Better Than What?

This is a sad article about how Americans just keep doing worse economically.  (Economics is known as the dismal science, after all.)  According to some fairly solid research, it seems each generation since the Second World War has earned less than their parents, especially among the middle class.  This is due to income inequality and slow economic growth.  Income inequality means that when there’s economic improvement, the benefit goes mostly to those already well off, with less or no benefit for the poor.  This is considered the more serious problem of the two.  The authors of the study state that both inequality and growth need to be improved, however.

All of this is true, but something is missing from this analysis.  How much growth can the planet sustain?  How much can we produce, extract, develop, or sell, before we run out?  I don’t think growth is the solution to the problem.  We need seriously to consider sustainability as the real alternative goal to growth, for the economy and for everything else.  After all, our resources are finite, and growth will have to come to an end sooner or later.  This behooves us to accept the more rational alternative of sustainability.  This is a huge leap for most people, but we need to start considering it so that it can become acceptable or, I certainly hope, preferred, sooner rather than later.  If we wait too long, there won’t be a later. 

Having more money just doesn’t seem necessary to me.  What seems much more important is quality of life.  What does one do with more money, anyway?  Buy more stuff?  Buy more expensive stuff?  Why is this necessary?  Is it so important to show off?  Does it really make one feel more valuable as a person?  People need to have better goals than just having more or fancier stuff.  Perhaps our notion of ‘doing better’ needs to be changed from economically better to some other kind of better – perhaps the attainment of wisdom, or social improvement, or moral improvement.

One big roadblock to this sort of change is that many people are unable to make the moral leap.  They actually need to see that others are worse off than they are in order to feel good about themselves and their lives.  Their moral development remains at a very conventional level, which prevents them from taking a wider perspective and seeing the suffering of others as unacceptable.  There is little we can do about this, except show them the way and encourage them to follow.

If more people were focused on living well, it would be easier to let go of aspirations of wealth.  If we could focus on sustainability, we would not need to strive so hard for more and more.  If we could accept each other as worthy of life and wellbeing, injustice could be much more easily rectified.  To this end, let us focus our prayer and our actions.


Copyright © 2017 Teresa Chupp.  All rights reserved.


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