What is really stopping us from rethinking our economic system? We are currently experiencing the malfunctioning of capitalism. There are two main issues: first, the problem with infinite growth is that the resources of this planet are not infinite. And second, capitalism does not make us happy.
The myth of eternal progress was built to feed the wars in Europe and possibly only produced wealth for the post-war generation, who were able to buy goods without thinking about the consequences on the planet. We now no longer have that luxury. Besides, accumulating material stuff doesn’t necessarily make us happy.
Capitalism is not fit for our wellbeing. What we want is an economical system that provides health and wellbeing for all. Capitalistic economy only seems to increase stress, anxiety and produce more difficulties in our lives.
One of the problems is that capitalism fits our human brains too well: this idea that we want more and we’re not satisfied is very human. This ‘perfectionistic trap’ of feeling not good enough is a constant struggle. We need to make an effort to change, and push ourselves beyond our nature.
It is interesting to remember that we don’t have to compete with others, we can also cooperate. And there are plenty of examples in nature. If competing fits the dogma of capitalism better, then we need to come up with a new way to operate based on cooperation.
It is reductive that the only way we have to measure our economies is the GDP. That only measures economic growth, but economic growth doesn’t tell us anything about how happy we are. There is no way around a growth-based economy: no such thing as ‘green growth’, in my opinion. We need to rethink the concept of growth altogether. We cannot afford to grow forever. This is causing the climate crisis and the destruction of biodiversity on our planet.
I like Jackson’s (2020) definition of ‘Post-Growth’, we don’t know what that is yet, and the term will probably be outdated as soon as we can come up with something better than capitalism. Jackson points out that ‘balance, not growth, is the essence of prosperity’ (Jackson, 2022, p. 80). That makes me curious and excited to see when and how we’ll come, as humans, to that balanced economy. An economy that helps us and the planet to be in harmony and is not based on competition, but cooperation.
Jackson, T. (2021). Post-Growth: Life After Capitalism. Cambridge, Polity.