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Things get heated as wellbeing professor and inflation targeting architect Arthur Grimes and Doughnut Economics author Kate Raworth debate whether growth is good

Things get heated as wellbeing professor and inflation targeting architect Arthur Grimes and Doughnut Economics author Kate Raworth debate whether growth is good

Two of the world's most renowned economists are clashing heads over whether growth is good. 

Arthur Grimes - a Victoria University professor, senior fellow at Motu Economic and Public Policy Research Trust and a principal architect of inflation targeting, is challenging the rationale of Kate Raworth - the author of the popular Doughnut Economics book, who is a senior visiting research associate at Oxford University.

Raworth is an advocate of measuring the performance of an economy by the extent to which the needs of people are met without overshooting the earth's ecological ceiling. She believes economic growth isn't necessarily good.

Grimes is keen on using wellbeing measures in addition to GDP to measure the success of an economy but believes growth is good as it's a product of innovation. 

He argues Raworth has simply illustrated old thinking with a new "doughnut" diagram.

The two heavyweights battled it out on this week's episode of Two Cents' Worth - an RNZ/Newsroom podcast, which's Jenée Tibshraeny is involved with.

The episode is a follow-up to this Two Cents' Worth feature Newsroom's Nikki Mandow did in July, which resulted in Raworth challenging Grimes to an on-air debate.

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Before anyone mentions that the end is nigh, I just want to say that every energy source we have is powered by thermonuclear fusion in the sun. There, now get over it.

Ah, no. You shut down that discussion before it got finished.

Solar energy is indeed what we will end up with, all else being finite. But a lot of what lands on the planet, has to be allowed out (as low grade heat) and if not enough is alllowed out, the water boils and you can klss goodbye to life.

Within those bounds (balanced in/out) there is a lot of other biota, some ocean currents, rain, etc, all requiring their share. We are already commandeering much of what was 'their' share, having gosplaced much of the pre-human animal cohort with ourselves and our farmed animals.

"Within those bounds (balanced in/out) there is a lot of other biota, some ocean currents, rain, etc, all requiring their share. We are already commandeering much of what was 'their' share, having gosplaced much of the pre-human animal cohort with ourselves and our farmed animals" That seems to always be discounted in the argument for more growth.

Actually geothermal energy isn't, it's powered by the heat of the earth which is driven by decay of fissionable elements in the core/mantle.

You can add nuclear power and tidal power to the non-solar fusion list too.


.... crikey Jock . . Dont let Julie Anne Genter & co know that . .. they'll be hopping on public transport with buckets of water.... heading up to the sun to put it out .. thermonuclear fusion indeed. .. tut tut .

Heh heh, now to think, how to bring the damnable thing out of the sky and down here where it's needed...

DO let them know - no other way to get rid of that lot it seems.

The first time two-cents-worth tackled this, Hickey and Beckford dropped the ball. Both had had enough put in front of them, to not do so. Thoughts as I listened to this one:

Grimes is up against it. For a start, sustainable and growth don't belong in the same sentence - and I don't give a rodent's backside what his title is - that's just bollocks.

Then there's the straw man - growth is exponential, not linear. And this is a finite planet - unless Grimes thinks we can do it all virtually, growth is stuffed.

Sustainable well-being? Innovation? New products in the market - ah, there we go. It's physical. We don't need innovations, we need less draw-down.

Controlling inflation has nothing to do with sustainability.
He'd be a doddle to debate.

GDP does not increase because of innovation - it comes from using energy to do work - Grimes is wrong again.

Hickey and Malthus - we used a finite source of energy to overpopulate ourselves.

Raworth is right about biodiversity - and GDP. Grimes saying 'more efficient use of resources'- does he know about Jevons/rebound?

Grimes self-justifying - I want to fly therefore..... the arrogance of human beings.

My finat thought? He should be sidelined. Past his use-buy date.

And Hickey's 'no more' comment? Here's one point I disagree with Raworth on - even if we equalled our resource-use, there are orders-of-magnitude too many people on the planet now.

Improving living standards? Consuming what, exactly, Arthur?

"and I don't give a rodent's backside what his title is"
That's your problem. It isn't a case of the facts, it's the fact that you think you know more.
Kate Raworth couldn't handle that, either. Hence her omnipresent over defensiveness and dismissive nature. She even attempts to disrupt the narrative with her reaction to Grimes' comment on the pretty pictures.

Perhaps we should organise a debate between PDK and AG..

You do that. I wouldn't be as polite as her, and I'm more a physics/systems type - could be fun.

For those who can be bothered, the drawing (kindle Loc. 1050) of the energy flow in Doughnut Economics, is the salient point. If you want another, it's her chapter on systems.

Grimes fails for the reason all economics-only economists fail - failure ti understand that exponentially-increasing resource draw-down can never be offset, let alone trumped, by innovation. The latter follows to a diminishing-returns trajectory as you nudge up against thermodynamic efficiency limits; Carnot was right.

But Raworth ducks something she must know - even is you spread the consumption of the 1% or the 10% (which is us) and spread it evenly over 8 billion, it doesn't solve anything until you limit your draw-down to long-term-sustainable rates. And at that rate, 5-6 billion of us aren't able to be here. (Makes a joke of his ' we need to fly, it's not fair'petulance, in relative terms).

Out of curiousity - Do you have a degree in physics or economics?

Your standard panic fallback.

Most of my cohort have degrees in the former, it's my natural space. But not the latter - I've read enough to know it was the hocus-pocus which lead us to the dangerous existential place we are at. And it proves its deficiency by being unable to see the problem, even at this late stage. I, on the other hand, was echoing Sarkozy's call for a new Bretton Woods, more than a decade ago.

Note that I anticipated that interest-rates would be in trouble, you could even say that I anticipated inverted yield-curves: "How do you borrow, when the average ability to repay is sequentially diminishing?"

Think about it

But the question is whether you have a degree in either.
You consistently trumpet your expertise in both fields. I just thought it a pertinent question seeing as you criticize people on the basis of their academic titles.

.. meebee PDK is a graduate of the School of Google . .

except the failed that as well.

You, sir, have a problem. You think expertise equates to a degree.

The only degree which I would consider encompasses enough, would be one in Systems thinking. I don't think any NZ Uni currently offers one. Which says a lot. I'd have given my eye teeth to have studied under this fellow:

But then, I'd have ended up with World3, and they already did that.

You know, a simple "no" would suffice.

... only from a normally functioning humble person would a simple " no " be the correct answer .

Systems thinking?
You mean like the dynamic modelling used as the basis for probably the majority of economic modelling?

I meant this

Your 'modelling' omits things like finite resources, pollution, degradation, thermodynamics. Why is it that you think we're in so much trouble? Because we were measuring accurately? Pig's posterior.

Yet you reference Forrester who maintained a core thesis that social dynamics is best modeled in a systems approach - exactly how it is today...

Also. I fail to see how economists don't model resource consumption and depletion dynamically... You must be reading some pretty B-rate journals if that's your conclusion..
Ironically it is your messiahs such as Tim Morgan and Gail Tverberg, resilience, et al, that are the ones who rely on static models..

Yes, I appreciate that you 'fail to see'. That's what happens when you leave inconvenient counts, out. In the last 24 hours, 100 million barrels of oil - a finite resource - were burned. Real sequestration was effectively nil, real, proven energy replacement (so that future generations could have an equal per-head energy chance to the one you enjoy) was essentially nil. The EROEI of the remaining volume went down, not up. Yet if GDP rose for the day, your cohort go home happy. Totally blind, is what I call it.

Could I ask, politely, that you do a bit of reading before re-engaging?

Why would we be happy if 'GDP' rose for the day?
The point that AG keeps making is that GDP increases and "growth for growth's sake" isn't the focus of any economist...

Could I ask, politely, that you do a bit of listening before re-engaging?

You tell me. Given that growth in GDP more or less guarantees that a degradation of the physical planet has been effected, I wouldn't 'go away happy', for instance. The problem is that his vocabluary just doesn't cover the problem. For instance starts from the premise that we should all be allowed to fly to the other side of the planet. Folk like Raworth (and me, but I'm on about a lot more than Climate Change - which is merely the entropic exhaust of our energy-consumption problem) start from the rights of future generations to have a life-supporting planet. Given current technology (and given EROEI and entropy), the two are mutually exclusive, and she has logic on her side. She's right, in other words.

But as AG highlights, Raworth only cares about 'rights' if they align with her narrative.
Like all your peers, you demand we follow the path of the righteous few who know all but study little. Yet you think economics is dogma.

Growth IS for growth's sake, giving it another name does not alter that

Why so?
Please explain.

University degrees aren't worth the paper they're printed on - I would know I've got one

Perhaps not in feminist dance theory.
Subjects with a large mathematics and science component are pretty useful, though.

It is its own explanation as it is the bottom line

Well, no it's not.
Growth is symmetric, and a stationary process.
Neither of which align with your throwaway comment that it happens 'for growth's sake'.

Growth is exponential.

Until it isn't.

Which is where we are now. Get with the programme.

Well no.
Growth doesn't need to be exponential.

As I have said many times before - don't confuse the growth function with the anti-derivative of the growth function.

You tell economists to stop talking in percentages, and I'll acknowledge that growth can be linear.

It'll still hit the Limits, but later.

Talking in percentages doesn't make growth non linear.
It makes the integral non linear, not the growth rate.

What use is a degree in the dismal science?

Well one perspective would be that you'd be qualified to critique it..
Internet sound-bites don't really qualify ya for that..

Well, it's certainly a change of scenery to see having a degree in a subject being held up as the necessary base for expertise again. Too many times these days we see the opposite...folk harrumphing, shaking their heads and saying that book learning can never match what they know in their gut to be true from their own personal experience from the school of hard knocks, growing up in a hole in the ground covered by a piece of tarpaulin, being evicted from that and having to go live in a lake etc.

I wonder what the equivalent of the measles outbreak in this context?

You just described Plato's Allegory of the Cave. Same thing happens when you get a degree.

Not that I disagree with a bit or formal education, it is just that is mine is in Architecture where you learn the design process. You know, where you actually produce something. For this reason alone it is the most difficult of degrees, you have to do something that didn't exist before instead of just rote learning. To do this you have to be able to think for yourself.

Put like that way a degree in classical music composition is very similar. Learn the theory enough to be able to build magnificent edifices. No short-cutting the idea of learning the rules before one can break the rules.

Um, no. Religion - at least, the pie in the sky when you die part of religion - is a crock. You don't have to be a Theologian to know that.

And I use the parallel purposely.

Formal education or a lack of it does not make a proponent of any argument right or wrong. Dependence on someone having one, before their argument is considered only demonstrates a superficiality in ones thinking. There is ample evidence that people can become experts in topics without the constraint of a formal education, and indeed the evidence often demonstrates that those without the education are more likely challenge the boundaries of 'conventional wisdom'. The challenge for people in any debate is to set the messenger aside and consider only their message and argument.

I agree. A degree isn't everything.
However, it does teach you some pretty important things though. Most important of these are elementary basics of the subject. These can come in handy when forming opinions.

"Perhaps we should organise a debate between PDK and AG.." I'd be all ears to hear that, and my money would be on PDK, simply because 2 into 1 don't go, and it is time to realise we are already trying to make that happen

These anti-growthers are complete snobs; they have climbed the "economic growth" ladder and are now advocating that billions of people should stay in poverty to satisfy their sensibilities. It would be a sad joke if it weren't for immense suffering inflicted upon the poor if we ever actually implemented their foolish ideas.

That's just wrong. Our ancestors (the European kind) were over-using their space and went looking for more, as per NZ history.

The First World still rips the resources from under the Third World (where did our phosphate come from? Our PKE?). They meantime have overpopulated, and if you take fossil energy away we are overpopulated in NZ, now. Britain, post fossil energy, hasn't a prayer.

And you need to ask what ' poverty' is. It is the ability to buy processed resources - finite (or available at a limited rate) parts of the planet. Printing money isn't going to change the resource draw-down. I suggest the First World (including our current Govt) is hiding from the truth of this, by hiding behind the word 'poverty'. Time they described it as ' resource availability per head'

And no amount of dissing the messenger(s) alters fact. Funny old thing, that.

Sounds like a bunch of commenters here on Interest when it comes to affordable housing from government-boosted supply, well-funded education etc. Advocating completely different lots for folk now. It would be a sad joke if it weren't for immense suffering inflicted upon the poor from us having implemented their foolish ideas.

Anti-growth is the same as anti-human nature.

What is the most famous slogan in Olympics game?

Higher. Faster. Stronger.

... it's a great slogan .. but it defies me how they let synchronized swimming in . ..

When do you reckon the time will be that someone runs 100m in nothing flat?

When the banks start dropping like dominoes. Customers in, directors in the direction of away. All faster than Flo-Jo

Flo-Jo be pretty No Go Jo these days

Nature is a vacuum.

Dyson is a vacuum too ... does it follow then , that Nature is a Dyson ?

Arthur Grimes soon invoked Godwin's Law. What a pity we don't have someone on our end who is more eloquent in debates like this. Pretty easy to spot he is a 1%er.

Was that before of after Radworth framed herself as a victim of misogyny after he called her picture 'pretty'?
Silencing someone with that approach isn't what I'd call eloquent.

Shoot the messenger. Spin on behalf of a losing argument 101.

I think she realised he was being condescending. And pointed the fact out. Fair enough - nothing to do with the correctness of her facts. Question - have your read her book? Be honest...

She is self confessed a 'feminist' economist, PDK. (wtf that means?)
It was a blatant smear on the falsehood of misogyny.

The concreteness of her facts? You mean, as AG says, the repetition of ideas that were at the frontier when AG was a student?

In all honesty, I started reading it (got at least halfway through), but came to pretty much the same conclusion alluded here - it contains nothing new. Nothing profound. Yes, she drew a nice picture, but that's all it was - a pretty picture of an idea that she couldn't sell to a journal.

When I read something, I read to the end, and I do my best to read with dispassion. Not always easy, admittedly. My library is 1/3rd stuff I have come to disagree with - but which I bothered to read.

That book wasn't worth finishing. Unfortunately I'm not nearly as righteous as you to think that one must finish every book they start.
I guess it is not too different from how you only read a fraction of the economics research (that is being very liberal with the term 'research'). Granted, I don't make up my own stuff to fill in the gaps, though.

Think about that statement.

Nymad, have you read Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men, re women and economics.

Actually a very interesting look at data and the gap in what we measure (many examples) and how this affects what then is designed.

Nah, I haven't. I'll have a look into it. Thanks for the recommendation.
I do read quite a lot of the literature on gender biases (which is extremely interesting). As you can probably gather, though, I'm not a big fan of economicsy books for the everyday reader due to their focus on activism as opposed to robust analysis. However, I'll give it a read.

True there are buffoons all around, but I just want to see NZ represented by someone who doesn't need to descend to that same level.

I've had the pleasure to hear AG speak many times. He is not a buffoon nor is he at all condescending or inarticulate.
I do agree this perhaps wasn't his finest engagement - but, how can you not be hostile when someone essentially starts off with such a baseless and destructive smear as she did.

He had the wrong end of the debate. Period.

As do all who think you can 'grow' indefinitely within a bounded system.

To his credit, he batted it away nicely with a good counterexample to move her off that square.

Reflecting on this, I think it was Arthur's affected sounding defence of air travel that put me off; I found it was intimated in a very precious and unmanly way. He got quite worked up. I definitely would not like to be working for him...

Hand wringing about growth is a first world problem.
No growth - life - nasty, brutal and short.
Growth - "India lifted 271 million people out of poverty between 2006 and 2016, recording the fastest reductions in the multidimensional poverty index values during the period with strong improvements in areas such as “assets, cooking fuel, sanitation and nutrition,” a report by the United Nations said."
"Congolese authorities and health workers vaccinated more than 200,000 people against Ebola in August, the government said on Sunday, using a Merck vaccine they hope will help rein in the world’s second worst epidemic."

I wondered where the paid hack was - get Mondays off?

And you're wrong. No growth says sustainable, which translates as: 'something which can be maintained'. A Steady State Economy, in other words.

What you hack for is draw-down, the faster the better. That has had it's time, if you bother to look around. Game over, chum. Negative rates, growing disenfranchisement, gross overpopulation driving increasing degradation - so why do you bother?

Steady state and ecological economics?!
But I thought economics cannot help but ignore the physical sciences, PDK.
I mean. That has been your position forever.

You of all people should be careful throwing the term 'hack' around.

Wrong on a few counts.

I disparage economics, as taught. Daly has long realised the problem, and spent a lifetime trying to educate. You might be interested to find that his criteria are resources - finite, renewable and sink.

It rewards a thoughtful read.

"I disparage economics, as taught."
But as we have established, you don't have any formal training in economics... Interesting that you can hold such an opinion having no experience in the subject..

I read a book from end to end, before commenting on it.

You, however, seem to think you hold some kind of cranial high ground, by holding a piece of paper - although I'm beginning to wonder if you do. Surely you realise that folk reading your disparaging of something you haven't read, lose respect for your opinions?

PDK, I have a couple of questions; first - do you think we can have good solid innovation without growth? Our current level of technology is damaging to the ecology, so how do we achieve innovation to improve on it without growth? (Please note this is not an indication of my opinion, it just a question seeking a solution)

And are there other economists who argue a finite system other than Rawworth? Someone who could better counter Grimes' case?

Every economist operates within a finite system. That is what economics is about - managing scarcity.

I do understand that economists try to work to understand and manage a 'constrained system', however for decades if not centuries they have propounded on unlimited growth, ignoring the fact that our planet finite. The evidence of their flawed argument is now biting us in the ass. A 'constrained system' is not finite resources with an absolute cap, and which cannot be perpetually renewed or accommodated by identifying 'bottlenecks' and working around them. However it is identified that one of AGs arguments for growth is to support innovation. I am asking can we achieve good solid innovation without a dependency on perpetual growth?

Growth in what, exactly?
This is the important distinction - what PDK always misses.
Define what you mean by 'growth'.

Economists generally refer to overall growth, so growth in everything. The end result is measured money terms, but money is developed from consuming resources. And as PDK points out resources are not unlimited.

Wrong. Economists normally refer to 'growth' as growth in human capital or growth in personal utility. This is not synonymous with resource extraction.

Economists refer to GDP growth 99% of the time

Murray - Great question.

When we displaced solar energy with fossil, it gave us free time and the ability to specialise - which gave us an exponential increase in research, thinking and innovation. Mother Nature and physics, though, don't give a damn about how much we know - a bullet kills regardless of the amount of knowledge in the victim's brain. Same goes for ecological overshoot - even if much of the overshot species chose to believe they were above such mundane matters.

I think we will see population collapse, probably preceded by financial collapse (when mass realisation dawns that there isn't enough planet to underwrite all the forward bets).

Can innovation solve some things through that bottleneck? Yes, we will improvise, triage and research like mad - and we have one advantage over those of 1800 - we know a lot, and we won't lose most of that (although we might stagger knowledge-wise when the internet falters). I've been pushing this stuff personally, and it's amazing how little energy you need, how much less crap you need, and how much you can do by applying some lateral thinking - particularly to re-purposing already-existing stuff. (That's currently at loggerheads with those who would own the commons, of course, but that will change as things disintegrate). My most-prized vehicle is a recumbent trike with independent suspension all around, 30 speeds, 3 disc brakes and the ability to haul cargo, plus I've lived off-grid for 17 years - technology can be good. You do come up against limits, of course - but that's physics (it's also why 'productivity-gains' are plateauing globally - which the Grimes-types seem to be bemused by).

AG's flaw is in arguing for innovation to drive perpetual growth, as per the other AG'S who argue for feeding 10 billion straw-people. My question to them all is: What then? and: What then?

But innovation in terms of doing more with less, in terms of regenerative systems design, in terms of shifting stuff, sure, go for it. I find that it's interesting to see what the pre fossil-energy folk developed - they were, after all, designing for a lower-energy paradigm. If we shifted the goal from 'growth' to 'Sustainable in the long term' we might find that out innovations were channeled in a better direction, but remember those Carnot limits - you can only get so efficient thermally and you run afoul of those - no exceptions.

In your last paragraph you show you understood my question. How do we take what we have now, and be able to achieve the same by consuming less? It is a complex question because there is no doubt that we will have to surrender some of what we have now, because there is no other way that we know of to do it, but for most things I think some very bright minds will be able to find better, lest costly ways to do them. The computer is a very good example of this, 50 years ago Apollo 11 went to the moon with a computer with less computing capability than a pocket calculator today, and it was 100s of times larger (roughly). Today computers can be produced for less environmental cost and are many times more powerful. Now we need to do that for the rest that we do. In the 80's air travel was postulated that by now we would be doing it in sub-orbital vehicles which would span the pacific in three hours. Such solutions would be easier on the environment, but there are other technological issues to be overcome, that so far are proving too expensive or beyond our current capability. I can't imagine the impact of a sub-orbital flight on the mass of travelling public - vomit comet would probably fall short of being adequately descriptive of the effects of micro-gravity on most!

to do stuff at all, we have set up a system where eyeball-to-eyeball trust is not needed - letters of credit and the like. If all that falls over, I'm not sure how complex we will be. I've a feeling that Cuba might be the yardstick (politics aside). That suggests triage and simplification. Cheers

In mentioning 10 billion people and what then, you touched on how I see things, and that is that growth inevitably relies on more people, there is no optimal number, just more.
Unless we do things differently, we will again resort to war, blow each other and our infrastructure to bits till we are sick of that, then we will (again) set to rebuilding and breeding like flies so we can point and say "Look, growth".
Honestly, I really despair sometimes

Agreed - but if there isn't enough fossil energy left to power up a re-boot, I think there's a good chance we never recover from this one.

Few are those who contemplate this :)

Not just fuel, enough silica sand for glass, enough iron ore, tin, copper, cement components, everything basically. Bamboo and hemp would become quite valuable

Oh and rubbish dumps would become mines

No. I just don't see the point in reading a book end to end that is just reiterating ideas developed 30 years ago and trying to pawn them off as profound insight.
She had no robust analysis, proposed no new insight, and continued with the pathetic misscharacterizations of economic principles. Furthermore, her core belief is that we can address the issues through more central control; quite possibly the most naive argument one could ever make.

Think about that comment.

I went and re-read that book from cover-to-cover last night. It contains information you are not familiar with. What does that make you?

And your last comment confirms that. It its unfettered growth in resource-consumption that has this planet on it's knees. Yet you want to do more of the problem? Clearly, the quest for économic growth' was the problem, obviously rules will be needed to avert that trajectory. Where do rules come from? You just need too think it through...

"I went and re-read that book from cover-to-cover last night. It contains information you are not familiar with. What does that make you?"

You read 320 pages in one night?
That would take almost 6 hours at an average reading speed, assuming no interuptions.
Given that even the best readers can only read for approximately 3 hours in one sitting, without losing focus or significantly reducing their comprehension ability, you are framing yourself as an extrodinary genius.

I'm not saying you didn't do it, but if you did you likely didn't comprehend anything after the point at which I stopped reading.

Go and read it - what are you so scared of?

Don't answer that - I know. The whole idea you based you life assumptions on, could be proven faulty.

Perhaps I will.
You know what I won't do though - claim I read all 320 pages in a night.

Try learning to speed-read before you went to high-school, try not having a television, try reading 2-3 books a week and make it the fifth time you've read the one in question. You might find it easier then.


Haha. Speed reading. The holy grail.
Ever heard of trade-offs?
Economists are big on them, too.

They gave me the day off for David's funeral.

Who Cato'ed?

Has anyone else heard of this? Is it disinformation?

Operative word - "may"