Growth for the Sake of Growth Is the Ideology of the Cancer Cell
That’s a quote by Edward Abbey and he was an interesting dude, an environmentalist way before it was a ‘thing’ and a friend to all things natural. That included his own burial, when he requested (and was given) a grave in the Arizona desert, un-embalmed and zipped into a sleeping bag, laid out in the bed of a pickup truck, doused with whiskey. It was illegal as could be. His epitaph reads ‘No Comment.’
But for half a century we are, and have been, a nation in the thrall of growth. Our currency, rather than having In God we trust as its motto should probably replace it with In Growth we trust. Everything we value would be more useful, efficient, profitable and attractive in the Large Economy Size.
Which, except for breakfast food, is untrue.
Take population as an example. When I was twenty (1955), world population was two billion and close to seventy years later we are close to eight billion. And it looks as though we are not done yet, although there are some encouraging statistics that argue with increasing education (primarily among the world’s women) and greater health care (ditto) we may be leveling off.
Anyway, having seen that growth across a single lifetime, I can support the argument that the planet is a pretty clogged-up place at the moment. I look out my window here in Prague and a parking space is not to be had in what used to be a smoky city with plenty of space and air you could actually taste in the winter. Well, the smoke is as gone as the parking—and that’s good—but that’s due to technology, not growth.
Don’t remind me it’s a growth in technology, it doesn’t serve my argument. Prague hosts eight million tourists each year in a city of one million and you can hardly move in the historic sections of the city during the season.
We don’t live in the Amazon, but Amazon lives in us.
Ah yes, Mr. Bezos has captured and holds hostage the largest consumption-producing organization on the planet. We voluntarily outsourced all American production capability because it supported the growth ideology of worldwide markets.
My favorite boogy-man, unintended consequence, came out from under the bed to bite us in the ankle in the reality of a lost Middle Class. When production leaves, unions die, and the sustainable single-earner family income follows it out the door. There goes home ownership, the boat in the driveway and weekends fishing with the kids. The trade-in, like a worn-out family car, is a second job, a wife who works, kids left to their own devices and a substantially weakened society.
Whoever saw that coming?
Yeah well, there were markers, but they were all among the workers. The winners in the growth ideology were too busy screwing over employees, benefits, pensions and working conditions to notice. Their bottom-line was doing just fine, as millionaires turned into billionaires on their way toward the ultimate goal of trillionaires.
People don’t have a strong intuitive sense of how much bigger one billion is than one million. It’s a stretch of the mind that eludes us, and rightly so.
· One million seconds is eleven days.
· One billion seconds is 31 ½ years.
· A trillion is 31,000 years.
When measured in seconds, the back-and-forth of the Bezos-Musk competition for wealthiest human ranges in the area of 3,100 to 4,000 years. Who can possibly wrap their mind around that?
We’re enjoying the benefits of growth at both ends of the spectrum in America.
While Bezos and Musk fight it out for top honors, our prisons are full. Why? Because those who are in George Carlin’s Club don’t like the unsightly homeless, the smash-and-grab raids on Tiffany and other high-end brands, or the constant bitching of those working without toilet breaks in their warehouses.
Where is Charles Dickens when we need him?
So it’s not like economic inequity isn’t a growth industry, it’s just that the wealth creators—those folks Republicans claimed were trickle-down emancipators—all trickled outward instead of downward. Amazon is a factor in 100 countries throughout the world and employs 1.3 million people. That’s a pretty big footprint for a company that didn’t even exist twenty-seven years ago.
But this trickle-down fable wasn’t just a Republican lie to keep the masses in poverty, Democrats were equal-opportunity co-conspirators in the bullshit. If you’re a Democrat and think your party has clean hands, you live in a dream-world and haven’t been paying attention.
President Biden lurked in the House and Senate for 45 years and he’s, without doubt, the best of the two miserable choices we were given in the election. But during those years, Joe played Ginger Rogers to a Republican Fred Astaire, following every step on the way to selling out the Middle Class.
You know how much chance we have of accomplishing Build Back Better or the Green New Deal or whatever wet dream the politicians are calling it these days?
Zero, That’s right, zero.
You know why? Because a union job on a bulldozer doesn’t serve the billionaire purpose at all. High-wage employment building and installing solar panels isn’t global enough for them and besides, they’ve given up on America.
Oh they’ll throw us a small bone, something to nibble on, but it won’t move the hands on the Doomsday Clock and won’t create the jobs necessary to stop the minor department-store looting while the major looting is and always has been going on for decades in Wall Street and its push for American globalism .
But that’s okay with us, because we looked the other way as they became the one percent. They’ve very nearly got it all. The one percent own 38% of everything in America and the top ten percent own 75% and we never batted an eye, never took our attention away from the rolling scroll on Facebook. Pretty soon they’ll have it all.
You and me? We’ll have Facebook’s Metaverse to entertain ourselves, a repeat of the Bread and Circuses Rome fed the Romans as their society collapsed.