Can We Prosper in a Slow-Growth World?

Die Welt reports that German researchers are looking at new ways of measuring economic well-being to discern if it is possible to continue to live well in a slow-growing economy:

A prerequisite for change is an “expanded definition of prosperity,” the study [by social scientist Meinhard Miegel titled Von der Konsum- zur Wohlstandskultur (“From a Consumer Culture to a Prosperity Culture”)] states. Instead of passively consuming more and more, people [would] pursue interests like art or the outdoors, practice more sports, get active in political life or social causes.

According to Stefanie Wahl, the managing director of the Denkwerk Zukunft foundation, what’s needed are more “pioneers of change.”  Such things as car-sharing systems, multi-generation housing, and greening initiatives are catching on.

To bring all this about, individual projects should be linked so as to form a network, prominent members of society should be encouraged to set a good example, and institutions and businesses should play an active role, the paper goes on to say. Any measure that relies on non-replenishable resources should be phased out. Another imperative: prices of products should have the cost of the toll they take on the environment factored in, while their labels should state clearly exactly how they are produced so consumers can see for themselves how environmentally sustainable products are.

What is surprising about this from an American perspective, is that the study has been funded and supported by a foundation tied to Germany’s CDU government, a pro-business, conservative government.  While the study has some recommendations for changes in government policy, it calls upon the private sector and individual citizens to shoulder most of the responsibility for this effort.  (Note:  It must be interesting to live in a society where the national conservative party is actually conservative, rather than a haven for doctrinaire zealots.)  You can read the full story here.

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