Twenty As One?

Friday, April 03, 2009

Felix Salmon, who writes the finance blog for, discusses the G-20 economic summit and what concrete steps may be taken as a result.


Felix Salmon

Comments [12]

Phil Henshaw from NYC

Well, the difference is between the two kinds of growth. One is clearly a promise too good to be true and the other always has great promise.

Growth is the process nature uses to begins all kinds of complex organization. The beginning form, the “immature growth” is the form that become hazardous and self-destructive if continued till it can’t go any further and collapses. That's the problem.

Continual compound growth is a promise too good to be true and ends without creating anything sustainable if taken as an end in itself. If you build to collapse, well, you plan is to collapse whether you intended it to be or not. If growth in the economy or in a business or other things picks the right time to switch from using its surpluses to multiply, to using them to mature, we’d be imitating what everything in nature we admire does. Then the initial dangerous process will have become worthwhile. The main reason this doesn't get discussed are cultural, our devotion to "be fruitful and multiply" as if it were a sensible “commandment”. It's not a sensible as a commandment at all.

I think you're wrong about the sense of how the guest, Felix Salmon, who writes the finance blog for Reuters responded. He was noting the tremendous momentum behind the hope that the rest of the world has of gaining high standard of living as on an obvious head on collision with the global warming and other environmental harms. He said the conflict would become the central issue for the next G20 global crisis meeting.

In “steering systems” terms, what our decision making process is now going through is "fishtailing" like a car having to make a turn too sharp and going out of control. We were not prepared for where the road would turn. The sooner the drivers see where the road really goes, and stop trying to steer in a direction the road doesn't go, the better off we'll be.

Apr. 04 2009 10:19 AM

An important point by Phil and one that is rarely if every discussed. Perhaps the Lehrer team will take it on? Hint. But the Guest sums it up at about minute 14:20: the Conundrum: 1. We need to continue to grow the economy to meet the totally legitimate desire everywhere to raise living standards universally, to keep pace with the need to create jobs for the growing population going forward in India, China, but everywhere really. But to achieve this steady growth of the economy as we do it presently, with a carbon based energy system producing ever more greenhouse gases, exacerbates the planet’s climate and resources problems. Tom Friedman addresses this problem in Hot Flat & Crowded… and says that the only way we can achieve the steady growth necessary to achieve universal higher living standards for a growing population is to transform our energy system from hydrocarbon to a green energy system and as rapidly as possible. What is it people like to say… that the Chinese use the same symbol for crisis and opportunity.

Apr. 03 2009 04:18 PM
Phil Henshaw from NYC

In case others are interested in the "physical world" problem I mentioned on air.

The G20 emphasis on the need for continual growth could be the actual cause, not the cure, of our economic disarray. Endless growth of wealth is the exact same "promise too good to be true" whether offered by a nice guy or a shady character. The physical scientists have been mentioning this for decades actually. The evidence is our having so many environmental resources being pushed toward crisis at once. The world's soils, oceans, forests, fuels and climate are all approaching points of dangerous instability, and so human uses that push them further are now also coming into sharp conflict with each other, a now rather clear pattern.

Why the “physical world problem” is not discussed on the media news cycle is another question, but it’s not because we don’t live in a physical world. ALL of these growing impacts are responses from the natural world that we “bought and paid for” with continual economic growth in the past. It's quite certain to only get worse if we continue to rely on the old model of multiplying wealth. The earth's response is relative to *our scale* and growth is a continual doubling of the scale of all of humanity's impacts. That's the problem.

Apr. 03 2009 11:18 AM
kai from NJ-NYC

Good point from the caller: There must a recognition of natural limits, not just on carbon throughputs, but many natural resources such as oil, water, minerals, etc.

Hopefully this G-20 summit is a tiny step towards acknowledging that the past neoliberal economic policies and unthinking commoditization of people, work, and natural resources must be rethought as the complexion of the world changes. That goes for the way the IMF treats developing nations as well.

Apr. 03 2009 10:47 AM
Fay from Prospect Heights

My favorite criticism of Presidenct Obama by some Europeans, as reported by NY Times: he seemed "aloof." Funny, because I never realized Europeans in general were known for being effusive and emotionally demonstrative.

Apr. 03 2009 10:46 AM
Robert from NYC

It wasn't a hug it was her arm around the back of the queen, that's not a hug.

Apr. 03 2009 10:41 AM
Michael from Green Wood Heights, Brooklyn

President Obama's quote shows that he is an intellectual leader as well as a political leader. To be a good leader one MUST listen and learn.

Apr. 03 2009 10:41 AM

If the Europeans want us to cut spending I say OK, we will remove all of our remaining troops from the continent. And we will rescind our commitment to Afganistan and demand that Europe make more troop commitments to Afganistan.

Apr. 03 2009 10:37 AM
Mark from Brooklyn

For the first time in a long time I was proud of my President. I was not cringing while he spoke to the foreign press. WHat a different message we are sending the world with this thoughtful, intelligent, articulate man as our representative. Not to mention his wife. How wonderful it is to see the response they both received.

Apr. 03 2009 10:32 AM
Tony from San Jose, CA

Also, I am French and I sure hope the French model isn't coming to the US, otherwise, we are in big trouble. The recession here is not as bad as the good times there.

Apr. 03 2009 10:31 AM
Tony from San Jose, CA

Who is going to issue to SDR? I mean, the Fed, BoE, BoJ, and ECB can issue currencies of their own, but how can the IMF, since their currency is fixed to these above currencies?

Apr. 03 2009 10:25 AM
Gabrielle from brooklyn

can your guest explain why some feel the IMF does more harm than good to small countries who are given loans and what, if any, reforms have come out of this latest meeting to address those issues...

Apr. 03 2009 09:41 AM

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