In looking at the inflationary effects of so many people staying out of work on unemployment, I’d completely forgotten about this short post from 1 June 2019, “Leftism in a Nutshell.” The post looks at the “degrowth movement,” a movement that sought “to intentionally shrink the economy to address climate change.”
Well, the degrowth movement—which I have not heard of since 2019—had the chance to try out their deranged economic experiment in 2020 during The Age of The Virus. It turns out that fewer people working doesn’t mean “not as many brands at the grocery store”; it just means less of everything, and it’s all more expensive!
I’m not opposed to some personal minimalism. Despite my love for miscellaneous bric-a-brac, I appreciate living beneath my means and cutting down on spending (I’m only a spendthrift at Universal Studios). But re-reading the Vice article about the degrowth movement makes me think it’s just a flimsy intellectual excuse for laziness.
That is, after all, Leftism in a nutshell: always the grasshopper, never the ant.
Here is 1 June 2019’s “Leftism in a Nutshell“:
You’ve got to admire the balls of the Left. Yes, their wild policy prescriptions come from a combination of ignorance, wickedness, and magical thinking, but that doesn’t stop them from putting out some crazy ideas.
Take this piece from Gavin McInnes’s former rag, Vice: “The Radical Plan to Save the Planet by Working Less.” The headline says it all: let’s just not work so hard, gah!
Naturally, click-bait headlines like that don’t tell the full story. The “degrowth” movement the piece discusses is classic progressivism: we should support a robust public transportation system and give generous welfare benefits so people can spend less time working.
The “degrowth movement” is an inversion of Obama-era economic thinking. Recall the sluggish recovery following the Great Recession, and how Obama informed us that low-growth was the “new normal” we’d all have to learn to love in America. Now that the economy is roaring under President Trump, progressives are flipping the script: “oh, wait, too much growth is a bad thing because climate change!”
Like most Leftist economic ideas, it’s premised on denying people choice and subsidizing loafing with generous bennies:
Degrowth would ultimately mean we’d have less stuff: not as many people working and producing materials, so not as many brands at the grocery store, less fast fashion, and fewer cheap and disposable goods. Families would perhaps have one car instead of three, you’d take a train instead of a plane on your vacation, and free time wouldn’t be filled with shopping trips but with non-money-spending activities with loved ones.
Practically, this would also require an increase in free public services; people won’t have to make as much money if they don’t have to spend on healthcare, housing, education, and transportation. Some degrowthers also call for a universal income to compensate for a shorter work week.
I’m all about saving money and avoiding empty consumerism. I’ve written that there is more to an economy than faceless efficiency units slaving away for plastic crap from China. I’m not unsympathetic to the idea of taking more time for family and personal edification (as a good deal of the workweek is wasted in meetings and busy work).
But this “degrowth movement” is absurd. It’s all premised on a government somehow funding a massive welfare state as the citizenry becomes less productive. Even the sympathetic economist they interview for this ideological puff piece argues that cutting growth to reduce carbon emissions would only have a marginal impact environmentally, but would be devastating socially and economically.
It just goes to show you that the Left hates the idea of hard work. For them, work is an imposition, and we’d all be better off enjoying endless relaxation and luxury. It’s the seduction of never-ending childhood: a paternalistic state provides all the goodies so we can watch TV and pursue pleasure all day.
Work is ennobling. It’s important to earn a living wage for honest, valuable, productive work. But beyond that, work provides a sense of purpose and accomplishment (I think this is particularly true for men, although women derive great satisfaction from work, too, especially the difficult, important work of raising children). There is an identity to holding a job, and a sense of satisfaction from doing that job well.
Can one enjoy a good quality of life by pursuing a more minimalist approach? Yes, of course: if anything, Americans spend far too much money, a good deal of it on empty baubles.
There is a simple joy to minimalism, and I enjoy “spending” money on savings (it’s very satisfying to watch savings and investments grow). But subsidizing lollygagging and calling it “investing in infrastructure” is not the sign of a great nation or civilization.