When Conventional Success Is No Longer Possible, Degrowth and the Black Market Beckon

I just ran across this blog which looks at degrowth from a very different perspective /discourse – North American youth unemployment.

Charles Hugh Smith February 7, 2014 – Of two minds

“Phantom economies tend to give rise to gray and black markets in proportion to the deviance of the phantom economy from reality.”

College graduates around the world are discovering that getting a university diploma no longer guarantees the conventional success story of a secure job and a life of ever-rising consumption. Doing all the things that the Status Quo said would lead to success no longer yields success, for the simple reason that the Status Quo is failing on a structural/systemic level.

The high costs of legitimate business (needed to keep rentier/financial profits and state functionary pay/pensions high) are effectively destroying middle-class jobs and pay scales: the only organization that can afford to pay high salaries and benefits, regardless of costs or the business climate, is the state.

New conventional enterprises face essentially impossible barriers: sky-high rents, absurdly lengthy and costly permitting processes, onerous fees and reporting requirements, and a host of other barriers reputedly imposed to “protect the public” but whose real purpose is to eliminate small-enterprise competition to corporate dominance.

Two forces are disrupting this cozy interlocking mafia of financiers, corporate cartels and state functionaries: the End of (Middle-Class) Work and the rise of the peer-to-peer, self-organizing business models such as AirBnB, car-sharing, ride-sharing, farmers markets, etc.

All the infrastructure of consumption depends on tens of millions of college graduates making enough money to pay high taxes, service their student loans, buy homes, autos, particle-board furniture, electronic gadgets, dozens of pairs of shoes, etc. etc. etc. If they can’t make enough money to buy and own all that stuff, then they won’t be buying and owning all that stuff. And if they can’t earn a living within the Status Quo mafia, they will do so outside the mafia in the gray and black markets.

This destruction of consumption is supposed to be a disaster, but it’s only a disaster for the moated mafias of financiers, corporate cartels and the state that depend on tens of millions of workers voluntarily becoming debt serfs and tax donkeys.

Rather than a disaster, this wholesale loss of middle-class incomes and aspirations is enormously liberating. Instead of the yoke of debt-based ownership, young people are finding sharing to be better than owning.

In another earlier blog Smith notes:

In a very real way, Degrowth embraces the devolution of paid work and wealth that cannot be reversed. Growth and consumption based on financialization, expanding credit and phantom collateral is unsustainable and will devolve or implode. Rather than pine for what cannot be, it’s far healthier to embrace using less of everything and increasing well-being by leveraging the web, the commons and what cannot be commoditized or financialized.

These led me to another blog aimed at selling books & career advice but which discusses the failure of growth (and capitalism?) in language very different from the European degrowth discourse.

“Endless growth is the plan and there is no plan B”
Time to develop your own plan.
Chris Martenson, Peak Prosperity

Food for thought for Degrowth Canada?


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1 Response to When Conventional Success Is No Longer Possible, Degrowth and the Black Market Beckon

  1. brewster@ramshorn.ca says:

    I find this comment just that, not serious analysis. If the pres/ceo of the Royal Bank can “earn” a million and a half annually, then the bank can certainly afford to pay/hire employees. Similarly, it is big corporations that complain loudest about the “regulatory burden” and collude with the “regulatory” agencies (CFIA, etc) to weasel through their ‘regulations’ with the help of the public/state employees.

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