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Reviews and comments on Deep Economy

1. NY Times, Published: April 22, 2007



2. Harper’s


McKibben believes that we can thrive, not just survive, without growth. The view may not be popular, but it is gaining. Robert Solow, who won the Nobel Prize in economics in 1987 for innovations in growth theory, now calls himself “agnostic” as to whether growth can continue, and is cheerfully willing to contemplate a zero-growth economy. As Solow said to me, “There is no reason at all why capitalism could not survive without slow or even no growth. I think it’s perfectly possible that economic growth cannot go on at its current rate forever.” This does not mean that productivity will cease to increase our quality of life; it means that people might find it increasingly costly to turn productivity into the kinds of things they are now accustomed to buying with their earnings. “It is possible,” says Solow, “that the United States and Europe will find that, as the decades go by, either continued growth will be too destructive to the environment and they are too dependent on scarce natural resources, or that they would rather use increasing productivity in the form of leisure. . . . There is nothing intrinsic in the system that says it cannot exist happily in a stationary state.”


3. http://www.socialfunds.com/news/article.cgi/2286.html

“But the question McKibben begs is how quickly and extensively can such technologies of community be scaled up to really make a difference, for example, on the impact of global warming or fossil fuel depletion. Doing so will take several important shifts in the larger business environment, something else McKibben touches on only lightly, if at all. He mentions that policy support will have to come from civil society, without talking about how difficult it might be to get interests that are entrenched in the global-business-as-usual model, both in government and business, to change. For example, some of the subsidies going to corporate farming would need to go to sustainable, locally-based farming. This represents a shift from underwriting consolidation to underwriting diversity, something that won’t be easy to convince legislators to do.”


4. Christian Science Monitor


"Small Is Beautiful" has been a counterculture mantra – indeed, an important thread in American thought – ever since British economist E.F. Schumacher's 1973 book of that title. Much further back than that if you count Henry David Thoreau.

… McKibben's round-the-world reporting and thoughtful analysis give great weight to both his warnings and his prescriptions for change. He's been working at such ideas through 10 previous books (starting with the groundbreaking "The End of Nature" in 1989), so he's rightly considered a modern pioneer in the field.

He's also a bit of a subversive and in some ways he's the anti-Thomas Friedman – the New York Times columnist who's been an advocate of economic globalization, which assumes inevitable growth. ("Growth" here should not be confused with sustainable "development," which measures progress differently.)


5. Bullnotbull.com


I know what he means.  It is part of a value system that harkens back almost 40 years – a value system that traditional economists and historians thought had died a long time ago.  It was created and maintained by the real opinion leaders of the 60s – the Baby Boomers that dropped out a long time ago.  Back in 1969, when I was starting out after college, there was a fascinating 4-year period when a lot of the intellectual hipsters of that famous 60s cohort wanted to build a better world and frankly, escape the chaos of the 60s.  All of the anti-war hippies wanted to invent a better way.  I was one of them.   So we all went off to live out on the land, do craft work, grow organic vegetables and blend into the landscape.  The majority of those intellectual hipsters on the East Coast went off to Vermont.  They followed the precepts of  E.F. Schumacher (Small is Beautiful)  and subscribed to Mother Earth News and the Whole Earth Catalog.  For the counter-culturalists of the East Coast urban centers, Vermont was a promised land of organic farming and honest communitarianism.

Like northern California, Vermont sprouted communes and artistic communities. Of course, many of those communes failed, which the press of the 70s used as “proof” that this idealistic vision was fatally flawed.  The Hippies dropped off the news radar.  Most of the Boomer cohort was not part of this movement and was soon doing the expected.  They started buying tract houses and/or became “Yuppies”.  But quietly, and unnoticed, many of the earlier urban migrants simply stayed on in the locale, nourished their ideals, and built themselves into the fabric of their chosen communities.  They became entrepreneurs and created a “culture” that was a real time capsule of those forgotten 60s values.  Strangely enough, these folks succeeded in remaking the local culture by mutual adaptation.  Now Vermont, once the state known for rock-ribbed Republicans, has a Senate that is the only Legislative body in the US that has voted to impeach President Bush.


6. Talking Points Memo


Instead of seeing the economy as a system that uses technology to transmute individual wishes into economic outputs, it is a system of profit creation, producing surplus value rather than use value. This explains many of the accidents and mysteries McKibben identifies, the odd mistakes and errors in judgement, that have led to our current malaise. We subsidize the burning of fossil fuels because of the political influence of fuel and automobile companies looking to profit. Our agricultural research emphasizes large-scale, oil-intensive technologies because these favor agribusiness profits. State policy promotes extensive housing development because these projects favor corporate profits in real-estate, construction, furniture, and transportation. State policy favors private consumption of marketable commodities rather than communal use of public goods not just to raise the Gross Domestic Product but because corporations profit from private consumption. By contrast, state policy neglects, even discourages, much that enhances welfare and makes life better for people because corporations have not figured out a way to squeeze a profit from them. Home production, community building, and the development of social capital are all shunned not only because they do not enrich any section of corporate America, but because the strengthening of communities risks promoting democratic forces who would restrict corporate profit-making in the name of popular welfare.


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