Kenan Senior Fellow Warns of the Dangers of the Growth Economy on Vox Podcast

Kenan Senior Fellow Dirk Philipsen recently appeared on the Vox podcast “Today, Explained.” In the September 29 episode “Blame Capitalism: Degrowing Pains,” Philipsen discusses our dangerous obsession with economic growth, as measured by the Gross Domestic Product, or GDP.

Philipsen explains the narrow viewpoint offered by the GDP: while it accurately measures the output of an economy, it overlooks essential but unpaid labor like the care economy. It also fails to differentiate between positive and negative economic contributions. 

“Whether the things we sell in the marketplace are good or bad,” Philipsen says, “toys or weapons, we do not care.”

Furthermore, the GDP does not consider the distribution of wealth and whether it is equitable or not, making it an inadequate measure of societal progress. 

The obsession with growth, as measured by the GDP, has led to an unsustainable economic system, Philipsen says.

“What we are doing currently is like a train racing towards the cliff.” – Dirk Philipsen

Philipsen also discusses the intersection between the Degrowth and environmental movements, pointing to a transformative period during the ‘60s and early ‘70s, when influential images like the “Blue Marble” photograph of Earth underscored the finite nature of our planet. Meanwhile, reports such as “The Limits to Growth” from the Club of Rome called attention to the economic unsustainability of growth. In a 1968 speech, Robert F. Kennedy argued against the reliance on GDP, saying “It’s everything except that that makes life worthwhile.”

Philipsen says that as the Degrowth movement becomes more popular with younger generations, it is challenging assumptions about how we measure economic success and whether growth is the only thing we should value.

For more of these perspectives, listen to the full podcast episode here.