GDP Shrinks: Is that a Problem?
The COVID-19 pandemic, now several months in, has put economic growth on pause. Indeed, the global economy is projected to contract by 3 percent in 2020, the largest contraction since the Great Depression. But a shrinking economy is not the root source of the rampant unemployment and hardship now disrupting lives. The ultimate cause lies in the extreme income inequality and frayed social safety net that have been festering for decades as a result of market-first policies. Now we can—and must—begin to reverse this pattern. A policy framework for equitable degrowth that guaranteed a basic income, redistributed wealth, shared jobs, and massive green investment could ensure well-being for all while locking in, and far surpassing, the inadvertent emission reductions generated by the crisis. Even as mainstream politicians push for revving up the growth machine, an opportunity awaits for building a new economy in which the poor get richer, the air gets cleaner, and, most importantly for the long term, the Earth system stabilizes. We should take it.