Umair Haque, writing for the Harvard Business Review :

“So what is this system that is faltering, precisely, if it’s not quite capitalism?

I’d call it “growthism.” It’s not just a system or a set of institutions. It’s a mindset; an ideology; a set of cherished beliefs. And one that’s hardened into dogma. A dogma which is palpably failing; but can’t be dislodged—because it’s become an article of faith, the central belief of a cult, whose priests and acolytes threaten mysterious, terrible, divine revenge whenever their authority is questioned.

Growthism says: growth must be achieved at all costs. When growth is achieved; societies are said to be successful; when it is not, they are said to be failing.”

Haque has been hit on the head and is seeing double here: “Growthism” and “Capitalism” are not two different things. Growthism inhered in capitalism from the very beginning. You only have to review its effect on the social fabric of England in the 1800s and Chesterton’s warnings about capitalism’s inevitable outcomes to know this.

He’s right about the problems we’re facing in the American system, but he’s pretty nearsighted, not to mention historically ignorant, if he imagines there was ever a capitalism which didn’t sacrifice everything for profit.

You’ve hit it on the head, even if Haque had been hit on the head too.

The best discussion of this I’ve ever read, by far, is in Garrett Hardin’s Filters Against Folly, but Hardin was nuts too, right?

I can’t quote from the book, but here is a favourable review.

Jeremy Cherfas ·

Add Henry Blodget of Business Insider to the list of people who imagine that short-sighted growth-maximization is somehow a brand-new perversion of capitalism rather than inherent in it.

“…over the past three decades, what began as a healthy and necessary effort to make our companies more efficient has evolved into a warped consensus that the only purpose of a corporation is to ‘maximize earnings.’

“This view…is a short-sighted and destructive view of capitalism, an economic system that sustains not just this country but most countries in the world.”

“Sorry, But There's No ‘Law Of Capitalism’ That You Have To Pay Employees As Little As Possible”
(Business Insider, March 29, 2014)

Blodget complains that corporations are being selfish when they pay the lowest possible wage for a given skill set, and that they are therefore somehow bad capitalists. Unfortunately for his argument, the many sad outcomes he observes in the labor market are exactly those prescribed by capitalism, which says that the fair price is what the market is willing to pay, period.

Joel (Author) ·