Jacking-down the economy cont’d

In a few posts over the past few months or so, or maybe it was only one post, and a Live or a radio appearance or two — I don’t remember — I have made reference to what I called “jacking-down the economy,” and “embracing the lower rungs.” This is something that people with the wherewithal to do can do to help alleviate the suffering caused by extreme income disparity and the jacked-up economy in general. I consider it related to the Degrowth movement.

I love it when I find professional expert substantiation for one of my amateur theories or musings. In the past couple of days I’ve stumbled on a great book and a great article, linked below. Will add more as I find them.

The Divide, book by Jason Hickel (author of the Degrowth book Less Is More). He goes into debunking the horrific myths, criminal accounting, “statistical theatre” regarding international aid and development. Lots of Degrowth object-lessons here.

• “Forget ‘developing’ poor countries, it’s time to ‘de-develop’ rich countries“; article by Jason Hickel in The Guardian. “Economist Peter Edward argues that instead of pushing poorer countries to ‘catch up’ with rich ones, we should be thinking of ways to get rich countries to ‘catch down’ to more appropriate levels of development. We should look at societies where people live long and happy lives at relatively low levels of income and consumption not as basket cases that need to be developed towards western models, but as exemplars of efficient living. … The idea of ‘de-developing’ rich countries might prove to be a strong rallying cry in the global south, but it will be tricky to sell to westerners. Tricky, but not impossible. According to recent consumer research, 70% of people in middle- and high-income countries believe overconsumption is putting our planet and society at risk.”

“Can those who do work, learn to respect those who choose not to?” by Jason Sims, in Esquire magazine. “‘What is needed,’ the philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote in In Praise of Idleness in 1935, ‘is a new revolutionary movement, dedicated to the elimination of overwork and the reduction of work to a minimum.’ What he could not have foreseen was that it might take a global pandemic to amplify the rebellion. Many people were forced to stop work, giving them the chance to take stock and assess why they felt so burned out. They worked from home and found they actually liked their family. They thought deeply about what the hell they were doing with their lives. At the end of the 20th century the idea of a 15-hour working week was an inevitability. And yet, trajectory has not only stalled, but tech, corporate culture and an ‘always on’ mindset have extended working hours for many. There was also what came to be called ‘The Great Resignation’. Millions, at least those with the right safety nets, quit work — retiring, trading out, changing their lifestyles to subsist on fewer hours and a lower income — leaving a labour shortfall in many nations, and governments desperate to find ways to tempt people back into employment for the sake of the seemingly never-ending pursuit of economic growth. It is, as Elizabeth Anderson, professor or philosophy at the University of Michigan, puts it, ‘screwed up’. … Russell, however, reckoned that the most meaningful work one could actually choose to do comes from our leisure time—it’s in leisure that humans are the most inventive. Einstein, famously, would spend hours just staring at the ceiling. The decline in paid work might spark a resurgence in artistry, craftsmanship and artisan-making, with the economy founded less in consumption as in creativity, in the sense of ‘flow’ that we all find so enriching.”

• Speaking of Degrowth, more than a few people have pointed out that the Degrowth movement has a public-relations problem because the word is not very attractive to people in consumerist societies. Along these lines, some people might find the term “Wellbeing Economy” more appealing. The Wellbeing Economy Alliance (WEALL) website offers a lot of useful information and ideas.