Bring On The Recession!

Yesterday, RWN featured a post from a Daily Kos diarist wishing for, “total economic destruction” in the United States.

Now today, over at Alternet, there’s a column by George Monbiot that — I kid you not — is rooting on a recession,

Bring on the Recession

If you are of a sensitive disposition, I advise you to turn the page now. I am about to break the last of the universal taboos. I hope that the recession now being forecast by some economists materialises.

I recognise that recession causes hardship. Like everyone I am aware that it would cause some people to lose their jobs and homes. I do not dismiss these impacts or the harm they inflict, though I would argue that they are the avoidable results of an economy designed to maximise growth rather than welfare. What I would like you to recognise is something much less discussed: that, beyond a certain point, hardship is also caused by economic growth.

On Sunday I visited the only UN biosphere reserve in Wales: the Dyfi estuary. As is usual at weekends, several hundred people had come to enjoy its beauty and tranquillity and, as is usual, two or three people on jet skis were spoiling it for everyone else. Most economists will tell us that human welfare is best served by multiplying the number of jet skis. If there are two in the estuary today, there should be four there by this time next year and eight the year after. Because the estuary’s beauty and tranquillity don’t figure in the national accounts (no one pays to watch the sunset) and because the sale and use of jet skis does, this is deemed an improvement in human welfare.

…This leads us to the most obvious way in which further growth will hurt us. Climate change does not lead only to a decline in welfare: beyond a certain point it causes its termination. In other words, it threatens the lives of hundreds of millions of people. However hard governments might work to reduce carbon emissions, they are battling the tide of economic growth. While the rate of growth in the use of energy declines as an economy matures, no country has yet managed to reduce energy use while raising gross domestic product. The UK’s carbon dioxide emissions are higher than they were in 1997, partly as a result of the 60 successive quarters of growth that Gordon Brown keeps boasting about. A recession in the rich nations might be the only hope we have of buying the time we need to prevent runaway climate change.

…Is it not time to recognise that we have reached the promised land, and should seek to stay there? Why would we want to leave this place in order to explore the blackened wastes of consumer frenzy followed by ecological collapse? Surely the rational policy for the governments of the rich world is now to keep growth rates as close to zero as possible?

But because political discourse is controlled by people who put the accumulation of money above all other ends, this policy appears to be impossible. Unpleasant as it will be, it is hard to see what except an accidental recession could prevent economic growth from blowing us through Canaan and into the desert on the other side.

These days, it seems like liberals spend most of their time telling people that this is the worst time in American history and blaming Republicans for it and they spend the rest of the time hoping that things will get worse because they think it will benefit them somehow.

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