Archive for the ‘Economy’ Category

Growth, elephants and outsourcing, or: abstractions

In Swedish / på svenska.

I’ve recently watched the May 23 installment of the Swedish TV show “Vetenskapens värld” (“The world of science”). It had a quite interesting section on the idiocy of believing in eternal economic growth. There were plenty of examples showing how economic growth isn’t exactly unproblematic, and towards the end there was some discussion on the possibility of abandoning the concept of growth altogether and stop staring fixedly on one or another one-dimensional measure, and whether said measure can be described by a smaller or larger number than last year. Before that, though, the show spent quite some time pondering this very one-dimensional measure and the various talking heads launched into more or less confused (or confusing) speculations. The Canadian “environmental economist” Peter Victor believes he’s “shown” – using computer models – that an economy without growth can putter along nicely. The Senior Economist of Swedish bank SEB, Klas Eklund, somewhat confusingly argues that growth certainly can go on for ever, but we may have to redefine it in that case, so that it doesn’t destroy the planet.

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Nicole Foss / Stoneleigh in Gothenburg

In Swedish / på svenska.

Last Monday I went to Ekocentrum in Gothenburg to listen to Nicole Foss, also known as Stoneleigh from The Automatic Earth blog. Interestingly, the lecture hall was packed (I heard people talking outside about being on the reserve list) with mostly young listeners. I sometimes wonder if I’m the only one reading all those obscure blogs so it was nice to see so many of like mind. If nice is the right word for the fact that “doomer” scenarios are in the air…

The lecture was very interesting, and my short summary of the message follows:

At the fundamental level, we’re facing an energy crisis – peak oil http://www.energybulletin.net/primer. This will cause us problems since our economic growth has been built on increasing use of energy and, particularly during the last thirty years, has driven an enormous credit bubble. Such bubbles are basically pyramid schemes and they attract huge amounts of money since everyone thinks they’ll get rich. All goes well as long as there’s still money to feed into the pyramid scheme. When economic growth stops due to the fact the energy use can no longer increase the bubble pops. Everyone wants to bring home their “profit” and so, when it turns out that there just isn’t that much money, everyone gets frightened and panic spreads through the whole economy.

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