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The Impossible Hamster Club
POSTED 27.01.10 BY: paulabbott |
On January 27th, 2010 at 4:29 pm
Is there a deep spiritual meaning here that I am missing?
On January 27th, 2010 at 7:20 pm
Economic growth, which can be best approximated by growth in GDP, is not only a function of consumption, but also investments (= savings), government spending and net exports. So it's not only about consumption, but also whether governments build schools, invest in rail, roads and make sure people get an education. It is also a function of whether you, yes, you, save some of the money you earn, rather than spend it.
Let me give you an example: growth can be attained by governments investing in clean technologies. As a result, people get better education (in sciences), more jobs are created and the environment will be thankful for that too.
This video, I'm sorry to be so blunt, is not only economic nonsense, it's misleading. Growth is good and necessary. Rather, it's how it is achieved that matters.
On January 28th, 2010 at 10:11 am
Well, if hampsters were able to get more energy/efficiency out of the SAME amount of raw materials then they wouldn't need to consume more raw materials to achieve grwoth. That's why this analogy doesn't work.
Economic growth is also about finding new ways to do MORE with LESS. In fact, economic growth can be good for the earth, as it allows us to reinvest in the luxury of environmental protection.
On January 28th, 2010 at 10:57 am
Michael Radcliffe said:
I agree with the Nic and PStyle. Just wondering, though, if you guys clicked through to the NEF (New Economics Foundation) link at the end, and had a read?
What do you think of what they're writing about there? It's kind of beyond me, but wondering if it's worth my time looking at it? I bow to your greater knowledge. 🙂
On January 30th, 2010 at 9:35 pm
Michael, I haven't read through the whole website, just their article on the hamster, but it seems that their understanding of economics is "Malthusian" (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Robert_Malthus). Like Malthus, they believe that growth is not sustainable because there will not be enough resources for everyone. Yet, as PStyle underline, it's about efficiency, how we use resources, which is in turn linked to technological advancements. This require higher investments and thus higher savings by the general public(and less consumption).
To give you an example: let's assume we still had the same technologies as during the industrial revolution. The earth would be in a much worse state than now. This is not the case because we have found more efficient ways to produce goods and services. And this was achieved through high growth (which also enabled the UK to be a leading world power).
There is a strong case around the world now to invest a lot more in clean technologies (I see this on a daily basis) and governments have started to do this as part of fiscal policy to counter the current crisis.
Part of the solution to stop global warming is a rebalancing between investment and consumption within developed economies (and China and India). But this might come at a cost that not everyone is ready to pay: if people consume less, people will loose there jobs until the economy adjusts.
This is why many politicians are stuck – acting on people's wishes might end up with them being impopular and not reelected. That's why consumerism is likely to remain high on the agenda of democratic countries.
On January 31st, 2010 at 9:44 am
Michael Radcliffe said:
Hi Nic. Thanks for your thoughtful response.
I agree in that I've never seen economic growth as a "zero sum" game in that way, so what you say does confirm my thoughts about that.
What I'm unclear about is how we consume less when the creation of new technologies essentially generates more physical objects. Is it possible to reconcile this?
On January 31st, 2010 at 8:29 pm
I'm not sure new technologies per se generate more physical objects. It's more a matter of replacing inefficient objects (arguably once they have been used) by more efficient ones, which in turn help us with consuming less resources.
Your next car (if you have one, I don't) is bound to consume less resources that your current one. The question is if you need one. Some people do, others don't, but it's very difficult to intervene at the personal level. Human beings are free to consume as they wish.
I think the core of the debate (but that's my opinion) is about how much of the impulse for new technologies should come from governments and how much should come from consumers. You don't want people to keep consuming (above their means), even though this may eventually lead to more efficient technologies. At the same time, while governments are arguably able to invest more wisely and generate demand for products with lower emissions, you don't want to end up with a planned economy either.
Some global warming is inevitable, but if governments are able to put in place strict(er) limits on emissions and invest a higher share of GDP (without running higher deficits) into green initiatives at all levels, this would be a first step in the right direction. At the same time, there should be higher incentives for individuals to consume less/save more and if consuming, in products and services with low emissions.
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