Economic growth has been the holy grail of politicians for decades and the hook upon which many a policy proposal is hung. Often conflated with notions of prosperity and wealth, rising GDP is generally presented as the silver bullet to ease all ills. As political parties recognise the climate emergency, are they also recognising the need to rethink the growth mantra?

Many individuals are developing alternatives to the resource hungry, internally inconsistent metric that we use today and the implications on wider society are profound and exciting. Even the FT recently featured a piece, ‘The Myth of Green Growth‘, by one of their own columnists, Simon Kuper. His conclusion was that even though green growth was clearly a myth, voters would never vote to address climate change if it meant reduced growth. The implications of this are clearly not exactly reassuring.

So have the political parties taken Kuper’s advice and kept such an unpleasant truth well hidden from voters’ eyes? Join us as we explore the manifestos of the biggest challengers in the race for No.10 to see how far they are willing to address this question…

Labour: Despite the rhetoric from prominent media outlets describing this manifesto as one of the most radical in years, sadly we don’t find much in here to challenge the status quo on growth. Laying the spectre of low growth and weak productivity at the doorstep of the Tories implies the love affair with GDP continues. Equally, the return to Keynesian form and an investment heavy Green New Deal don’t speak much to a desire for re-evaluating the core fundamentals of our economy.

Conservatives: The words ‘unleash Britain’s potential’ and ‘the economy continues to grow’ in the same paragraph won’t offer much solace to those following in the footsteps of Georgescu-Roegen. Though the irony of reaching out to those left behind by ‘decades of growth’ won’t be lost on them. Green growth advocates will be pleased to see reference to the environment in the context of economic growth though…….

Lib Dems: From the beginning Wellbeing is put front and centre which is really good to see. A broad range of metrics as well as the fiscal and economic to inform decision making and wellbeing impact assessments for all policies is a very welcome. Keep reading though and the dream snaps back to a growing reality as the benefits of remaining in the EU are focused on a ‘Brexit Bonus’ to economic growth.

Greens: Finally, an explicit rejection of growth as a barometer for prosperity. Nestled in with details of the expansive Green New Deal (presumably the original) economic growth is cast away as sole measure of wellbeing and replaced with a commitment to broaden our range of metrics. Improvement in health, reduction of inequality and the restoration and protection of the natural environment all feature as replacements here. No explicit mention of steady state economies or  degrowth as an end goal yet but this seems to be the most likely home for their adoption.

Brexit Party: As skinny a document as this is we do get reference to the environment here in the form of a commitment to plant millions of trees………..We also get mention of the economy, though in a predictable context. Brexit will turbo charge the economy. Brexit can shape its future. Brexit will provide it with a dividend etc. An attempt at broadening their platform sure, though clearly a one issue dossier.

So if you think these are the issues that really matter, join our event next Tuesday at 7pm in central London with Nick Meynen, an environmental activist with the European Environmental Bureau, and Nicky Chambers,  a consultant seeking to create green growth. 

Find out more about the event and sign up here.

Henry Leveson-Gower

Henry is the founder and CEO of Promoting Economic Pluralism as well as editor of The Mint Magazine. He has been a practising economist contributing to environmental policy for 25 …

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2 Comments on “Manifesto Analysis: Has Any Party gone “Post-Growth”?”

  1. I very much doubt if there is such a thing as “economic democracy”, so your banner headline does not find much empathy in my mind. Surely a true democracy must give everybody a chance to express their support for every governmental policy decision and that means a continuous series of referenda. If this could be organized to eliminate unthinking votes and weighed according to some academic or wisdom based criterion, then it might provide a more sane way of government.

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