Ideas that add up #9

Ideas that add up #9

Enough should be the central concept in economics. Enough means “sufficient for a good life.” This raises the perennial philosophical question, “What is a good life?” That is not easy to answer, but at a minimum we can say that the current answer of “having ever more” is wrong. It is worth working hard and sacrificing some things to have enough; but it is stupid to work even harder to have more than enough. And to get more than enough not by hard work, but by exploitation of others, is immoral.

Herman Daly’s foreword to Enough is Enough: Building a Sustainable Economy in a World of Finite Resources

Growth is good: children grow, plants grow, businesses grow. Later in the natural flux of things they ungrow and perish, and are replaced by new growth. In any closed system, the more growth the more ungrowth – because sooner or later accounts must be squared in accordance with the Laws of Thermodynamics. Yin reverts to Yang and vice versa, ultimately neither prevails.

Except in the field of economics, where we are supposed to accept the invention of a perpetual motion machine. “Growth” upon “growth” ad infinitum – instead of asking the basic question: when is enough, enough?

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