A group of the UK’s leading economist have just written to the Chancellor saying his Plan A needs a Plan B. These wise men and women feel that the only problem with finding a return to growth is in the details of a ‘growth strategy’.
It’s not actually Osborne’s fault that we are having trouble returning to growth. The root of our problems has been developing for many years due to our blind obsession with exponential growth on a finite and now full planet. We’re trashing that one and only planet and on many measures like the LPI and Rockstrom, it is clear we are already in overshoot. We’re living off the capital as well as the interest. You wouldn’t run a company that way would you?
Ironically the Chancellor’s old friend and now Prime Minister has hinted at the solution to the challenges of beyond growth economics many times in various speeches he has given peppered with references to wellbeing. But sadly speeches are about as far as this thinking has gone in the Conservative party.
As we make the inevitable transition to a beyond-growth wellbeing economy, we need to urgently shift our frame of reference from ‘growth and wealth as prosperity’ to ‘wellbeing as prosperity’. This is now well accepted by many business leaders as I have blogged elsewhere.
But as ever, the people who are supposed to be ahead of the game (most economists and politicians) seem asleep at the wheel. If only politicians would tune in to the rise of the wellbeing economy they might for once have a vision worth selling to the citizenry.
A leading group of thinkers (including Robert and I) warned Professor Besley, the Royal Academy (including Osbourne’s then advisor Matthew Hancock MP) and HRH The Queen of these issues back in 2009. Sadly Besley and his wise cohorts did not respond to the letter.
Perhaps, despite Cameron’s wellbeing rhetoric, it’s just a compassionate step too far for Conservatism to lead us into the wellbeing economy. And no one on the left seems any more able to lay out a narrative and vision along these lines.
You’d think perhaps that the threats of food rations which the SE English droughts foretell might ring alarm bells somewhere in the corridors of power? But our leaders seem to be tone deaf to such warnings
My own bet is that if politics remains asleep at the wheel will become less and less relevant. The clever thinking and action is now happening, not in Westminster, but out here in the community and in the collaborative consumption space. Although much of the business community is missing this revolution, progressive thinkers and companies are starting to realize the power lies with the people now.
Cameron’s Big Society is, to many, just a veil for the further hollowing out of the compassionate, progressive welfare system so many of us are proud of. The Big Society highjacks the ideals and narrative of the community-empowered shift to wellbeing economics whilst completely missing either its implications or the role of government in updating our badly outdated corporate-consumer-capitalism 1.0.
That’s why my eye has long since shifted away from our ‘wise’ economists and politicians to enterprises like Zopa and Whipcar, movements like Transition Towns, my local initiative Bath Community Energy and thinkers like Professor Tim Jacksonhttp.
Tim sums up our current uber-consumerist economics as “We spend money we don’t have, on things we don’t need, to make impressions that don’t last, on people we don’t care about.”
The future wellbeing economy which is already emerging is doing so despite the best efforts of politics. That’s why most of our MPs are fast joining the throngs of those ‘people we don’t care about’