Monday, March 19, 2012

David A. Jones — Economic theology

I consider mainstream (neoclassical) economics a kind of modern day theology, and the question about angels is akin to the question, “How much economic growth (GDP growth) can our ecosystems cope with?” For the economic “theologians” the answer is once again “as much as you like,” because economic growth can supposedly be decoupled from physical impacts.
First a reminder about what GDP is. GDP stands for gross domestic product. It’s a measure of the total market value of the goods and services produced within a nation’s borders during a year. The basic formula for calculating GDP is:GDP = private consumption + gross investment + government spending + (exports − imports)
One way to calculate GDP in practice is to track the monetary exchanges that occur when final goods and services are purchased. GDP, therefore, measures how frantically money is flowing among people, companies, banks, and other players in the economy. And so the dancing angels become monetary exchanges, the pin becomes the Earth, and the “theological question” becomes, “How many monetary exchanges can fit on the Earth?”
Mainstream economists argue that a constant rate of GDP growth is desirable. In other words, monetary exchanges are supposed to grow exponentially and forever on a finite planet. This is only possible if an increasingly small component of GDP growth relates to physical impacts (i.e., a smaller and smaller number of activities that add to GDP produce any environmental impact). Otherwise the physical impact of our economies will grow exponentially too — a truly impossible scenario. You cannot have an infinite number of people dancing on the head of a pin! Unlike angels, people are corporeal beings.
Read the rest at The Daly News | Steady State Commentary and News
Economic theology: Angels dancing on the head of a pin
by David A. Jones

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