Why is our world dominated by money

"Prosperity is not just about money"

Tim Jackson. (Photo: Susanne Schwarz)

Climate reporter °: Mr. Jackson, one thought has dominated the climate debate since the famous Stern Report from 2006: The global economy can continue to grow and we will still save the planet with the right technologies. Instead, they are promoting a move away from growth. Are the other studies wrong?

Tim Jackson: They're just wrong in some ways. I am not against naming the necessity or the theoretical potential of decoupling growth and greenhouse gas emissions. I am not against new technologies either. My own work actually started at exactly this point 30 years ago: I realized that there are technologies that can greatly reduce our pressure on the planet. At some point I looked around and thought: But why isn't this happening, or at least not enough? And that is the question that is missing in all of these studies, if they are otherwise correct.

You are not calling for growth, but for more prosperity. What do you mean by that?

My aim is to understand wealth differently than most economists do. I've asked people on the street what they think is wealth, I've talked to philosophers, psychologists, artists and writers. And it came out amazing: All of these groups see wealth not just in money and income, but as a very broad concept.

Prosperity has to do with identity, with goals, with good coexistence, with the health of our families, with participation in society. Perhaps one could say: prosperity is the ability to flourish as a person. We are culturally trimmed to make you happier by having more and more - but that's a delusion. It's about more joy with less stuff.

Many people in the world cannot have "less stuff" at all. Should developing countries also stop growing?

Of course, you can't forbid the world's poorest people to build a better life! If one could increase the per capita income from below 5,000 US dollars a year to, say, 15,000, that would result in enormous social progress: It would increase life expectancy, greatly reduce child mortality, and facilitate access to education - you could achieve all the things that are really important. So economic growth really brings something else.

Incidentally, I was surprised that some of my ideas also took up my ideas in developing countries. And what I have noticed since then: In many places there is a will not to become like the West and therefore not to rely on an economic model that cannot do without growth.

And how do we get on the right path in the West?

In the new edition of "Prosperity Without Growth" in particular, I explored core areas in which we need to rethink: companies, work, investments and money. These terms have been twisted, they seem downright poisonous in the prevailing economic system. Businesses serve to maximize profits, work is wage slavery, investments are games of chance, money is power.

We need a reinterpretation: companies should serve people again, work should mean participation in society, investments should be a commitment to the future and money should be a public good.

How can this reinterpretation be reflected in real changes?

You need a changed mindset to ask the right questions: What perverse incentives are currently causing companies, for example, to primarily strive for profit?

To person

Tim Jackson is a professor at the University of Surrey near London. He also heads the interdisciplinary research center for sustainable prosperity. Jackson's 2009 book "Prosperity Without Growth" became a classic in environmental economics. Now he has submitted an "update".

Can you give an example?

Today's wage policy stands in the way of a fair economy. Currently, the benchmark is normally labor productivity. This leads to a hunt for efficiency in order to increase profit. This is bad for the environment, it puts the working person out of focus and also doesn't work at all in certain areas. Care work, education, the arts, and real crafts just take time. These sectors suffer from the wrong incentive to do more in less time.

What can be done to counter this?

If we stick to wage policy: Instead of following productivity, the time that someone has invested in their work should be rewarded. In general, we need to recognize that through our policies - taxes, laws, legal loopholes - in any case, including now, we are systematically promoting things and undermining others.

Another example is a very simple piece of wisdom: tax the bad, not the good! The subsidies for fossil energy production, for example, simply have to be canceled, there is no question at all.

The leaders of the G20 have just published an "Action Plan on Climate and Energy for Growth" at their meeting in Hamburg.

Correct. If that doesn't sound promising!

When the OECD presented a study in May that showed that climate protection and growth go hand in hand, theIndustrial countries club applause from all states because the report was interpreted as a departure from the complete braking of climate protection. Does postal growth even have a chance in the current political climate?

It is very likely that economic growth will stop. Ultimately, you will not have to make a decision for or against post-growth. Growth in the industrialized countries is already extremely low. The question is rather: will people, companies and politics be prepared for this other world?

I am not against states agreeing on common goals and making corresponding declarations like the G20 now. But to say that we can avert a climate catastrophe and continue to grow economically as we know it is a mistake. It is an understandable mistake, but unfortunately one that blinds us and prevents us from finding solutions for the future. We're digging a big hole for ourselves that we'll fall extra deep into.

What made you decide to revise "Prosperity Without Growth" again?

A lot has changed since 2009. For example, we now have a much better understanding of the global economic crisis of 2007. The style in politics has definitely changed. Let me give you an example: Back in early 2007, when Gordon Brown(later British Labor Prime Minister, editor's note) When I was Chancellor of the Exchequer, I spoke to staff at the Treasury. They told me that we were currently experiencing the longest economic situation in 200 years and that we now knew how to do it. They believed they had everything under control. Of course, they had nothing under control and drove the system into the middle of the crisis.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the global economic crisis was not only caused by financial irresponsibility of individuals, but that it was part of a trend - that it is therefore rather unlikely that the global economy can continue to grow indefinitely. What also drove me, however, was that there are now an overwhelming number of people who are questioning the prevailing economic model.

You mean the degrowth movement?

Exactly, the voice of these people has become louder and clearer, while it was drowned out before. And for them it's not just about a voice, but also about action, about change. I was literally bombarded from many sides with the request for a new book, because many are looking for a conceptual framework for their non-profit company, for their community energy cooperative, for their repair café or for their rental platform.

There is a wealth of interesting initiatives that want to put the post-growth idea into practice. These projects have accompanied quite a few people through the difficult years of the crisis. I'm not naive enough to assume that this will make post-growth a sure-fire success, but it does make the vision clearer and more meaningful.

Are you also getting more support from your academic colleagues, the economists?

Academics are usually not that good at praising one another. But it is my colleagues who read and evaluate my research papers and proposals. And your integrity in this work has allowed me to fund my research center for sustainable prosperity, for example - I find that remarkable in the current political climate.

But has the discourse also changed?

Yes, I think so. This is not only due to the actual research, but also to the emerging degrowth movement or the economic challenges that many are facing. New spaces have developed over the past decade that make it possible to ask the difficult questions.