Faith, Belief and the Good Life
Amsterdam, February 12, 2022– Progressive thinking is pretty much the mainstream – the most important – belief of our time. The main symbol of this in the economy is economic progress, translated flat into economic growth.
Always more and more and better. And preferably also more expensive. Economic laws are largely based on our own social construction. It is our institutions, organized by us, our agreements about property, our belief in the money system and in creditworthiness that ensure that the economy works the way it does. So it is also our own construct that profit and growth are necessary in a capitalist system.
The religion of our time, which has indeed also brought a lot of material progress. But within that faith it is difficult to solve sustainability problems. For these “externalities” have no price in faith. If we do take this into account, it may make consumption more expensive. Or, worse, it forces us to think about consuming less.
For example, solutions to sustainability problems, from energy transitions to the circular economy, can only work if they are profitable. The rest simply don’t fit the paradigm. Economic growth is and will remain the condition that cannot be tampered with in everything. And that is the crux of the matter. Of course we can become more sustainable. Just not within our current faith.
Time for a change of mind: from material progress to a sustainable future. ‘The policy of central banks undermines the credibility of the monetary system rather than ensures financial stability’ Firstly, by showing that the current story is no longer true. That, for example, the relationship between inflation and unemployment is more often not there than there is.
That central bank policies undermine the credibility of the monetary system rather than ensure financial stability. That a market economy does not lead to a trickle of prosperity at all, but to a gigantic mountain at the top. And above all that the negative effects on the living environment outweigh the benefits.
And secondly, by coming up with a new story. A story that does provide answers to today’s problems. A story in which growth is seen as an instrument, and not as a goal. In which it is logical that a society operates within the limits of the planet.
Why make things so difficult?
We have changed our faith many times. If we believe that all that matters is that future generations can also have a good life, then we will act on it. If we believe that cutting down too many trees leads to hell and damnation, then we stop. Perhaps, as so often in history, holding on to a belief for too long is our biggest problem. Hans Stegeman, Chief Strategist at Triodos Investment Management.
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