The Contemporary Cult Of Debt-Engorged "Growth"

By  at The Automatic Earth 

Peter Sekaer Times Square with Father Duffy statue 1937
 

This it. The is the biggest we’re going to get. We won’t grow anymore. Not bigger, not wider, not taller (just thicker perhaps, in the sense of more stupid). I return to this from time to time, and still I never see even just one voice in the media with even one hair’s breadth of doubt about the overarching theme of growth at all costs. Is this a sign that economists and other poorly educated people have taken over the world, or is it simply what we are all programmed for?

The only discussion out there is how we can best return to growth. Never if we should return to it. But still, when I look around me I don’t have the feeling that we desperately need to grow bigger. That we need to consume more than we already do, that we need to drive our cars more or move into larger homes or buy more clothes or gadgets or anything.

At least 99% of the time I think that it’s all more than enough. And not just because of the damage our consumption patterns inflicts on our lives and our health and our planet, but certainly also because of what these patterns do to my own mind and soul.

To say that this is it, and we won’t grow any bigger, is not just some spurious remark. The world economy hasn’t actually grown for decades, other than through debt.

The credit issued by Jimmy Stewart in It’s a Wonderful Life could bolster growth. But in a world that’s steeped as deeply in debt as we have become, that debt actually turns into the opposite of growth. We know this happens when more debt is needed every day just to not shrink, like the Red Queen running just to stand still.

From that moment on, more debt can only buy you the appearance and illusion of growth, not the real thing. We passed that point some 40 years ago. If not earlier. You can argue about the exact timing. But not about the fact itself. Still, there’s no argument out there about either.

Joseph Stiglitz has a piece in today’s Guardian entitled ‘Capitalism Needs New Rules To Restore Postwar Growth And Stability’. It secures Stiglitz’s place in history as a useless man, not capable of original thought, like all Fake Nobel for Economics winners. They are people capable of thought alright, provided it’s limited to one dimension only.

The US is the undisputed best of the rest these days. Its GDP growth may be sucked out of some highly paid circle of experts’ thumbs, but at least it doesn’t yet shrink too dramatically. That the entire American growth recovery illusion has been built on ‘debtsand’ is complete and utter anathema. For obvious reasons.

Unfortunately for the American economy, the economies of rest of the world are not so fortunate. They can’t even keep of appearances anymore. Though, granted, that’s not for lack of trying. Which makes sense from the overall storyline point of view. Which dictates that we all must, and therefore will, return to growth. Viewed from that hilltop, any non-growth can only be temporary. And some economist will find the solution to the problem, at which point angles will start singing.

Japan may be the worst of the basket cases. We don’t see everything there is to see yet, since the Tokyo spin machine is perhaps the best asset the country has left. But there can be no doubt that Abenomics is going to turn out brutal. And for many Japanese already has. The last straw will be the GPIF, world’s largest pension fund, switch to stocks just ahead of a giant stock market crash. Then there’ll be nothing left.

China is an economic miracle that’s rapidly turning into a 1.4 billion people size disaster. An empire of debt built on plastic trinkets and quasi slave labor that’s seeing the rest of the world’s debt collapse devastate its own air castles. The unreal estate industry that made up over 20% of the economy has nowhere left to turn. Those local officials who borrowed the most are set to be either imprisoned or have their kneecaps redesigned by the shadow banking backers. Or both. The rest will try hard to fade into the background in some far away location.

Europe is awaiting one last cheap credit splurge that may or may not come, but in a giant spoiler alert we all already know the end of the story. Europe doesn’t just have the global economic meltdown to cope with, it’s also stuck in a horribly failed currency experiment that seeks to force people of very different cultures and languages into a straight jacket that’s already strangling and suffocating some 200 million of them.

Who will be increasingly subject to power politics and vested interests in Brussels, as their lives deteriorate in further decline. The only thing the EU talks about right now is who’s going to get the big jobs in the musical chairs of the new European Committee. It’s the politicians who are important, not the people. Still that’s an issue that will solve itself as circumstances get worse. It won’t be pretty, but it will be resolved.

But come on, who among you can look at the world, at your country, your town, your own homes and lives, and tell yourselves we’re not big enough yet? What more would you want to add? Once again I’ll ask: are you happier than your parents and grandparents? And if not, what exactly are you doing, what are you trying to achieve? Be honest, shouldn’t you lose a little weight?

 

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