Towards a New Economy and a New Politics

Progressive communities are the key solution to the failing political economy

The prioritization of economic growth and economic values is at the root of the systemic failures and resulting crises America is now experiencing. Today, the reigning policy orientation holds that the path to greater well-being is to grow and expand the economy. Productivity, wages, profits, the stock market, employment, and consumption must all go up. This growth imperative trumps all else. It can undermine families, jobs, communities, the environment, and a sense of place and continuity because it is confidently asserted and widely believed that growth is worth the price that must be paid for it. Growth is measured by tallying GDP at the national level and sales and profits at the company level, and pursuit of GDP and profit is the overwhelming priority of national economic and political life.

But an expanding body of evidence is now telling us to think again. 8-18 Economic growth may be the world's secular religion, but for much of the world it is a god that is failing-underperforming for most of the world's people and, for those in affluent societies, now creating more problems than it is solving. The never-ending drive to grow the overall U.S. economy undermines communities and the environment. It fuels a ruthless international search for energy and other resources; it fails at generating the needed jobs; and it rests on a manufactured consumerism that is not meeting the deepest human needs. Americans are substituting growth and consumption for dealing with the real issues — for doing things that would truly make the country better off. Psychologists have pointed out, for example, that while economic output per person in the United States has risen sharply in recent decades, there has been no increase in life satisfaction, and levels of distrust and depression have increased substantially.