Growth: The Cancer Ideology


There is an assumption at the core of our society which is ripping it apart. Everything we do, everything we buy, everywhere we go is influenced by the principle which drives Western economics.

Perpetual growth.

Listen to any given government minister talking about the economy and they will inevitably talk about positive growth as the main sign of a good economy. To the mind of a modern politician (or banker, or board member of a multinational corporation), growth is all that matters – more stuff being bought, more money moving about, more profit rolling in.

All too much, indicators such as the average standard of living, life expectancy, literacy or the happiness and self-actualisation of the population are completely ignored. It’s as if that a few people getting rich is more important than everyone being healthy and happy…

The problem about always using growth as an indicator of a healthy economy is that never-ending growth is simply not possible, because you can only grow as far as you have room and resources to do so.

It might have been workable in an age where there were still new places, products and markets to discover, still plenty of room for the population (and hence your workforce/customer base) to expand into but that is not our age.

The bounds and limits of our world are known, the limits of this closed system are close to being reached and we are quickly coming to the point where we simply can’t sustain any more people, any more pollution, any more waste.

We can’t spread out any more, we’re running out of resources to exploit and like every pyramid scheme, when it bottoms out, the whole thing collapses and in this case, the guy at the top can’t even skip out to the next town to try again.

Since the end of the Second World War, we’ve been living in a society geared towards the consumption of what basically amounts to crap, as much to keep the populace diverted as to keep the economic gears moving.

We waste a vast proportion of our manufacturing capacity on disposable goods that we don’t really need and then carelessly throw away and when we couldn’t consume much more our bankers created financial systems designed to make it look like the pattern of growth, or ‘always more money’ could continue.

A few years ago, someone pulled a joker out of that house of cards and the system propped itself up by ripping even more resources away from normal people. What does it matter if a few (lots of) old, disabled, poor, mentally ill or just plain unlucky people had their lives ruined, so long as the profits, the growth was maintained?

This sounds like the plot to a dystopian novel (or a logical extent solution to a video game) but it is in fact the world, the country that we live in today.

So, do we stand by and allow this systemic destruction of human lives in the name of growth or do we change that system?

Our politicians need to realise that growth should not be the indicator of a nation or the world’s economic health, but whether it is succeeding in feeding, clothing, housing and generally improving the lives of its people.

All of its people.


Proponents of profit and growth must be reminded that growth for it’s own sake is the ideology of a cancer cell, which steals from it’s host, growing larger and larger every day until the host dies, upon which point the cancerous entity also dies.

That is not good business and hence it is not good economics.  The ideological attachment to perpetual growth is flawed and comes at the cost of sustainability and fairness.

It’s time for some political chemotherapy.

2 responses to “Growth: The Cancer Ideology

  1. More excellent stuff from this writer.

    Just a point re mixed metaphors: a cancer cell is deemed malignant because it has lost its ability to self-destruct (apoptosis: inherent in every cell) so uncontrolled growth results from its own damaged in-built mechanisms. This is not symbiotic or parasitic – it does not feed off its host; instead the host itself generates uncontrolled growth at certain sites.

    However, the bottom line still stands: ‘it’s definitely time for some political chemotherapy’!


  2. Pingback: Enough | Glas-alt·

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