A good economy will feature work rather than growth for growth sake. Some progressives think that negligible growth is inevitable, perhaps even desirable. Too much growth, so the argument goes, consumes too much of the Earth’s resources. It doesn’t have to be that way says Economist Jim Stanford.
“I disagree on all counts. I do not think that slow growth is natural, inevitable or desirable. I do not think that stagnation and recession will fix environmental problems; more likely, they will make things worse (CCPA Monitor, May/June, 2016).”
There are many ways to create growth. One is through capitalism and the unsustainable plunder of the Earth’s resources which focuses on fat dividends for investors.
Another is through work. It’s not like there is a shortage of things to be done, much of it in the service sector: better care for seniors, health care, child care, education, and the arts. Many more jobs wait in green technologies; building and repairing roads and bridges, schools and cultural facilities, public transit. Jobs will continue in areas such information technology and as energy extraction (we won’t stop using fossil fuels tomorrow).
Increased service sector jobs are a novel concept when seen through the lens of Neoliberalism where growth is seen as a function of profit. And it’s a mistake to think that growth is even their primary motive. Greed is. Capitalism is organized to reinforce the wealth and power of a few.
Neoliberalism does not encourage growth. To reduce input costs, wages are driven down. Workers are disempowered through de-unionization and precarious work. “These are all anti-growth policies,” says Stanford.
A measure of growth is the Gross Domestic Product: the total value of goods produced and services provided in a country. In order to keep up with the growth of population and productivity, the GDP should grow by about two per cent annually says Stanford. Any slower and unemployment increases.
The growth of jobs in the service sector may sound a bit fanciful because of resistance from capitalists. Try as they might, they haven’t managed to squeeze much profit out of health care and education.
It’s not fanciful when you remember that we did it once before. Canada and other Western nations pulled themselves up by the bootstraps during the Second World War by creating jobs that met a national objective, not corporate profits.
Unemployment disappeared within months. Untapped sources of labour were drawn into the workplace, particularly women. The bloom of job growth lasted decades with a reduction in poverty and improvement of life expectancy.
Who’s going to pay for it? During the war, money was never a constraint in spite of the hard times of the Great Depression. With modern credit, raising capital is easier than ever. Private financial institutions create money out of thin air whenever it suits their profit-driven motives, as I discussed in my column of December, 2015 How to make money.
Governments can similarly create money, as they did when they saved banks and industry after the Great Recession of 2008. The only thing stopping the growth of service sector jobs is the government’s fear that they will offend the sensibilities of corporations.