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Forum Post: max neef on the economy - again

Posted 3 years ago on May 26, 2014, 12:20 p.m. EST by flip (7101)
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AMY GOODMAN: So, to avoid another catastrophe, collision, if you were in charge, what would you say has to happen?

MANFRED MAX-NEEF: First of all, we need cultured economists again, who know the history, where they come from, how the ideas originated, who did what, and so on and so on; second, an economics now that understands itself very clearly as a subsystem of a larger system that is finite, the biosphere, hence economic growth as an impossibility; and third, a system that understands that it cannot function without the seriousness of ecosystems. And economists know nothing about ecosystems. They don’t know nothing about thermodynamics, you know, nothing about biodiversity or anything. I mean, they are totally ignorant in that respect. And I don’t see what harm it would do, you know, to an economist to know that if the bees would disappear, he would disappear as well, because there wouldn’t be food anymore. But he doesn’t know that, you know, that we depend absolutely from nature. But for these economists we have, nature is a subsystem of the economy. I mean, it’s absolutely crazy.

And then, in addition, you know, bring consumption closer to production. I live in the south of Chile, in the deep south. And that area is a fantastic area, you know, in milk products and what have you. Top. Technologically, like the maximum, you know? I was, a few months ago, in a hotel, and there in the south, for breakfast, and there are these little butter things, you know? I get one, and it’s butter from New Zealand. I mean, if that isn’t crazy, you know? And why? Because economists don’t know how to calculate really costs, you know? To bring butter from 20,000 kilometers to a place where you make the best butter, under the argument that it was cheaper, is a colossal stupidity, because they don’t take into consideration what is the impact of 20,000 kilometers of transport? What is the impact on the environment of that transportation, you know, and all those things? And in addition, I mean, it’s cheaper because it’s subsidized. So it’s clearly a case in which the prices never tell the truth. It’s all tricks, you know? And those tricks do colossal harms. And if you bring consumption closer to production, you will eat better, you will have better food, you know, and everything. You will know where it comes from. You may even know the person who produces it. You humanize this thing, you know? But the way the economists practice today is totally dehumanized.

AMY GOODMAN: And if you’re teaching young economists, the principles you would teach them, what they’d be?

MANFRED MAX-NEEF: The principles, you know, of an economics which should be are based in five postulates and one fundamental value principle.

One, the economy is to serve the people and not the people to serve the economy.

Two, development is about people and not about objects.

Three, growth is not the same as development, and development does not necessarily require growth.

Four, no economy is possible in the absence of ecosystem services.

Five, the economy is a subsystem of a larger finite system, the biosphere, hence permanent growth is impossible.

And the fundamental value to sustain a new economy should be that no economic interest, under no circumstance, can be above the reverence of life.

AMY GOODMAN: Go back to three: growth and development. Explain that further.

MANFRED MAX-NEEF: Growth is a quantitative accumulation. Development is the liberation of creative possibilities. Every living system in nature grows up to a certain point and stops growing. You are not growing anymore, nor he nor me. But we continue developing ourselves. Otherwise we wouldn’t be dialoguing here now. So development has no limits. Growth has limits. And that is a very big thing, you know, that economists and politicians don’t understand. They are obsessed with the fetish of economic growth.

And I am working, several decades. Many studies have been done. I’m the author of a famous hypothesis, the threshold hypothesis, which says that in every society there is a period in which economic growth, conventionally understood or no, brings about an improvement of the quality of life. But only up to a point, the threshold point, beyond which, if there is more growth, quality of life begins to decline. And that is the situation in which we are now.

I mean, your country is the most dramatic example that you can find. I have gone as far as saying — and this is a chapter of a book of mine that is published next month in England, the title of which is Economics Unmasked. There is a chapter called "The United States, an Underdeveloping Nation," which is a new category. We have developed, underdeveloped and developing. Now you have underdeveloping. And your country is an example, in which the one percent of the Americans, you know, are doing better and better and better, and the 99 percent is going down, in all sorts of manifestations. People living in their cars now and sleeping in their cars, you know, parked in front of the house that used to be their house — thousands of people. Millions of people, you know, have lost everything. But the speculators that brought about the whole mess, oh, they are fantastically well off. No problem. No problem.

16 Comments

16 Comments


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[-] 1 points by BradB (2693) from Washington, DC 3 years ago

good post....especially about growth vs development

[-] 1 points by BradB (2693) from Washington, DC 3 years ago

however .... maybe better to term.... monetary growth vs development growth

[-] 0 points by flip (7101) 3 years ago

I don't think monetary growth has anything to do with what he is talking about - how so??

[-] 1 points by BradB (2693) from Washington, DC 3 years ago

he says ... Growth is a quantitative accumulation ...

and the way I read that... is that the only quantitative accumulation thing the economic systems of today are interested in ... is monetary

[-] 1 points by flip (7101) 3 years ago

ok but that is not what he is talking about. every leader in the world today is trying to grow their economy to get out of this mess. build more stuff to create more jobs to build more stuff! that requires real world resources like iron and oil. they want to build and sell more flat screen tvs and iphones etc - that is the growth they and he are talking about.

[-] 1 points by BradB (2693) from Washington, DC 3 years ago

hmmm.... that's not monetary ? ... solely for financial gain ?

that's why we need to support the development of Social Capital

[-] 2 points by flip (7101) 3 years ago

ok but I don't see what the question is here. max neef is simply pointing out the obvious. growth of the economy - which everyone is pushing for to create jobs is different from development which would not require more raw materials but just a different system - if you want to call that social capital - fine

[-] 1 points by BradB (2693) from Washington, DC 3 years ago

:) ... well... you are saying the same thing.... let me add... we need to increase the economy.... ideally w/o raping and wasting resources.... so ...why not develop an additional economy based on developing (his words) a Social Capital which can lead to Social Profit... and economy based on "what effect the action has on the lives of people"... not on how money they can make...

[-] 2 points by flip (7101) 3 years ago

I am sure the idea is interesting but we do not need to increase the economy. we have more than we need and we keep making more. we just need to reorder the economy

[-] 1 points by BradB (2693) from Washington, DC 3 years ago

wow... now that confuses me.... we have realistically around 28% unemployment... due to lack of job opportunity... how do we not need to increase economy ?

[-] 0 points by flip (7101) 3 years ago

we have lawyers and finance guys driving (and helicoptering) into nyc to push paper around and steal money. we have a huge industry designed to create "artificial wants and needs" - we have people buying new iphones and skis and tennis racket to get the latest color. we have people designing things to wear out so we will have to buy more - this is what max neef is pointing towards. we should all be working much less and having more leisure time - time to spend with family and friends - time to live not work for the man

[-] 1 points by BradB (2693) from Washington, DC 3 years ago

agreed ..... how do we do it ?

[-] 2 points by flip (7101) 3 years ago

good question. that is a long way off - we start with the first step - how about getting money out of the political system

[-] 0 points by flip (7101) 3 years ago

no decrease the work week to 2 or 3 days - decrease retirement to 55 - could be easily done but the system would have to be reordered

[-] 1 points by BradB (2693) from Washington, DC 3 years ago

cool... I like that !! ....

but can't see that happening short of a Constitutional Convention ... or the change of mind set where we value individuals choice of what they consider valuable

[-] 2 points by flip (7101) 3 years ago

in Europe they have 35 hr work weeks - 2 months vacation and a good support system so they have moved in that direction. of course, the .01% would like to roll that back but it can be done.