Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Did economic growth in the 1960s make us happy?

Maybe I'm wrong but I think it is now common knowledge that mainstream economic theory doesn't take account of the role of energy and other natural resources in making economic growth possible, or at least promoting it. In any case, I'm not sure that anybody really understands how the Gross Domestic Product of their nation was continuing to grow for decade after decade whilst  the quality of our lives was diminishing year by year.  Is economic growth merely a statistical measure?  If it is, why is it so important?  After all, government can fiddle the stats anytime.

Sure it's good for Government to have steadily-increasing revenues, but can't they simply put some extra digits on a balance sheet and bring into creation these revenues?  Such an action would drop the value of the domestic currency on the world's foreign exchange markets but that'll mean the nation's exports will be more competitive and that's good, isn't it?  Hmmmm, why didn't Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain think of that?  (What would happen if every nation devalued its currency this way?)

Private businesses, on the other hand, also want their profit base to be sustained and to grow.  However, haven't the world's big corporations long stopped producing anything of real value for people anyway?   Of course, any business that is Too Big to Fail can be bailed out with no questions asked, as was done in 2008 using trillions of dollars in the world's most prominent reserve currency under the US government's TARP program. These are certainly the days of financialisation.

Most monetary transactions today have very little to do with actually producing services and things of real value for people.  At the same time, the intensity of exploitation of humans and nature seems to be ramped up with every passing month.

In the 1960s, the vast excess of money had not yet thrown a monkey wrench into the machine of investment. [1]  It was a different world.  The level of production of real things sold per capita was much higher than it is now in the world's richest industrialised nations.

Therefore, I believe that it would be helpful for the baby boomers like myself to try and remember what the lives of our more privileged parents were like in their decades of so-called 'peak prosperity'. In their time, the purported social joy of the 'economic growth' experience was at its historical summit.  The 'happy days' of the 1960s was an era when a middle class family could be supported by one full time and secure job only.


Sandwichman said...

Not me. Sex and pot made me happy.

Unknown said...

Me too. Great name for a book...
"GDP, sex, pot and happiness."

Myrtle Blackwood said...

Yeah, but you didn't pay for the sex and you smoked illegal pot. You deprived the 1960s of economic growth.