Economic Growth = A Cow’s Fart….

I think that when I was a ‘Wee Lad‘ science lessons had involved the measuring the amount of methane that shot out of a cow’s arse , I might have taken a lot more notice. But sadly it did not , so I didn’t .

My interest in cattle ( and science) waned completely, apart from avoiding them when walking in fields or peering through a butchers window .My renewed interest, having no connection to Covid, the Environment or Veganism but the Economy.

In a book ‘Get Ahead…in Physics’, the science editor Tom Whipple of the Times described an experiment involving the measurement of methane. Very simply the scientists measured what went in- so to speak and what came out. This included their poo, their urine, the methane and everything else at the bottom of the enclosure including dandruff (bet you didn’t know that). initially they weighed everything that went into the enclosure, including the calf, and the oxygen , and then weighed absolutely everything after the process. Hey presto …. there was no change in the totals. In this case before=52.5kg, after=52.5kg (including dandruff don’t forget). This is the Law of Conservation of Mass, which applies to everything .

This is not the first time I have drawn upon the efforts of our beloved cattle to bisect our economic climate . Last time I used cow’s farts to analyse pricing . Now I am using farting to discuss growth. Growth, I believe is as relevant to the Law of Conservation of Mass, as is Everything.

In the current climate , I get somewhat that economists bleat on about predicting negative growth levels in every economy . You don’t have to be a financial wizard to realise that if a good chunk of any economy is put on ice for at least six weeks, it will account for at least a minimum decline of 6% (working on a very generous assumption it is only 50% of the total economy, and six weeks = 11% of a year). No matter what happens in the following weeks a 6% gap is not going to be made up. So, PC(Post Covid) growth is going to be critical to ensure that all economies at least get back to base and beyond, in order to repair the financial damage. However BC(before Covid) I did not and still do not see how growth can continue ad infinitum.

We are a planet of finite resources . Ever since, well at least, the bronze age mankind began its consumption of the worlds resources. Overtime, technological developments have used additional resources generally with huge benefits for most us . The Malthusian Theory that population growth would outpace that the means of subsistence, has been proved wrong , or at least for the moment. There has to be a limit somewhere. Does, Zero growth world wide = The limit to which we can support the population at that time ?

Technology will continue to have major impacts upon growth. Historically, some of the simplest forms of technology have had the biggest impact on world growth. In the 1950’s the humble container is said to have been one biggest influences on the huge growth that occurred in the three decades post the war. The technology was not especially advanced it was more a simple solution pushing back on traditional labour practices which in many cases held strangle holds on the worlds docks. It is argued by some economists that the influence was greater or equal to the that of the development of the internet . If that is the case it would also be true that the development of containerisation took less resources than the development of the internet as it stands today.

Environmentalists are constantly telling us we have limited resources . It is not an environmental issue . Or rather, it is but that doesn’t win every argument. What we should agree on , is that the redistribution of wealth should one of the considerations when pursing endless growth when at some point it becomes unachievable. This is not an anti-capitalist viewpoint. From my point of view one of the biggest problems with capitalism is that the markets are constantly seeking growth.

I see it that it is no coincidence that during China’s massive growth over the last twenty years, the rest of the first worlds growth has been less dramatic. There is an historical context . Up until the 1500’s the wealth and power was in Asia, then it tipped over to Europe ,now it is going back. There are few periods when there has been anything close to a balanced scenario.

It is not something we should pursuing in the short term, nor the medium term but in the long term we must consider alternatives ways of operating successful economic systems without the relentless pursuit of growth . Simplistic perhaps, realistic I think so .

If our eyes and ears (and noses) are telling us there is too much cow farting going on, we should, perhaps , desist on trying to see who can blow the biggest raspberries.

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