Grow, Baby, Grow

Allison Schrager makes an argument for a strategy that should not need defending, but does: Economic Growth Is Still Our Best Hope.

During a meeting several years ago, as I started to explain to my colleagues how different economic policies could boost growth, a young staffer interrupted me. He announced—quickly, so he could get it all out in one breath—that growth should not be a policy objective anymore, because it destroys the environment. I was stunned—but even more so because many of the younger staffers agreed with him.

But I should have known then that this idea of “degrowth,” like many bad ideas that have taken hold lately, was here to stay. In fact, the idea has been around for a long time already. This latest incarnation began with French social philosopher André Gorz in 1972 and gained some popularity among academics and anti-capitalists. Lately, however, interest in the idea has expanded from activists and idealistic journalists to scientists, academics (including Japanese political theorist Kohei Saito), politicians, and even Steven Chu, a Nobel laureate, professor of physics at Stanford University, and Barack Obama’s energy secretary.

Adherents of the degrowth philosophy believe that economic growth harms the planet, and that stopping it is our best hope to avert environmental catastrophe. London School of Economics anthropologist and degrowth proponent Jason Hickel explained that the philosophy does not aim explicitly to shrink GDP, but it does think that people should consume much less and accepts that GDP will probably fall as a result.

Ms Schrager points out the fallacy to see economics as zero-sum game: that if someone gets richer, it's at the expense of someone else getting poorer. But a "degrowth" takes that fallacy and doubles down, turning (via corecive measures) it into a negative-sum game, moving everyone to a worse-off state.

Well, except for those folks implementing "degrowth": they'd be well-paid, of course.

Briefly noted:

  • At Reason, Damon Root notes an amusing possible outcome from a principled legal argument: How a Gorsuch LGBT Ruling May Doom Affirmative Action in College Admissions.

    In Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia (2020), Justice Neil Gorsuch held that the act of firing an employee for being gay or transgender violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employers from discriminating against a job applicant or employee "because of such individual's…sex." "Those who adopted the Civil Rights Act might not have anticipated their work would lead to this particular result," Gorsuch wrote. "But the limits of the drafters' imagination supply no reason to ignore the law's demands. When the express terms of a statute give us one answer and extratextual considerations suggest another, it's no contest. Only the written word is the law, and all persons are entitled to its benefit."

    The results of that strict textualist approach in Bostock were widely cheered by liberals. But liberals probably won't be cheering if Gorsuch adopts a similar stance in the pair of blockbuster affirmative action cases that the Supreme Court is currently weighing. Judging by last month's oral arguments in Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina, the justice does seem to view the statutory debates over LGBT discrimination and affirmative action in a similar interpretative light.

    I liked John Roberts' simple assertaion back in 2007, and it would be nice if SCOTUS (finally) applied it uniformly in the current case: “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”

  • Charles C. W. Cooke has some advice to GOP wannabes-but-notgonnabes: Don't Run.

    Hey, you. Yes, you. I gather you’ve started hinting that you might run for president in 2024. Here’s an alternative idea: Don’t. Do something else instead. Travel. Learn to cook. Serve on a board. Start a podcast. Build a boat. Just stay the hell out of the field.

    You know who you are. You’re the popular GOP governor of a blue state who believes that, against all odds and in spite of all the laws of supply and demand, he’s going to be nominated in 2024. You’re the Trump appointee who served in the last administration for two or three years and who has for some reason come to think that he might be credible as a MAGA-without-the-baggage candidate. You’re the morally decent Republican politician whose friends have convinced him that all it will take to transcend our current partisan trench warfare is a little integrity and a lot of pluck. You’re the long-retired former party darling who falls asleep each night telling himself that if all the cards fall in the right place, you might squeak to the front of the pack and make it to the convention. And whatever you think is going to happen to you over the next couple of years, you’re wrong.

    Charlie worries that a large GOP field would split the not-Trump vote, and cause (as it did in 2016) Trump to sail to the nomination with a weak plurality, and get creamed in November 2024 by… well, anyone not named "Hillary Clinton".