Provocation 239. De-growth.
If economics were acting more as a science it would take on the difficult problems. As it is most economic research tries to add baby steps on top of some existing research. I have just read all the abstracts of the papers to be given at the AEA in San Diego. What struck me was the attractiveness of session titles but the failure of most included papers to follow through. One difficult topic for the future is narratives about de-growth. (models would be hard because so many variables at play at the same time. The paper by Peter Dorman is quite good). It seems that discussing de-growth is taboo, or maybe just bad for your career , but Skidelski writes in Project Syndicate last Friday,
The deeply economistic nature of the current debate excludes the possibility of a life beyond work. Yet if we want to meet the challenges of the future, it is not enough to know how to code, analyze data, and invent algorithms. We need to start thinking seriously and at a systemic level about the operational logic of consumer capitalism and the possibility of de-growth.
In this process, we must abandon the false dichotomy between “jobs” and “idleness.” Full employment need not mean full-time employment, and leisure time need not be spent idly. (Education can play an important role in ensuring that it is not.) Above all, wealth and income will need to be distributed in such a way that machine-enabled productivity gains do not accrue disproportionately to a small minority of owners, managers, and technicians.
Of course he is building in Keynes, and so interesting. It contains a hint toward a better future. Graeber took on debt and Piketty inequality. Big issues can be taken on and still make a career, but it takes scope and depth and awareness of false assumptions..