It’s hard to think about what political/economic discourse was like in the years leading up to the economic crash of 2007 and 08. Post-recession, everything went to hell. And that means if we just got back to where we were, as a country, in 2007, we’d be in good shape, right? We’d have enough jobs, the economy would be growing, and people would be happy and getting happier. That’s how it can feel sometimes.
So it was with a sort of nostalgia that I recently re-read an article by Bill McKibbon from 2007, which I’d tagged at the time as being an important article in a random list of clippings and hadn’t re-read since.
It’s worth reading in full. But here’s the thesis:
“[T]he distinguishing feature of our moment is this: Better has flown a few trees over to make her nest. And that changes everything. Now, with the stone of your life or your society gripped in your hand, you have to choose. It's More or Better.
Which means, according to new research emerging from many quarters, that our continued devotion to growth above all is, on balance, making our lives worse, both collectively and individually. Growth no longer makes most people wealthier, but instead generates inequality and insecurity. Growth is bumping up against physical limits so profound—like climate change and peak oil—that trying to keep expanding the economy may be not just impossible but also dangerous. And perhaps most surprisingly, growth no longer makes us happier.”
It’s important to remember this. To remember that the issues we’re facing today aren’t only caused by the economic recession, that they were flowering even before most of the world knew what a derivative was. The growth we’re trying so hard to return to was already unsustainable; psychologically, the myth that economic growth would make us happier was already bunk. We’d been papering over some of these conomic problems gnawing at our bellies with easy credit; looking back, it’s important we see past the paper.
Reversal of Fortune
by Jackson Lay
October 24, 2014
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Ever since the Great Recession, we've been worried sick about getting back to economic growth. But in setting our goals, it's useful to remember that things were already pretty screwed up in 2007.