The economy is sometimes referred to as an entity outside of human control – it isn’t. We control the economy through policies and practices in each nation. The last half century focussed on growing the economy at the expense of all else from social care to the environment. We’ve seen massive growth in inequality alongside easier access to consumer growth. Given the state of the planet we know this won’t work for much longer. Accordingly, it’s time to rethink what we do to support economic growth and what kind of world we want to live in.
Meanwhile we could begin to boost quality of life simply by tracking it more explicitly: instead of focusing government policy on boosting GDP (the total dollar value of all goods and services produced domestically), why not aim to increase Gross National Happiness — as measured by a selected group of social indicators?
These are ways to make economic shrinkage palatable; but how would policymakers actually go about putting the brakes on growth?
One tactic would be to implement a shorter workweek. If people are working less, the economy will slow down — and meanwhile, everyone will have more time for family, rest, and cultural activities.
We could also de-financialize the economy, discouraging wasteful speculation with a financial transaction tax and a 100 percent reserve requirement for banks.