“The Age of Stagnation: Why perpetual Growth is Unattainable and the Global Economy Is in Peril,” by Satyajit Das
(Prometheus Books, pp 340, $25.00)
Although the title of Das’s book is enough to make anyone go back to bed, the book is not only an eye-opener but also a great clarifier. Written in a clear prose and with concrete examples, Das performs an excellent demystification of the concept of perpetual growth. Think of a car running an empty but which still aims to reach the moon. This is where the global economy stands, on a verge of catastrophe. Heavily indebted, plagued with poor policies, modern economies seem out of the touch with reality. Something clearly visible at the moment with a red-hot stock market giving the impression that there is not trouble with national and international economies. This delusive aspect echoes the mindset of the pre-2008 Great Recession. Das challenges the deep-seated assumptions that led us spiraling into the global monetary crisis, the “easy money” approach, and he forecasts instead years of stagnation as a direct result.
The best part of the book is where Das makes an important argument about the political responsibility of our leaders, who display a vast array of denials and paralysis, while promoting short-term policies that only overwhelm the system. At that point, he asks what is the big picture going forward for Western countries and the meaning of their democracy, when GDP ratios top the 100%, and policies call for the increase of national debts, while diminishing supply of raw-products, disappearance of jobs, take their toll and exacerbate the population? What to do when the developing countries’ debts prevent them from ever becoming solvent and impact our polity? These are just a few of the challenges that Das brings to the table of fundamentals. Perhaps endless growth may not be the solution to our well-being. The buzzword these days for a way out is “degrowth.”