The Status Quo Is Not Working

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Charles Hugh-Smith via OfTwoMinds blog,

The conventional objections to DeGrowth boil down to: it isn't the status quo, so it can't work. Actually, it's the status quo that isn't working.

I've written about DeGrowth for many years, including Degrowth, Anti-Consumerism and Peak Consumption (May 9, 2013), Degrowth Solutions: Half-Farmer, Half-X (July 19, 2014) and And the Next Big Thing Is ... Degrowth? (April 7, 2014)

These are the basic concepts of Degrowth:

1. Consumerism is psychological/ spiritual junk food (French: malbouffe) that actively reduces well-being (bien-etre) rather than increases it.


2. Better rather than more: well-being is increased by everything that cannot be commoditized by a market economy or financialized by a cartel-state financial machine-- friendship, family, community, self-cultivation. The goal of economic and social growth should be better, not more. On a national scale, the cancerous-growth measured by gross domestic product (GDP) should be replaced with gross domestic happiness/ gross national happiness (GNH).


3. A recognition that resources are not infinite, despite claims to the contrary. For one example of many: China Is Plundering the Planet's Seas (The Atlantic). Indeed, all the evidence suggests that access to cheap energy only speeds up the depletion and despoliation of every other resource.


4. The unsustainability of consumerist "growth" that's dependent on resource depletion funded by financialization (i.e. the endless expansion of credit and phantom collateral). (This is covered in greater depth in my short book Why Our Status Quo Failed and Is Beyond Reform.)


5. The diminishing returns on private consumption and "bridges to nowhere" (crony-capitalist public consumption).


6. The failure of neoliberal capitalism and communism alike in their pursuit of growth at any cost.

Degrowth is heresy in what John Michael Greer calls the religion of progress (i.e. growth). The faith that growth equals progress is akin to the Cargo Cult of Keynesianism, the notion that expanding debt exponentially to drive diminishing returns of growth is not only necessary but a moral imperative.

Both the religion of growth and its Cargo Cult are narratives used to justify the expansion of global finance via financialization. Expanding capital, profits and power is the key driver, and the religion of growth is merely the public-relations narrative that mesmerizes the debt-serfs, political toadies and media sycophants.

Does this look like a world with plenty of room for everything to expand?

Does this look like a world ripe for limitless expansion of debt to fuel limitless growth of consumption?

This leads to a fundamental question: how do we design a system that enables us to do more with less of everything? How do we design a system that incentivizes doing more with less rather than squandering resources via optimizing human greed?

A DeGrowth economy must fulfill two requirements:

1. The DeGrowth economy must provide paid-work livelihoods and opportunities for everyone who wants them.

2. The DeGrowth economy must institutionalize a decentralized, democratic, self-organizing process to allocate human, social, resource and financial capital as an alternative to centralized states/banks and profit-maximizing corporations.

These arise from three key insights:

1. If we don't change the way we create and distribute money, we change nothing.

2. Not everything that is valuable is profitable, and so maximizing profit is not the sole arbiter of "value," nor is it a sound process for allocating labor and capital for everything that has value but isn't profitable.

3. Centralization undermines democracy and generates privilege, inequality, insecurity, conflict and waste by its very nature. (I discuss this further in my short book Inequality and the Collapse of Privilege.)

DeGrowth requires two intertwined systems: a decentralized, localized, globally connected network of self-organizing productive "tribes" whose labor generates a global labor-backed crypto-currency.

I describe such a system in my book A Radically Beneficial World: Automation, Technology & Creating Jobs for All.

DeGrowth is coming whether we like it or not or plan for it or not. Our choice is to blind ourselves to the implosion of the "growth" status quo and squander the opportunity to create an economic system that thrives in DeGrowth, or accept the end-game of financialized "growth" and embrace the technological tools that enable decentralized, localized, globally connected networks funded by a labor-backed crypto-currency.

The conventional objections to DeGrowth boil down to: it isn't the status quo, so it can't possibly work. Actually, it's the status quo that isn't working, and DeGrowth is the result of that simple yet profound reality.

For more on these topics:

If We Don't Change the Way Money Is Created and Distributed, Rising Inequality Will Trigger Social Disorder (November 13, 2015)

A Radically Beneficial World: Automation, Technology and Creating Jobs for All (free 35-page excerpt)

*  *  *

If you found value in this content, please join me in seeking solutions by becoming a $1/month patron of my work via Check out both of my new books, Inequality and the Collapse of Privilege ($3.95 Kindle, $8.95 print) and Why Our Status Quo Failed and Is Beyond Reform ($3.95 Kindle, $8.95 print). For more, please visit the OTM essentials website.

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knukles's picture

Things are tough all around, Charlie.
        Unfuck America First

Belrev's picture

Challenging the status quo.

CrankyCurmudgeon's picture

Uhh, I'm pretty darn sure he is saying that this is a big part of what fucked America in the first place.

You may disagree, but your actual statement is just off target.

techpriest's picture

IMO the writer is still missing the point.

He's correctly attacking the word "growth," but he doesn't seem to understand how the word has been deconstructed and redefined.

There is growth in the sense that one generation builds a solid foundation for the next, so that the next has the time and resources to pursue what the previous generation could not. This is the kind of growth we want.

There is also the redefined "growth," which is like the guy who borrows a ton of money to spend on himself, assuming "I'll have more income in the future," and ends up leaving nothing or less than nothing to the next generation.

A Chinese friend of mine is a civil engineer, and once he showed me pictures of 1,000+ year old irrigation projects in parts of China that are still functioning. In Europe, there are cathedrals that took multiple generations to build, and are still standing after centuries.

Compare that to what the status-quo politicians are pitching today. Contemporary "growth" is severely short-sighted and with few exceptions an insult to the ancients that spent centuries getting us ready for the opportunity we have today.

El Vaquero's picture

I think that CHS is using "growth" in the sense that it would be used by economists, bankers and politicians, which is appropriate for the article that he wrote, because that is the economy that we live in.  Growth (fraud in this day and age) is king right now.  That does need to end, but we need to provide alternatives that allow people to make a living if we are going to end it.  

Oracle 911's picture

The article looks good at the first glance.

Sadly doesn't address the main issue, the usury aka interest rate and the fractional banking. The reason is simple, the currency is issued to pay down the principal but not the interest. Which not just forces the manufacturers plunder the planet and exploit slaves but also promote consumerism.


So death to money changers and usury.

LawsofPhysics's picture

LOL! It boils down to one thing and one thing only, evolve or die.

Don't overthink this folks.  FRAUD is now the global status quo.

Possession, and maintaining possession/control is the only "law".

arby63's picture

All fraud all the time. Think about it. We're inundated with fraud in our daily existence. Hidden from any possible personal discovery, the thieves and fraudsters are everywhere. 

I often wonder where they get the money to commit their fraudulent expeditions. It's amazing. 

All I can recommend is to turn off the TV, the radio and everything else. Nothing is as it should be. Normal commerce is virtually extinct. Now it's either big box or big fraud. 

flaminratzazz's picture

evolve into what? a fvkin warlord?

a feral animal pimping children and dope?

have any answers Darwin?

LawsofPhysics's picture

History is very clear on the outcome of such "let the majority eat cake" monetary, social, political, and economic experiments.

Don't shoot the messenger just because you don't like the message fucknut.

flaminratzazz's picture

you have the same tired message with no concrete plan other than possession is the law.. well no shit.. duh..


LawsofPhysics's picture

You have no ideas what my "plans" are or what productive capacity I control.

Here's a plan for you; no man is an island, so get your tribe in order ASAP.

flaminratzazz's picture

back to being a fvkin warlord, wtf didn't you say so in the first place?

Sparkey's picture

Yes indeed Law of Physics, conditions change constantly, if a species can 'evolve' its behavior or physiology to meet the 'new' challenges it can continue to exist until it meets the conditions it cannot adapt to, then it ceases to exist, check the fosil record, eventually everything meets the conditions it is unable to adapt to.

theright555J's picture

I agree with virtually the whole post, but you lost me at crypto-currency.  Should be replaced with "GOLD", "FreeGold", that is.  Unfortunately, DeGrowth will ultimately lead to realized loss and death for many who are not currently used to that, so all of the good ideas about DeGrowth would likely just end up in war.

Hohum's picture

Facts don't change minds.  Hunger and pestilence does, though.

jus_lite_reading's picture

Nothing, NOTHING is more dangerous than a hungry man.

dark_matter's picture

A hungry man with a hungry wife and kids is more dangerous.

El Vaquero's picture

Facts will change a few minds, and those minds will start looking for alternatives.  You want this.  You might have to appeal to emotion to convince the masses, but if you want a way forward, don't ignore the facts.  

Intelligence_Insulter's picture

The robots are trading at effiency not the humans anymore.  Capitalism is capital seeking more capital growth is actually exploding, exponential growth.  It's all working as intended. 

LawsofPhysics's picture

Sure, but eventually all that "captial" (i.e. paper/digital claims) are in fact going to start seeking out real assets.

Krungle's picture

Then they should go follow their transhumanist cult, plug themselves into the matrix and just play some endless game of Minecraft or some shit wherein they can gain infinite efficiencies, capital and wealth. And we can just take that computer/AI, rocket it off to space with some solar panels, and they can drift in the infinity playing their game while hurting no real people. 

Outside of test tubes or infections, even bacteria don't normally undergo exponential growth. And when it happens in macroscopic populations, it is inevitably followed by a crash. It isn't a stable strategy, which is why is it an anomaly in nature. This too shall eventually be but a blip on the timeline of Earth....

moonmac's picture

The Fed says we need more growth at all costs no matter the horrible consequences.


small axe's picture

without the 0.01% and their puppet politicians there would be a lot more room for real human beings

chunga's picture

For peddlers of institutionalized, gov mandated FRAUD the status quo is just great.

FRAUD is the third rail in the swamp. Talk about anything you want, except reeling in fraud.

swmnguy's picture

At some point it will become clear beyond denial that our true currency is joules, in whatever form and represented in whatever way.  At that point all the extraneous bullshit which distracts us goes away.

centerline's picture

Hopefully not in a "Matrix" way. 


Well... unless it is really bad ass.  Then, hey, plug me in.

LawsofPhysics's picture

Yep, not just joules or calories, but rather joules or calories that are in a consumable form that we can access.

VWAndy's picture

 And correctly measure. Thats the real advantage tptb use to screw us generation after genertion. By measuring with that rubberband sreatched to their whims.

Consuelo's picture



 We must be warming up for something real good, because the fear-mongers seem to be coming outta the woodwork, just like they did in '09, '10, '11.     What slowed down to an article/week has again ramped to an article per day...


Oh - and um, don't forget to $buy my book....

nevertheless's picture

EXACTLY, while the powers-that-be have done a masterful job moving from Obama to Trump, and insuring both sides continue their mutually destructive fighting, they have once again filled the Cabinet with Wall Street with the cheers from the right...WE NEED THE TEA PARTY, not these Trump sycophants who are more interested in fighting each other than saving America. 

Something big is coming, judging by all the generals Trump has put on his team, Marshall Law, anything is possible at this point.

VWAndy's picture

 The only ones that dont grok that corruption dont scale that far out have a dog in that race.

hooligan2009's picture

from the article:

total debt

4q00 = 87 trillion - 4q07 = 142 trillion - 2q14 = 199 trillion

from here:

total gdp

4q00 = 33.5 trillion - 4q07 = 57.8 trillion - 4q14 = 78.6 trillion

change in debt between 4q00 to 4q07 = 55 trillion for a gdp change of 24.5 trillion and every dollar of debt reduces gdp by aorund 50 cents

change in debt betwen 4q07 and 4q14 = 57 trillion for a gdp change of 19.8 trillion and every dollar of debt does a little better, but still produces 50 cents of gdp.

debt to gdp ratios

4q00 = 87/33.5 = 260%

4q07 = 142/57.8 = 245%

4q14 = 199/78.6 = 253%

on this basis, there has been no change to debt to gdp over those 14 years.

of course this is debt inflated gdp - as with japan, the global economy has borrowed so much money that it an never generate sufficient earnings to cover an interest burden that simultaenously compensates investors for inflation and a time risk premium of around 4% nominl for a thirty year government bond yield meets central bakers target inflation rates of 0-2%.

interest at 4% on 87 trillion is 3.5 trillion but is 8 trillion on 199 trillion.

income/profits are not highlighted by a debt series or a gdp series. growth in gdp gets close, but, again, gdp growth is not invome and would be a great topic for business school or government school economists to debate.

this is also trumps problem - growing gdp in the US is insufficient without growing income, either from markedly higher interest rates and corporate profits or from wages.

wagegrowth is the answer of course - the CRIME of share buybacks instead of rewarding staff with shares is one of the most heinous perpetrated against the US economy EVER.

c-suite EMPLOYEES (not owners, employees) paying themselves tens of millions of dollars and witholding an equitable share of profits from staff is a CRIMINAL activity, on moral, ethical, social grounds - as well as being hypocritical


coast1's picture

trump speech wanting to close border so drugs cant come in but says nothing about the CIA poppy fields in afghanistan.  He also wants dakota pipeline...I admit I dont know everything going there, but it seems they could build a pipeline away from water supply...Call me stupid, but it seems they could spend a bit more money to go around water supply.

PoasterToaster's picture
PoasterToaster (not verified) Feb 24, 2017 1:34 PM

Bullshit definitions of "growth" are not a good place to start analysis.

nevertheless's picture

Great conversation for those who don't buy the media/establishment lies about Trump:

This is not a "pro-Trump" video, it the first video I have sen that actually makes some sense. 

Don't watch if you like being ignorant, not everyone takes the "red pill". 

Jack's Raging Bile Duct's picture

It's the MONEY.

Money is a facsimille for barter. Barter deals with the goods produced, both the resources and labor. The supply of money acts as an arbiter of where labor is spent, and what goods are created. This acts as a check mechanism, and keeps the equilibrium. When you have endless waves of debt by fiat, you must have a metastic comsumerist model where nothing is repaired, or preserved--only pillaged, churned out, and discarded.


Capn Mike's picture

You're the one who gets it! Well done!


HenryHall's picture

>> This leads to a fundamental question: how do we design a system that enables us to do more with less of everything?


There is only one solution that will work in the long run. Which is fewer people on the planet.

One of the greatest threats to the continued existence of humanity is religions that promote population growth.

tbone10's picture

Author, what kind of idiot are you?

Silver Savior's picture

Sorry, growth is doomed. The elite were pigs and left everyone with no money and surging bills. Especially housing. Fuck the real estate industry.

Sledge-hammer's picture
Sledge-hammer (not verified) Feb 24, 2017 11:28 PM

First step is to take the Red Pill and unplug from the Jew Matrix which is an alternative world of lies (hey, this could be a movie script).  Next, realize that everything you have been told has been pretty much a lie.  Next, understand that the things of this world e.g. the bits and pieces of metal and plastic crap we have been taught to pursue (that and an overpriced McMansion in a gated community with country-club membership) are just that, crap for which you will mortgage your life to the (((banksters))).  Once you see through the Jew Lie, get rid of and down-size your crap, because you can not take it with you.  Liquidate your investments, because the only people making any real money are the same (((banksters))) who want you to mortgage your life, and they all have the inside-in amongst (((themselves))) anyway, so us stupid goys will not be in that rarified atmosphere.  Live simply.  Deal only in cash and only with fellow evil YT's.  I just started by selling my properties.  No more paying mortgages, insurance, property taxes, maintenance, repairs, etc.  It seems radical, but I too sought the above-mentioned things, because I was taught/brain-washed into thinking that that was the American Dream. This is my awakening.  To each his own.