Ironically it is in affluent Germany, the only place in Europe that currently seems to have any hope of economic growth, where the consensus on the intrinsic value of growth is most sceptical. A recent survey commissioned by Bertelsmann Stiftung found that eight out of ten Germans crave a new economic order. The number of Germans who see growth as very important was down 14% compared with two years ago. The proportion of Germans who highly value money and possessions also dropped. Nearly two-thirds disagreed with the idea that a higher income could increase their quality of life. Many Germans now value protection of the environment over material prosperity, according to the findings.
Academic research seems very much in line with the popular mood: German thinkers are increasingly publishing work, which denounces growth and touts drastic alternative economic policies. One of the more high-profile members of this movement is Niko Paech from the University of Oldenburg, who recently published a controversial new book called Liberation from Affluence, in which he lambasts growth, argues that societies need to shrink their economies, and calls for an embrace of self-sufficiency models and regional exchange. His policies for the ideal society include a 20-hour week, the introduction of regional currencies, and decommissioning large development projects such as motorways and airports.
I only disagree with the last policy. But it is impressive that many Germans are even thinking in this way. A thinking that is almost unimaginable in this part of the world. Here economic growth is the only solution to all of our problems. If there is no growth, there is pain, misery, discipline, tightening of belts, fear all around. However, I do not like this kind of language:
Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell, the controversial author Edward Abbey once said.
Cancer is ultimately a rebellion against the fascist state of the body.