Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Jobs and growth

Text of letter submitted to Barking & Dagenham Post, for publication:

Like many politicians, Barking’s MP Margaret Hodge repeats the jobs and growth fable. In her MP’s column (BD Post, 23 May) she hints at jobs in defence and Aerospace. British Aerospace makes an impressive fighter jet – if we could sell more of these we could create more jobs. The best thing to do would be to sell them to all sides in any conflict as this should help extend the conflict, increase demand for the planes and create more jobs. Perhaps we could also make and sell land mines - if we don’t already - as there’s a lucrative market in devices to find and neutralise them as well, which we could expand into. The destruction wrought by war is excellent for economic growth, as it creates the need for lots of construction work, not least for hospitals to treat the wounded combatants and innocents. Our own involvement in any conflict will also increase the threat (real or perceived) of attacks on our country. This will generate lots of work for the security services and industry, armed forces and police.

This extreme example of the very serious failings of growth in GDP as a goal for our planet’s economy  may seem sarcastic, but it’s very real. “Growth” sounds positive, but lift up the bonnet and examine more closely what growth in GDP actually entails and it quickly loses its attraction.

An increasing number of people – though apparently not politicians - are realising the truth that we live on a finite planet, so growth cannot continue for ever, and advocating  as the economic goal for ‘spaceship earth’ the well-being of the creatures on this planet, especially humans. First and foremost this requires the meeting of the biological needs of people on the planet – nutrition and water, shelter and such basics that a large number of our fellow human beings want for.  I think the ‘spaceship earth’ metaphor is a good one. On a spaceship you would look to conserve resources and co-operate to ensure the success of the mission. You would mininimise the amount of work needed to fulfil the mission, especially the work done by people (by use of automation). In our homes we broadly welcome the labour saving brought by technology, yet our politicians cry out for more jobs, meaning , more work to do  except  for the public sector, where they say they want greater efficiency, which pretty much entails fewer jobs.)

The future for our species is the use of science and technology to increase human well-being directly, within the finite resources available. Jobs and growth have nothing to do with this."

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