EDITOR’S COMMENT: WE DON’T NEED AN ECONOMIC PLAN THAT PRIORITISES THE PLANET. THE UK ECONOMY HAS CONTRACTED AT A RECORD RATE AND MILLIONS OF PEOPLE RISK LOSING THEIR JOBS AND LIVELIHOODS. THE GOVERNMENT MUST PEOPLE PEOPLE FIRST.
The idea that the economy needs a ‘great reset’ in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis has gripped the elites across the Western world. Its basic premise is simple: policymakers should promote a recovery from the pandemic that helps to create a greener and cleaner world. In this scenario, as Boris Johnson argued in an article in the Financial Times, ‘green and growth go hand in hand’.
Although the terminology varies, the ideas are similar across the developed economies. Both the British prime minister and US president-elect Joe Biden talk of the need to ‘build back better’. The World Economic Forum – an international club for technocrats and the super rich – is promoting the term ‘great reset’. Prince Charles is probably its best-known advocate in Britain. The European Union talks of the ‘European Green Deal’, with the goal of making Europe ‘the first climate-neutral continent’.
On the face of it, as long as difficult questions are avoided, the premise seems eminently sensible. If the economy is going to recover, why not try to make it greener and cleaner? Surely a dirty recovery would be a bad idea? And job creation, a central part of many green recovery plans, also seems reasonable, too. This is particularly the case when unemployment looks certain to surge even further as job-retention schemes are cut back.
Before probing the idea of ‘reset’ further, it is important to make one thing clear. Mainstream advocates of a great reset are not supporters of degrowth. Where degrowth supporters explicitly call for a reduction in production and consumption, that is not the position of the likes of Biden or Johnson. On the contrary, in their own minds at least, mainstream politicians want to promote a more prosperous economy.
Of course, degrowth is a dangerous and growing trend which should be robustly challenged whenever it appears. It would inevitably take the world backwards in relation to poverty and immiseration. However bad such problems are right now – and they clearly remain widespread on a global scale – they would become far worse if we pursued degrowth.