workable post-capitalist ecological economy, an economy to meet human needs rather than to produce profits.
Questioning the legitimacy of capitalism itself is extraordinarily radical, even to save the human race from runaway climate change. Yet no one has a way to merely ADJUST the status quo that has the remotest chance of fixing the problems we face.
Therefore, keep an open mind about radical economic thinking, if you love our country and the human future. Either we save capitalism or we save ourselves. We can’t save both.
August 31, 2022 Hank Stone Weekly Page #1
By Hank Stone and the Knitting Club, a Genesee Valley Discussion Group.