I’m very much looking forward to attending a talk this Thursday, entitled Is the Post Growth economy already here? By Donnie Maclurcan, executive director of the Post Growth Institute. He’s coming to my city as part of a UK-wide tour promoting a new book he’s co-writing with Jennifer Hinton, co-director of the same Institute.
This book is called How, on Earth? Flourishing in a not-for-profit world by 2050, and will be published in April next year. You can pre-order it here. The book centres around the concept of the not-for-profit enterprise, which earns money to pay for its resources and to pay all employees a fair wage, but reinvests any profits straight back into its social cause, or into improving the enterprise, rather than letting them accrue to shareholders.
If you fail to see how a profit-less model could possibly be a good thing, you might need a bit of background. The Post Growth Institute is an international organisation committed to the promotion and inspiration of a post-growth economy. What the hell is that? Well, it’s an umbrella term for any economic model that comes after our obsession with never-ending economic growth has broken down. The thing is, infinite growth is impossible on a finite planet. Especially when that planet has a fast-growing population, most of which doesn’t even yet have a decent standard of living, and all of which expect a greater standard of living as time goes by. Especially when that planet already has a wide range of serious environmental problems, most significantly critical climate change, devastating biodiversity loss, and resource depletion – as well as spiralling inequality and a very fragile global financial system. The thing is, economic growth has been stretched to the edge of its usefulness, and some now think it is making more problems that it’s solving. In other words, that it’s now uneconomic. Explore the “post-growth” category on this blog for more information, or look around postgrowth.org and steadystate.org.
How, on Earth? Puts forth an exciting vision of how we could live with what the authors call an “economics of enough”. The authors draw together evidence and case studies showing that around the world, not-for-profit enterprises are flourishing and in places even out-performing their for-profit counterparts, due to greater financial stability. They think this new business model holds the keys for dealing with our two huge challenges of financial inequality and environmental devastation.
For my part, I’ve always mused that profit seems to be kind of unnecessary. As long as all the costs are calculated accurately (including paying everyone a fair wage and investments in any new equipment etc) and covered – what else do you need?
Anyway, one of the authors, Donnie Maclurcan, is doing a speaking tour around the UK, covering London, Bristol, Totnes, Brighton, Norwich, Leeds, Inverness and Findhorn. You can see the schedule here. Most events are free or for donation. If you’re interested in the sound of the book I would really recommend going. I’m going to the Brighton event this Thursday and I’m very excited about it. As I said, the title is Is the Post Growth economy already here? Which is quite intriguing, because my initial response would be “nope, not a chance”, but I’m sure I’ll have a much more nuanced view come Friday. All the talks have a slightly different topic, by the way.
Although I don’t see that the post-growth economy is here yet, I do genuinely think it’ll be here soon. It’s true that a full-on challenge to growth-obsession is still pretty niche, but the social enterprise movement, the popularity of the co-operative business model and a growing dissatisfaction with the political status quo all show me perhaps at last the tide is turning.
I’ll let you know what inspirational knowledge-gems I can harvest for you on Thursday.