Are we plagued by growthism?

Umair Haque thinks so:

Growthism says: growth must be achieved at all costs. When growth is achieved; societies are said to be successful; when it is not, they are said to be failing.

Growthism is willing to sacrifice everything for more growth. Even the very rights which enlightened societies once held to be inalienable. Are you concerned about the rise in extrajudicial mass spying, drone strikes, private security guards, military contractors, or even just the analytics that provide detailed information on what you say, do, and search to both the government and private companies? Too bad! Those are our growth industries, and woe to whatever or whoever stands in their way. Who cares about freedom of speech and assembly or the right to privacy when what we really need is good, growth-creating jobs? Jobs like becoming butlers and maids (or coaches, consultants, and “service-providers”) to the super-rich, who can purchase the “right” not to be frisked, stopped, or surveiled. Heaven forbid people protest. Why, that might hurt growth!

Growthism, then, is antithetical to democracy. Basic political and human rights, from the perspective of a growthist, are niggling sources of inefficiency that must be erased, rubbed out, sanded down. They are sources of social friction and tension that make people less productive workers and that encourage them to do things like wonder, question, agitate, challenge, defy, rebel, and think. Dammit! We don’t want a citizenry! We want a workforce.

The worry?

Growthism’s great crime—and yes, it is a crime; for it is costing you and I, right here, right now, lives we should be living, instead of the days we find ourselves limited to—is that it prevents societies from developing a sophisticated conception of what prosperity is. And hence, how to attain it. It is failing because it is stifling us from reaching past the tired, rusting idea that prosperity is merely stuff and trinkets, glittering baubles and gewgaws—and that it might, instead, be health, friendship, purpose, wisdom, resilience, happiness, a searing sense that all one’s days have mattered.

My answer, then, is this. Capitalism’s devolved into growthism. And growthism’s to this age what alchemy was to another. It’s a futile, mystical, laughable quest to turn lead into gold. But lead is just lead. And the truest wealth of life is having lived a life that matters.


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