A question from Tallinn

Will the de-growth argument come back any time soon? An idea whose time seemed to have arrived five or so years ago now rarely dare raise its head. And yet with UK GDP this year now expected to be just 1.5% higher than in 2010/11, and inflation at 2.7% a year, this is what a no growth economy feels like.

And growth isn’t coming back any time soon. Whether single, triple or double dip recession the bigger picture is a stagnant economy year after year. A demand boost would make a difference but is a temporary measure which won’t sustain in the longer run without bigger structural and institutional change.

Despite these facts, nobody is brave enough to make the argument that we should get used to slow growth and make adjustments so that the most vulnerable aren’t left so exposed. Certainly no-one on the Left.

So we have a situation where the Dow hits a record – surpassing the 2007 peak – in the same week that rough sleepers in NY were recorded at a record level too – 50,000 people. Shockingly 40% of them children. The Spanish jobless rate is now 25% and the Greek economy has shrunk by a quarter. How can this go on without an end to social stability somewhere?

We desperately need to disseminate the optimistic message that we can make the move into the benign stage of the innovation cycle. Technology that has disrupted business models from the late 70s is ready to be more widely rolled out, as happened in previous industrial transformations. But in those previous cases this deployment phase was far less disruptive and destructive, and much more socially constructive and job creating, than we are experiencing now. This should be the phase where we use the gains tech has given us to create a green ‘luxury life’ with a different type of transport infrastructure, dematerialized consumption. more services, health and culture creativity. Are we bold enough to achieve that? Not my question but one put by  economist Carlota Perez from the University of Tallinn.

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