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Dave Lindorff
Published: Thursday 17 January 2013
We Americans have completely lost any sense of why a country, a society, and a government exist.

Growth is the Enemy of Humankind

Article image

What is wrong with America?

Big question.

Simple answer.

We Americans have completely lost any sense of why a country, a society, and a government exist.

Politicians, lobbyists and corporate media talking heads, and far too many ordinary people, have accepted and are promoting as gospel the circular notion that it’s important to encourage business to grow so that people will be hired and the economy can grow. This specious argument is used to justify the weakening labor unions, the raising of taxes on workers while they are cut for companies and the rich, the cutting of earned benefit programs like Social Security and Medicare, the gutting worker safety and environmental safety regulations, and the elimination of regulation of activities like banking, corporate mergers and takeovers, pharmaceutical companies etc. In fact every government action that results in making life harder or more dangerous for ordinary working people or for the poor is defended on the basis that it is necessary so that business can make more profit and help the economy to grow.

Growing the economy, however, is not, or certainly should not, be the reason we have government, the reason we are a country, or the reason we are a society.

The Declaration of Independence had it right when, in its inspiring preamble, it aroused a nation of rebels by espousing the inalienable rights of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Period.

And growth today poses a direct threat to all three of those stated goals.

Growth in all its aspects -- economic growth, growth in profits, growth in sales, growth of population, growth in income - is a threat to life. It has become clear that the imperative of ever more growth, the ethos and driving force of modern corporate capitalism, is leading to the destruction of the very biosphere that sustains life on this planet. It is a threat to liberty, too, because one country’s growth -- America’s -- requires the constant assault on those weaker countries that threaten us. The globe is a finite place, and at this point, with seven billion people crowded upon it, for one group -- that is to say 313 million Americans -- to prosper and grow, requires that 6.7 billion others give up something. In other words, for America to grow, it must be in a constant state of imperial domination and war, which also means a state of war at home, with all the concomitant restrictions on freedom, not to mention expropriation of revenue from the public (53 cents out of every tax dollar), that such a state inevitably entails.

For decades or longer even, there has been a carefully maintained American myth that the growth of global capitalism in general and of this country’s capitalist system in particular has been only beneficial to mankind, really with no downside. But that myth has been a lie. Capitalism in Europe grew at the expense of the colonies in Africa, Asia and Latin America that were exploited for their virtually free stolen resources and their cheap labor, as well as their captive markets. In the US, expansion into and theft of the Indian Territories and their resources as well as the free labor of a vast slave population until 1865 and continued exploitation of black and Latino workers since then allowed for dramatic economic growth, a small portion of which was shared with white workers for a time when they grew restive during the middle of the 20th century.

But because it is no longer possible for American capitalism to grow simply by exploiting other nations, while buying the passivity and acquiescence of the American masses at home by minimally allowing them to have some small part of the gains (the old trickle-down idea), economic growth now inevitably requires the impoverishment and progressive disempowerment of most Americans. Vastly more powerful corporate interests, having implanted the ideology of “growth is good,” are now demanding that we accept lower wages, less freedom and empowerment on the job, less safety, more environmental degradation, less health care, less quality education, less security in our old age. Our ability to pursue happiness, in other words, has also fallen victim to the unbridled pursuit of growth.

This is of course absurd. For tens of thousands of years human beings lived, built families, laughed, loved, created music and dance and art and found happiness in their lives. They did this with no growth, or at least with growth so slow that no one would have noticed it happening. It is only in the last perhaps few hundred years that growth has become an all-encompassing obsession of the rich and powerful -- to be had at any cost. And happiness, liberty, and in the end life, are all being lost in that mad pursuit of ever more profit and wealth. In many countries these three values simply don’t exist. In the US we still have life, a little liberty, and some shot at happiness, but it’s all under grave threat.

Now the ideologues of growth will argue that mankind is much better of thanks to all that growth, but the truth is that of the world’s seven billion people, some two billion currently live in brutal, abject poverty. As Clive Hamilton, author of the book Requiem for a Species: Why We Resist the Truth about Climate Changerecently told journalist Chris Hedges, that number of immiserated people is greater than the entire population of the earth in 1900.

Some progress!

It’s hard to believe that hordes of Americans were mindlessly chanting “drill baby drill!” even as the oil from the leaking BP rig in the Gulf of Mexico was spewing into that vital body of water, that millions just voted for members of Congress who are committed to undermining Social Security and destroying it as a guarantor of a basic survival level of income for hundreds of millions of retirees, that Americans overwhelmingly voted for the re-election of a president who has for four years refused to do anything meaningful to stop the rampant production and release into the atmosphere of ever greater amounts of carbon dioxide, even to the point of pushing for more production of oil and expanded use of coal as a fuel. And yet sadly, most Americans have swallowed the propaganda that growth is a unquestionable good in and of itself, and that they must be willing to sacrifice their rights, their health and safety and their future security, not to mention in many cases their young sons and daughters, in pursuit of it.

This assault on these three crucial rights must be stopped. We Americans must wake up to the reality that growth in a finite world, far from being a good thing, inevitably means less life and liberty, and a very reduced opportunity to pursue happiness.

ABOUT Dave Lindorff

Dave Lindorff is an investigative reporter, a columnist for CounterPunch, and a contributor to Businessweek, The Nation, Extra! and He received a Project Censored award in 2004. Dave is also a founding member of the online newspaper ThisCantBeHappening! at

Wonderful food for thought!

Wonderful food for thought! Thank you. Because I do depend on a small Social Security "paid-for retirement benefit" (thank you for not calling SS an entitlement), simpler lifestyle is necessary...and a surprising blessing. There is no price for friendship, the arts and literacy, nature, learning and volunteering. We can mostly take care of our health and find creative solutions for housing. I would love to take a grand cruise to the Mediterranean or Alaska, but there are adventures one can enjoy closer to home. More is wonderful if you know the answer to "more of what?" No longer always wishing for something else to magically enhance my life, I find serenity a blessing. Today's materialism is a Faustian bargain. Something we must all think about and decide for ourselves is what we really need for happiness.

Participation in the growth

Participation in the growth model (i.e., gotta have it) locks one into slavery, or more exactly, the tenant farmer's company store.

It’s so refreshing to hear a

It’s so refreshing to hear a progressive speak realistically about the dangers of population growth, both here and internationally. The mainstream worship of growth goes so far that growth of the U.S. population is considered by many to be necessary for a better future. This in spite of the fact that the U.S., alone among the developed countries of the world, has grown by 24% in the past two decades, adding sixty million people and completely outpacing even the legendary baby boom. Meanwhile, fossil fuels are becoming increasingly pricey and the resulting greenhouse gases increasingly problematic. People don’t realize this is happening, however, because the mainstream media focuses on the lower fertility rates, which reflect just one component of our population growth and can easily coexist with a population that still grows rapidly, as ours does, thanks to unprecedented levels of both legal and illegal immigration. The increases in legal immigration were not brought about by random events, by the way, they were implemented by the business lobby when they “reformed” immigraiton policy in 1990. Our populaiotn has been growing unsustainably ever since.
The Census Bureau has participated willingly in this obfuscation in our growth, as illustrated by this short video. Although serious demographers and the UN consider the U.S. to be an “outlier” for its continued rapid growth, the Census Bureau used selective analysis and revised the graphical elements in releasing the 2010 Census results in ways that effectively obscure the fastest growth in the history of the developed world. Don’t be fooled into thinking that discussing percentage rate of growth, while ignoring absolute numerical growth, accurately reflects the impacts. The numerical growth is far more significant in regards to our current problems of unemployement and wage stagnation, infrastructure overloads and our nation’s increasingly obscene output of greenhouse gases. You wouldn’t appreciate that from listening to the Census Director, however, because he completely ignored absolute numerical growth and instead focused exclusively on the misleading analysis built on percentage rates.
Three additiional videos address Carrying Capacity, Obfuscation about Immigration, and the Impact of all this growth on America’s young adult generation.

Video Two: Carrying Capacity

Video Three: Census Obfuscation on the impact of Immigration
Video Four: A Tale of Two Booms

This unlimited growth

This unlimited growth primarily benefit the few corporate elite. The obsurd thing about it is that the corporate elite denounce, ignore, and play down all other opinions opposed to this view of growth for profit sake.

Corporate media outlets from CSPAN, CNN, MSNBC, NPR, FOX, may criticize certain aspects of the government but never will you hear any criticism of the particulars of capitalism. Capitialism and Israel are sacrocant issues that you don't touch.

There are enough resources to take care of everyone one this planet very easily. But the worldwide capitalist system requires you to have western oriented greenbacks for you to have a house, food, and the ability to be mobile.

Institutions like the federal reserve, world bank, and IMF have very screwdly coerced the thinking of the world to think you need money for everything. This thinking allows these same institutions to pick winners by printing fiet currency backed by nothing and making sure those who get this currency serves the interest of worldwide capitialism.

We need to dump the Federal reserve, world bank, IMF and create a system of exchange based on humanity fairness, and sharing. The current system is based on greed that empowers a few reptilians to rule us by putting corporate elite, politicians, and corporate media shills to rule and manipulate us.

For a more detailed account

For a more detailed account of the end of growth and how what they call growth these days are just economic bubbles that just work for the 1%, check out the material on 38 Studios at

jackwenayscott's picture

Good article, I read it

Good article, I read it carefully with interest. Notable is that most Americans are FOOLED! Yes, some of us on the left are beginning to obtain the fact that even Repugnantcon congressmen are answerable to million of fooled voters. And as I prance my particular theories around, especially to local, ordinary citizens here where I live, I notice that these ordinary citizens are badly fooled on many topics. Notice I say "we" of the left, myself a primitivist, I believe in much more equality and well-being for all. The opposition to this form of leftism is "Libertarianism" which preaches a dog-eat-dog world in which there is social Darwinistic PUNISHMENT for not achieving. This punishment is supposed to then be the motive to work harder, produce more, and toe the LINE more carefully. Quasigmatically this is just the topic here, and helps explain more how "growth" makes a class of poor people exist!

It's obvious, self-evident:

It's obvious, self-evident: GDP growth and per cap income indexes don't measure life, liberty and happiness. Or welfare. Or well-being. Or bemvivir in Portuguese, bienvivir in Spanish, and so on. This inequality of incomes and wealth is absurd. Outrageous. It cannot be justified at local, national or international levels. The existence of billionaires is a complete nonsense. Who needs billions and why? To accumulate power and outrageous privileges. We need systemic, structural change. We need new values. A new civilization. We need to share. We need a system that does not destroy Nature and the Planet. We need a Green Economy. We need to stop fracking. We need to stop to poison the water and air. The world is the only home we have. Wake up People of America! and take your destiny in your hands. Refuse the devastation, the chaos, that will be irreversible soon if nothing is done to stop it. STOP IT before it is too late.

Humanity has not evolved into

Humanity has not evolved into efficient organizations that share decision-making broadly. We've always had a few decision makers, be they Kings, Pharaohs, Presidents, Prime Ministers or Popes, and the small body of legislators or senators, or whatever who work with them. While some organizations have formed around benevolent altruists, over time the greediest, most corruptible people have seen these positions as opportunities.

From there out, it's all been about the greatest accumulation of wealth for the fewest, so the rest of us can build their pyramids or cathedrals or monuments to prove how great they were before they died, so we'll remember them, sort of. Not that we remember all that much about them.

Government should be the organization that takes care of its people, hence the Constitution's "Of, for, and by The People". Wealth happens more to some than for others, and the direct benefit of wealth SHOULD be ENOUGH, but somehow it never is, so the advantaged want to enhance the disadvantages of poverty. They want to stop Social Security (or at least profit from it), and they want the poor to pay their taxes for them. Their greed has a meanness to it.

If they were less successful, we'd call them psychopaths, citing their lack of empathy and their fixation on harming others. But their wealth shields them from effective critique. Money is power, and they forget that they got that money and that power from all those people they now seek to punish and leave stranded. Taking from others is how they got wealthy in the first place.

They studied the rules, they bent the rules and then they made the rules, all to give them more and the rest of us less, and we let them do it because it's too much trouble for us to stop them. Historically, when they've gotten too abusive, the rest revolt. Heads roll. There's a new order.

But the new order once again has a few people organizing everyone else to get things done, and those few gather the most wealth, study the rules, bend the rules, and make the rules until they become the abusers that prompt the next revolution.

It's a variation on the Buddhist Wheel of Suffering. We have not evolved to a collective intelligence necessary to create a genuinely new kind of organization of, for, and by The People. America claims democracy the way the USSR claimed socialism, while neither one has worked all that hard at taking care of its people, which should be the core concept for either democracy or socialism.

Business has no more righteous claim to government than religion does. The entire separation of powers concept was invented to combat concentration of power, which is what we get when the same people buy all the media, own The Press, lobby politicians until they own both the Executive and the Legislative branch, and through them choose those who populate the Judiciary. When they are all beholden to the same wealthy few, there is no separation of power in the US.

There's money enough to be had. We need less greed in our collective decisions.

Cost-Benefit Analysis is used

Cost-Benefit Analysis is used to justify some of the most despicable, contemptuous corporate behavior because the criteria used in the process are all stacked in favor of the GREEDmongers so there is NO benefit in bridling GREED and Selfishness to improve workplace safety, environmental protection, workers' rights, etc.

Only for the cancer cell is

Only for the cancer cell is malignat growth good. America is dying a suffering death from the disease known as Wall st.

@ANONO It's not Wall St. Wall


It's not Wall St. Wall St is a symptom of capitalism. I'm not saying we should get rid of capitalism, but propose that all things necessary for humans to live in safety and without concern for raw survival be nationalized. This includes water, power, shelter, and food.

My second proposal is that any economic system must create an environment whereby the well-being of all humans are taken as the ultimate goal of that economic system. If an economic system produces human suffering without any intrinsic manner to absolve it, then that economic system is a failure.

My third proposal is that we act rationally, meaning that we do what is in the beset interest of the entire human population. This means, among many other things controversial, identifying serverely handicapped fetuses and aborting them. Hard caps on population. And hard caps on wealth building, perhaps a 10-1 ratio between the richest and the poorest. The last proposal forces all people to work together for everyone's benefit in order to increase the well being of the individual along with the community.

The result is a world that has so much resources for its inhabitants that a life of liberty and happiness is not only possible, but forms the new worldview of a truly great society.

The new worldview is something like, "How can I make human existence always better, more able to exercise its abilities, whatever they are, and give all people a sense of worth and belonging by developing whatever skills, talents, or genius they have.

Conversely, today the worldview goes something like this:

(1) If you ain't in financial, you ain't shit.
(2) Power is the only real measure of human success.
(3) Domination is not only preferred, it's the only way to live.
(4) Life is easy: We have followers and dominators, and if you can't fight your way to a dominate position, then get your ass in line and follow, do what you're told, and stop trying to think about things.
(5) If you don't like the way things are, fuck you. Kill yourself. Because the way it is is the way it ought to be.

DWDALLAM: Bravo! I much


Bravo! I much enjoyed your comments! But you know, of course, that critics will label you a Socialist or a Communist or even an "America-hater" or Utopian.

Did the gospel of Endless Growth get spawned from a misreading of Evolution? Buy, buy, buy, but no matter how much you buy, you're never satisfied, so go to the mall again (but watch out for the loonies with assault rifles) and temporarily satisfy your hunger for more STUFF that you can store in a rented storage shed somewhere.

Meanwhile, the ultra-rich sit on their riches or fly in private jets to spas and casinos and marvel at the sheep-like stupidity of consumers back home. Ah, they sigh, so glad to be among the FITTEST, after all!

Someone PLEASE explain that

Someone PLEASE explain that FACT to the Dark Ages Scientifically ignorant VATICAN!

The Vatican has one

The Vatican has one over-arching agenda - to populate the earth with as many subservient, obedient Catholics to keep them insanely wealthy and relevant.

The Church (which I left long

The Church (which I left long ago) has no valid reason for opposing contraception. Given their belief about souls in fetuses, it makes sense for them to oppose abortion, but by the same token, they should widely promote contraception.

But they claim it's wrong because it defeats God's will and is artificial.
Yet if the Pope needs open-heart surgery, you can bet he'll get it. And he wears clothing when he was born naked, and he can fly around the globe, though he has no wings, and he can travel on highways at 70 mph though he was born without wheels...yet they find condoms "artificial"? So, yeah, artificial death control is good, but artificial birth control is bad, bad enough to make you burn in hell forever. Yet few American Catholics listen to the Pope about contraception. He doesn't play the game, so why should he make the rules?

The problem, at it's

The problem, at it's political core, is the presence of money in the political system. The rich have become used to access to political power. The last time we had a president who stood up to the monied, powerful corporately-based private interests was a guy named John Fitzgerald Kennedy. He, himself, was very rich. But he knew that unfettered, government-supported (through the tax code and regulation-lapse, wealth would ultimately lead to the destruction of
the moral fabric of the nation. I invite anyone and everyone to see youtube "Executive Action," to see the interplay and abject despotism of
extreme wealth and the wealthy who actually do "call the shots" in America.

It is an eye-opener, considering that it was a full length blockbuster movie
produced in 1970-71. What was speculated about back then was later completely
proven by the documented facts that came out in Watergate (and a few hidden facts that came out in the movie, JFK by Oliver Stone in the early 1990s) and at more recently). That event was the seachange that led to corporate dominance in Congress. It existed back then, but at least presidents had decided to try to stand up to it's selfish influence.

No question about it, growth

No question about it, growth is a double-edged sword. It cuts both ways, but we rarely talk about the dark side. The same is true of "development". Virtually anything and everything can be justified in the name of economic development. Remember when the idea of "underdeveloped countries" in the so-called THIRD WORLD was part of the gospel of growth. Today what we're seeing in the FIRST WORLD is the result of unbridled capitalism which has now metastasized into the global economy. Think of it as a disease process, a kind of economic and technological overdevelopment that is polluting the air we breath, the water we drink, the food we eat, and the minds of people who think "growth" is always a good thing. But who talks about the costs of growth and development? Certainly nobody who's anybody in the Washington-Wall Street plutocracy or, for that matter, in the mainstream media. Fortunately, the Internet is the one means of mass communication the US corporate-state Leviathan has not found a way to bring under its control. Yet.

Lucid elegy for a dead dream;

Lucid elegy for a dead dream; & when the dream dies, so does the Nation.

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