Democracy Now have an interesting interview with David Harvey about the G20 summit and the bailouts. He makes the point that the billions of taxpayer dollars that have been funneled into bailouts are merely preserving an economic system that is fundamentally flawed.
Capitalism almost collapsed entirely in the 1930’s, played a large part in the rise of Hitler and the Second World War and went through another serious crisis in the 1970’s. This cycle of boom and bust is set to continue until the current brand of neo-liberal capitalism is replaced with something more sustainable. One suggestion Harvey makes is that we have to move towards a “zero-growth” economy i.e. one where profit is not the single motivating factor behind the economy. In other words, simply existing should be enough and factors other than profit – such as the environment, jobs, education and human wellbeing – should be the focus.
Harvey however doesn’t pretend to offer any blueprint as to how such a society would look like and critics would no doubt jump to point out that such a system would not foster progress or innovation. In capitalist society, profit is the basis behind innovation and without a financial incentive, no individual or company would invent or design anything new and mankind would effectively stagnate. However, maybe it could be argued that much of what passes for “innovation” and “progress” – such as bigger cars, more sophisticated marketing and advertising industries, cheaper electronics and travel – constitute the wrong kind of progress anyway.
Before a zero-growth economy could be conceived, there would have to be a fundamental shift in human thinking about what profit and progress should really be all about.