Understanding Growthism

Resistance may be futile, or not



TUCSON (A-P) — Corporations were outlawed by the British in 1720 for good reason. The ban was lifted during the Industrial Revolution to fuel growth. Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1816:

"I hope that we shall take warning from the [English] example and crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country."

Corporations, taking advantage of the turmoil of the Civil War, began to subsume the USA and other nation-states by the mid 19th century.

“I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country..... corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.” — President Abraham Lincoln, Nov. 21, 1864

"Article 23: (1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment." [Working for the SYSTEM is obligatory for consumers to consume what little they need and ever so much more as wants can be manufactured illimitably by the acolytes of Edward Bernay.] UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948

"In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military–industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together." — farewell address of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, January 17, 1961

Despite the soldier turned part-time politician's warning, who couldn't say what he saw until his farewell address, the global hegemon could claim the end of WWII as the end of nation-state empire building and the beginning of their effectively unchallenged global corporate hegemony. Some areas took a bit longer to subsume, but consider the Russian billionaires and the 7+% growth rate of China, who recently used more concrete in three years than the U.S. used in the 20th century. Any question of whose memes subsumed China to enrich Communist Party members?

"If it [the Japanese whaling industry] can exterminate whales in ten years and make a 15% profit, but it could only make 10% with a sustainable harvest, then it will exterminate them in ten years. After that, the money will be moved to exterminating some other resource." — Japanese journalist, 1998 [?]

The conquest of public narratives by political ideology (replacing the dominant religious narratives of earlier centuries), for better or worse, has been by the more virulent and profitable ideology of growth (aka prosperity) for its own sake. The ultimate heresy involves noting the conquest, the exponential growth, and then asking, "And then what?"

To ask is to subvert. The power of the growther system depends on its narratives being believed in [and paying dividend to stockholders]. Once its lack of clothes is noted (when humans are forced to take note), when short-term profits fade, support will pass away. But until then, everyone 'knows' what feels good to believe and doubting verities is disconcerting, so only a few ask and are politely ignored until they "get over it." The media serves best (maximizes viewers) by telling us what we want to hear or at least must end any potentially troubling story on a positive spin. The media, including social, isn't valued just for the milk and cheese and profit it brings.

To understand the corporate entities among us, imagine giant amoeboid creatures blobbing about the planet pursuing only the contingencies of short-term profit for stockholders who elect their CEO. Amoeba are not noted for their intelligence. They blob about intentionally pursuing only the contingencies of eatable: Is this eatable? No, move away. Is this eatable? Yes, then subsume it. Something in the way? Blob around it...

The internal biodynamics of an amoeba is quite complex, sophisticated, implying a high level of evolved intracellular intelligence, but in the world they just blob about engulfing what is eatable. Corporations are the same. The humans within the corporate body may be very clever apes, but basically the body corporate only responds to the opportunities of profit and avoidance of interference. Blaming corporations or getting angry with them gives them too much credit. They are inhuman. They are as predictable as amoeba. They will blob about the planet until all the energy and resources are used up. That there will be no tolerable planet to live on means nothing to amoeboid entities lacking foresight intelligence as only the short-term contingencies of profit for stockholders matter.

Not listening to Lincoln, Eisenhower, others, or to one's own still small voice was a mistake and still is. Humans need to correct the mistake and sooner will be better. As H.G. Wells noted, it comes down to a "race between education and catastrophe." Those attempting to educate are marginalized and if they become prominent, media fast guns for hire will hammer them down as they have hammers and anyone who sticks up looks like a nail.


To know thy enemy, consider this offering from John Oliver's comedy tonight. The last journalists to retain a toehold on critical thinking within the media are comics, valued for their entertainment value and ratings. Those paying attention may note a bit of subversive truth within the Colbert, Stewart, and Oliver style comedy. But comics, for some reason, aren't being taken seriously. If they were ever to actually interfere with, much less threaten, business as usual, they'll be hammered down.

If you think the tobacco multinationals are in any way different in their business as usual modus operandi from all other corporations, then you haven't been paying attention as the years go by. Perhaps a new world order won't be so bad.

Imagine Phillip Morris had been informed by its own scientists that there was some evidence smoking could be harmful. Executives, certain that smoking was mostly healthful, wanted to know if smoking could somehow cause some harm, however small, which they could avert by developing a completely healthy cigarette. If science were to find evidence that cigarettes posed some risk, they wanted to be the first  to market a fully safe and proven healthy product and profit immensely. They believed in their product and in their science. They put together a brain trust of the best scientists money could buy to research tobacco safety. They even allowed their scientists to publish early studies that showed tobacco use involved serious health risks. But when their scientists merely confirmed the growing consensus within the scientific community that smoking cigarettes had no health benefits, Phillip Morris cease to fund their research, hired "better" scientists to inform the public of the truth, and were reduced to hiring people with "MD" after their name to do TV ads asserting that they smoked Phillip Morris cigarettes and urged their patients to as well.

Phillip Morris, like other corporations, never actually wasted money going real science that wouldn't help them make more money. One corporation, however, did. In the late 1970's Exxon's scientists told them about global warming. They funded research, allowed early findings to be published, then defunded their brain trust and became leaders in climate denialism.   

So, shall it be business as usual? Seven billion growthers can't be wrong, right? Oh, and don't forget to ask, "And then what?"


For your Consideration

  • Of the 100 largest economies in the world, sub-systems of the global economy, 53 are corporations.
  • Worldwide economic output increased from $6.4 trillion in 1950 to $72.4 trillion in 2012.
  • The entire economic output of the Euro-Sino Empire, plus all prior empires in human history, up to 1950, which took about 10k years, is now doubling every couple of years (for a time).
  • With the raise of agriculture, some humans came to consume up to 10 times more than others.
  • With the emergence of the global capitalist fossil-fueled industrial society, some humans came to consume up to 10,000 times more.
  • Within the United States the top 20 percent own 93 percent of the non-home property in the country.
  • In the USA the top 1 percent own 43 percent of the non-home wealth.
  • As the twentieth century began, the richest countries on the planet were only about ten times wealthier than the poorest.
  • With the exponential growth of the corporate economy, at the beginning of twenty-first century they were seventy one times wealthier than the poorest.
  • In 2017, the richest eight men in the world own as much as the entire bottom half of the world's population [7,500,000,000/2 = 3,750,000,000 which divide by 8 = 468,750,000 times more per billionaire than the average few dollar-a-dayer].
  • The hyper wealthy OECD [Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development] countries represent less than 20 percent of the world's population and unsustainably consume 86 percent of the world's goods and services.
  • The poorest 20 percent of countries consume 1.3 percent of the world's goods and services and when the 'transition' comes, will, compared to the richest, barely notice.
  • The rich, those who use washing machines or pay someone else to wash their clothes, will dramatically decrease per capita consumption as well as population (if not as dramatically).
  • Each day humans living within the global industrial society consume fossil fuels that took 14,000 years to form during the Carboniferous Period about 400,000,000 years ago.
  • One day's usage of [slowly] renewable fossil fuel required over 5,000,000 days to form.
  • One barrel of oil contains as much energy as a very fit human slave (young male) could produce doing heavy manual labor, if urged on by whip and chain, in a decade.
  • It would take one very fit energy slave peddling hard on a stationary cycle to generate enough energy to light a 100W light bulb for a few hours.
  • An average America who may take 5,000 steps a day, walking 1.9 miles/24-hours, consumes about 24 barrels of oil a year, or 240 man-years of hard labor.
  • The average sedentary American who suffers from activity intolerance secondary to the manufactured 'need' to use labor [movement] saving devices. 'require' 200 energy slaves to sustain their consumer life-style.
  • Humans on planet Earth, most of whom consume 22 times less than Americans, use in the form of oil alone 66,000,000,000 energy slaves, or 8.8 greasy energy slaves per person..
  • For all humans to live like Americans, 1.5 trillion energy slaves would be required meaning they use over 22 times more oil than the average human.
  • Human population growth currently adds the equivalent of one major city of over one million people every five days. Unnoticeably, all cities get a little bigger every five days.
  • To meet the global unremitting demand for growth, the world economy needs to quadruple by 2050.
  • Of all the energy required to support life on earth (net primary productivity), humans are now consuming 40 percent meaning all other life put together gets the short end of the stick.
  • Humans use over half of freshwater resources and use 43 percent of the planet's land surface for agriculture, suburbs, cities, and industrial parkland. Some of Naure is 'preserved' for recreational use.
  • Human appropriation of Earth's net primary productivity will have to double or triple (80 to 120 percent of current consumption) by 2050 to sustain business-as-usual, but we can't consume more than 100 percent of the planet
  • There is no Planet B, so 2050 plus or minus a decade or two, and then what?
  • Dammed, two-thirds of Earth's rivers at times each year, including the Colorado, Yellow, Yangtze, Ganges, Nile — no longer reach the sea.
  • By mid-century, three-quarters of humans could face fresh water scarcity not to mention other scrcities.
  • Scarcity increases conflict which wastes energy which increases scarcity....
  • Current rate of deforestation is roughly one acre a second.
  • In the USA, soil is eroding about ten times faster than it is being formed, seven-teen times faster in Europe, and fifty-seven times faster in China.


"A given amount of health-impairing pollution should be done in the country with the lowest cost, which will be the country with the lowest wages. I think the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest-wage country is impeccable." — Lyra Summers, chief economist, secretary of state in Clinton administration, leaked memo 1992.

"Hundreds of millions [are] displaced from the lands upon which they once made a modest living, to make way for dams, agricultural estates, forestry plantations, resorts, golf courses, and myriad other development projects.... The displaced, lacking other options, move onto marginal, environmentally unstable lands to eke out a living as best they can — often at great human and environmental cost. Others move into squalid urban squatter settlements, pushing wages down and rents up. Once-lush hillsides are stripped bare of trees. Coral reefs once vibrant with life become underwater wastelands. The air is thick with pollutants. Cultures grounded in strong spiritual, family, and community values give way to materialism and violence." — David Korten, international development economist, from When Corporations Rule the World.

And, yes, the above describes a "massive resource transfer from the poor to the rich" or rather from consumers to hyper-consumers. Similar uncounted narratives have been and continue to be repeated innumerable times in the developing countries as they were told in the developed countries....and then what?

Above mostly from The Patterning Instinct, p. 381-389, — Jermey Lent, 2017


Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect. —Mark Twain

Corporations have been enthroned. — Abraham Lincoln

It is change, continuing change, inevitable change, that is the dominant factor in society today. No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be. — Isaac Asimov

Democracy no longer means what it was meant to. It has been taken back into the workshop. Each of its institutions has been hollowed out, and it has been returned to us as a vehicle for the free market, of the corporations, for the corporations, by the corporations.... Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing. —Arundhati Roy

All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident. — Arthur Schopenhauer. That there are limits to growth is still in the first stage. By the time this is self-evident, people will likely be eating each other.


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