Tag Archives: growth imperative

What we can and cannot afford

Can we afford health care for all, free education for all, housing for the homeless, food for the hungry, a decent and efficient national system of transportation, a clean and healthy environment, a fair and equitable distribution of our collective production, and a true democracy in which people decide their own fate and how their money is to be spent? Politicians of all stripes tell us we cannot. “Where will the money come from?” is their plaint whenever such measures are proposed.

But other countries have many of those things. There is a vast number of countries that have free or almost free universal health care, as can be seen in this list. And here is a list of 11 countries that have BOTH free universal health care AND free college. The list includes not only affluent countries like Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland, but relatively poor countries such as Greece, Argentina and Brazil.

Anyone who has traveled in western Europe knows that Amtrak is a bad joke compared HSRinChinato the extensive and efficient rail systems in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and elsewhere. China too has much better trains than the U.S. and has been rapidly expanding its transport infrastructure. According to Wikipedia, China already has “the world’s longest high speed rail network” which is “also the most extensively used, with 1.713 billion trips delivered in 2017 bringing the total cumulative number of trips to 7 billion.”

Way back in 2005 I rode from downtown Shanghai to the airport at  Pudong on the maglev train that reached speeds up to 431 kmph (268 mph).

Yet, when President Trump calls for an almost $80 billion increase to the military budget, hardly anyone asks, “where’s the money going to come from?” and the measure easily gains Congressional approval.

Here are the things we cannot afford:

  1. We cannot afford continuation of the Empire with its deployment of military forces around the world and endless overt and covert warfare.
  2. We cannot afford continuation of the interest-based, debt-money regime that forces unnecessary expansion of economic activity and centralizes power and concentrates wealth in the hands of a super elite.
  3. We cannot afford continuation of the environmental destruction and climate change that is caused by the fossil fuel based economy.

The $727 billion U.S. military budget for 2019 dwarfs all other segments and amounts to 61% of all discretionary spending. To trump2019_discpie_unbranded_largeput it in perspective, the U.S. spends many times more on military than any other country. According to the National Priorities Project, the next highest military spender, China, spends only about one third as much on its military.

I have written extensively about the defects inherent in the centrally controlled interest-based, debt-money regime, which is driving the endless expansion of debt that makes economic growth an imperative. See, for example, my article, Money, debt and the end of the growth imperative.

Ultimately, if we do not take appropriate action, nature will decide our fate. See the work of Joseph Tainter and Jared Diamond, starting with this interview of Joseph Tainter by Jim Puplava.

In a future post I will elaborate upon these points, but for now I recommend viewing the recent Jimmy Dore show at https://youtu.be/yHpN7X9iK3o.

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Why Can’t Governments Balance Their Budgets?

This is a question I answered more than a quarter century ago in Part I of my book, Money and Debt: A Solution to the Global Crisis. It is a question that gets scant attention from politicians and economists who are willing to speak only about the need for perpetual economic growth and keeping the government debt at “manageable” levels, never asking why government debt is necessary or how it might be eliminated.

When I first undertook to answer this question, the debt crisis was already well underway and global in scope. Since then the situation has become more critical with debt levels reaching astronomical levels.USDebt&deficits

What I said in 1990 began with this:

The whole world today seems to be awash in a sea of debt which threatens to drown us all. Many Third World countries, despite their huge increases in production for export, are unable to pay even the interest due on their accumulated indebtedness to Western banks and governments. In the U. S., the levels of both public (government) and private debt are increasing at alarming rates. The Federal budget deficits of recent years far exceed anything thought possible just a decade ago. Why is this happening and why is it a problem? In order to understand that, one must first understand some financial facts of life.PublicDebt

Here are the essential points of my argument:

  1. Almost all of the money in every country is created by commercial banks when they make loans either to the private sector or to governments (by purchasing government bonds, notes, etc.),
  2. Money is extinguished when loan principal is repaid,
  3. The interest that banks charge on these loans causes the amount owed to grow as time passes,
  4. Causing the aggregate amount owed to banks to always exceed the supply of money in circulation,
  5. Requiring that banks make additional loans to keep the supply of money in circulation from falling behind the amounts needed for existing loans to be “serviced” (repayment of part of the principal plus the interest due) in order to avoid a cascade of defaults and economic depression,
  6. And that this “debt imperative” that is built into the global money system is the driver of the economic “growth imperative” that results in superfluous economic output and its attendant depletion of physical resources, despoliation of the environment, increasing disparities in income and wealth distribution, and many other problems that plague modern civilization.
  7. That physical limits to economic output on a finite planet make this money system unsustainable over the long term.
  8. That there are practical limits to the amount of debt that the private sector is able or willing to incur.
  9. That chronic government budget deficits are therefore a political expedient that is necessary to keep this flawed system from collapsing as governments assume the role of “borrower of last resort.”
  10. That politicians are quite willing that governments play this role since it gives them the power to take much more value out of the economy than the revenues available by means of overt taxation.
  11. That bankers, for their part, by monopolizing the allocation of credit in the economy and charging interest on it, are able to enrich themselves and exercise tremendous power over the political process making a sham of democratic government.

The empirical evidence strongly supports my analysis. You only need to look at charts showing the growth of debt over time to see it growing at an accelerating rate (geometrically), a pattern that reflects the compound interest function that is an inherent feature of our global political money system.

You can read my original 1989 exposition of these points at Money and Debt: a Solution to the Global Crisis, Part I, and their subsequent elaboration in my latest book, The End of Money and the Future of Civilization, https://beyondmoney.net/the-end-of-money-and-the-future-of-civilization/.

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Newsletter – March, 2014

Contents. (This edition will be timely but brief).

Back to America

My latest article

Degrowth Conference on Social Equity and Ecological Sustainability


Hi, Well it’s just a matter of hours now before I board my flight that will take me back to the United States. I always find other places and cultures interesting, but four months abroad has been long enough and I’m looking forward to being back in more familiar territory, seeing friends and family, and discovering what the universe has to show me next. To begin with, I’ll be enjoying the relative calm and quiet of the Arizona desert, then looking for a more permanent place to hang my hat.


My latest article

I spent a good amount of time over the past few weeks writing an article that I was invited to submit for publication in an online journal, Transformation, published by Open Democracy. I’m pleased to announce that my article, Money, debt and the end of the growth imperative was published yesterday. You can read it here,


Upcoming Degrowth Conference on Social Equity and Ecological Sustainability. Call for papers extended to March 14th

A recent message from Birte Ewers announces that the 4th International Degrowth Conference to be held in Leipzig Sept 2-6, and that the original deadline for submissions of short papers has been extended. The deadlines for other formats have expired but deadline for “short papers” is now March 14th. The review process will be concluded by the end of April. See the conference website at http://leipzig.degrowth.org/en/http://leipzig.degrowth.org/en/ and the Call for Papers at  http://leipzig.degrowth.org/en/call-for-papers/ for details.

About The Conference:

4th International Degrowth Conference on Social Equity and Ecological Sustainability – Bridging movements and research for the great transformation.

The International Degrowth Conference has reached its fourth venue. Since Paris 2008 the debate on how to move away from a growth-oriented economy towards a more sustainable society has drawn world-wide attention. The fourth international conference will take place in a country that is considered as the European engine of economic growth.

Different traditions of growth critique, such as the concept of a post-growth society stemming from the German-speaking community and the French and Southern European degrowth debate, are invited to a fruitful dialogue. The conference seeks to bring practitioners, activists and scientists together and encompasses various formats for presentations, interaction, workshops, and exchange.

The 4th conference will address following thematic threads (abstracts for short papers can be submitted to any of them):

– Organizing Society (Emancipatory politics, participation, institutions)

– Building a social and ecological economy ((Re-)productivity, commons, society-nature relations)

– Living conviviality (Buen vivir. Open knowledge. Convivial technology)



For my current journey in Southeast Asia, Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur) serves as both my entry point and exit point. Flights to and from KL tend to be cheaper even than Bangkok, and I always enjoy spending some time in Penang, which is only about a 4 ½ hour bus ride from KL Thailand is easily reached from there.

Malaysia is quite a developed country, though it still has some third world charm, as well as annoyances, like the roar of motorbikes zipping around through every available space, making it difficult and dangerous for pedestrians to cross the streets. Sidewalks, if they exist at all are usually obstructed by parked motorbikes, or food stalls, or even workshops that flow out into the public spaces.

One interesting thing about Malaysia is language. Almost everyone speaks some English and signage is usually in both English and Bahasa Melayu, or Malay language, which derives many words from English. Malays have developed what seems to me to be a very reasonable pattern of phonetic spelling.

Here are a few familiar English words with their phonetic Malay spelling, which I think we should adopt.















My pictures from my November visit to Penang


Pictures from my February/March visit to Penang and Kuala Lumpur have not yet been uploaded.


Joke of the month

Certainly not original, but here it is; some of you may appreciate it.

You know you’re old when you and your teeth no longer sleep together.

May you enjoy this season when life springs anew,


Money, debt and the end of the growth imperative

My latest article, Money, debt and the end of the growth imperative, was published today (March 3) in the online journal, Transformation. Read it here. –t.h.g.

Counting the Cost – Money for nothing

Tarek El Diwany and Jem Bendell have done a great job in this Al Jazeera interview program explaining the dysfunctional features that are built into the corrupt global system of money and banking. They also cover Islamic banking and mutual credit clearing. This is a “must watch” video.—t.h.g.

Fossil Fuels, Debt-money, and the Growth Economy

The video below (300 Years of FOSSIL FUELS in 300 Seconds), from the Post Carbon Institute, is very well done. It tells the story about the development of industrial civilization based on fossil fuel energy, and the mega-crisis that now confronts us. While it is inaccurate in pointing to fossil fuels as the main driver of economic growth, it is well worth the five minutes it takes to watch it.

As I’ve been saying for a long time, the availability of cheap fossil fuel energy has been the enabler of continuous economic growth, but it is not the driver. The driver of the growth imperative which has been operating for about the past 300 years is the political interest-based debt-money system. It is a system that creates money based on interest bearing “loans.” It is the compound interest that is built into the global money system that requires the continual expansion of debt, which in turn forces the physical expansion of economic output. Now nature is putting on the brakes, telling us it’s time to STOP.

We can make the transition to a regenerative economy consciously and deliberately, or we can try to deal with the developing problems on an ad hoc basis in the midst of inevitable chaos. The end of the industrial era should not be mourned, nor does it need to be painful. We have before us the opportunity to create a happier, more peaceful world, one in which we all have enough to live a dignified and fulfilling life with enough time and energy to restore our communities and our environment. For more about that, see my presentation on The Butterfly Society.—t.h.g.

Exponential growth-a key concept

In all of my writings I’ve tried to make clear that there is inherent in the political money system a growth imperative. That results from the fact that money is created by banks as interest-bearing debt. The compounding of interest causes debt to grow as time passes, not at a steady rate, but at an ever-increasing rate. At some point the amount of debt increases so rapidly that it overwhelms the ability of the real economy to carry it. We now seem to have reach that point and our civilization is in crisis.

This growth imperative based on debt compounding is the primary engine that is driving us to destruction, but debt is not the only thing that is growing exponentially. This video is part of Chris Martenson’s Crash Course. In it, he explains very clearly how compounding works. His entire Crash Course is highly recommended. –t.h.g.