Capitalism simply doesn’t work, although some people still think Capitalism and green growth hopefully work. That was the message from Heikki Hiilamo in his column written for Yle. However, neither system will endure, and it’s time to wake up to that reality. A society based on continuous growth will soon reach its limits, or else the fate of humanity will be sealed.
Hiilamo questions the degrowth movement’s view on dismantling capitalism in his column for Yle and considers its principles radical.
Here is an excerpt from Hiilamo’s column:
“Researchers would give up flying, private cars, fast fashion, weapons, cruises, and villas. Income and wealth disparities would be narrowed, and consumption would be restrained by adjusting maximum income. Industrial meat and dairy production would need to be eliminated, transitioning to a more ecological approach in agriculture.”
The “radical” views of the model may sound like a dream world to those advocating for justice. Adding a wealth tax on top of this could genuinely lead us towards a better world.
Degrowth politics offers a sustainable alternative to the unjust exploitation of the Earth’s resources. It is crucial to recognize that continuous economic growth poses a threat to the environment and the future of the planet. The constant growth of capitalism is also a threat to humanity, as the struggle for dwindling resources will drive people (read: those in power) to wage wars over them. Climate refugees are already being silently executed, left stranded at sea. In the future, borders might be met with weapons.
At this point, it’s essential to remember that we haven’t done anything to deserve better resources and better conditions. We were born by chance in Western countries. Others were not so fortunate. Our overconsumptive lifestyle is neither justified nor fair, and it takes away from those living in extreme poverty.
The world is not changing anytime soon, though, as we are all led by idiots.
The world is not fair, but it could be if we started questioning the system
According to Hiilamo and others who think similarly, the world is not supposed to be fair. This is the rhetoric of privilege and demonstrates a lack of empathy and justice.
Degrowth thinking doesn’t mean shrinking the economy but rather promoting sustainable and just development. It emphasizes principles of sufficiency, equality, and well-being, crucial perspectives when aiming for a balanced society. Currently, the situation is such that the wealthiest individuals have the largest carbon footprint. Giving up privileges seems challenging, but at the same time, in Finland and worldwide, more is taken away from those who have nothing. No one should support such a model, yet it is mainstream and practically the only accepted way to operate.
Greed is humanity’s downfall. The impending collapse is also aided by a lack of empathy and naivety towards the current system. Change for the better is by no means impossible, but perceptions have been created to make a fair and just world seem utopian. People have resigned themselves to their fate and are left spreading their hands. A small group lives a privileged life, leeching off others’ money, while the rest toil long days just to survive.
A world based on continuous growth and exploitation does not work
The “radical” measures of degrowth politics are the only right and fair responses to critical environmental challenges, but also to the repulsive, unequal world order based on the exploitation of different groups of people. Degrowth doesn’t necessarily mean a powerful state but rather a controlled transition towards a sustainable economy that considers the basic needs of society, i.e., its individuals.
For now, unfortunately, the world is such that it’s okay for someone to die of hunger, as long as I can fly and waste resources. Sacrifices are always made by someone else.
To preserve the Earth’s carrying capacity and maintain a viable planet, it is crucial to consider alternative models that do not rely on continuous growth and excessive resource use. Capitalism never cleans up its mess or puts profit-seeking secondary. It does not create well-being for people. Capitalism and continuous growth force individuals into a hamster wheel, working throughout their lives so that someone else can live lavishly and enjoy leisure time.
The Discussion Should Expand Beyond Right-Wing Binary Thinking
Unfortunately, changing the world is challenging because the current discourse operates within the confines set by the right. Abandoning capitalism is equated with communism (which has never existed in the real world), and there are no alternatives. This worldview is black-and-white and, frankly, foolish. This mindset is the reason for suffering and famine in the world.
We don’t have to slide into communism. The world can reward hard work, but it shouldn’t reward the temporary diligence that builds your wealth while someone elsewhere does the work ten times cheaper and can’t even enjoy life in old age. Unfortunately, that’s the world we currently live in.
Current global income and wealth disparities cannot be justified in any rational way. We live in a world based on unsustainable actions and continuous growth. This should be abandoned in favor of pursuing common good and growing well-being. Constant exploitation of nature and people does not lead to well-being.
Continuous growth and capitalism cannot work, and the society and world built upon them live in the delusion of a better tomorrow. Change towards a fair, limitless, and just world is hoped to happen soon. I’m not holding my breath, as, based on my empirical observations, humans are generally foolish and selfish, lacking empathy.
Change would require that the economic system no longer relies on continuous growth. In that case, the lack of growth would not collapse the economy. And then, of course, the standard of living for the wealthiest wouldn’t increase.
The few of us who understand these issues are at a disadvantage. But things can improve. It just requires thinking outside the box. The crowd needs to be expanded before it’s too late.