In a recent interview, Senator Bernie Sanders told an unspeakable truth that no mainstream politician has dared touch: the fallacy of economic growth at all costs. The 2016 presidential candidate said:
Unchecked growth – especially when 99 percent of all new income goes to the top 1 percent – is absurd..Where we’ve got to move is not growth for the sake of growth, but we’ve got to move to a society that provides a high quality of life for all of our people. In other words, if people have health care as a right, as do the people of every other major country, then there’s less worry about growth. If people have educational opportunity and their kids can go to college and they have child care, then there’s less worry about growth for the sake of growth.
This direct rejection of market capitalism and the paradigm of growth at all costs might be difficult to swallow for anyone getting their financial news from the major news networks, but it is completely correct. Economic growth has become a religion of sorts, and a metric by which corporations and governments live or die by. In reality, un-checked economic growth has created a massively unequal society that is doing immense damage to the environment, and it is high time political classes fessed up to the uncomfortable reality we are all going to have to come to terms with in the very near future. As George Monbiot points out:
The inescapable failure of a society built upon growth and its destruction of the Earth's living systems are the overwhelming facts of our existence. As a result, they are mentioned almost nowhere. They are the 21st century's great taboo, the subjects guaranteed to alienate your friends and neighbours. We live as if trapped inside a Sunday supplement: obsessed with fame, fashion and the three dreary staples of middle-class conversation: recipes, renovations and resorts. Anything but the topic that demands our attention.
Bernie Sanders is doing his best to draw attention to this issue and deserves a huge amount of praise for saying it out loud. But is anyone listening?